Research Briefing: Facebook loses favor with publishers, brands and agencies

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In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how social platforms Facebook and TikTok are faring, as Facebook removes its News tab and TikTok faces a potential ban in the U.S. (again), and how podcast networks are planning to use AI to translate shows, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

17% of agency pros say their clients put none of their budgets toward Facebook

Facebook is removing its News tab in April for U.S. Facebook users in the U.S. and Australia. The Facebook News tab was already deprecated in the U.K., France and Germany last year. Facebook’s declining role in sending traffic to publishers’ sites means that changes to the platform that further deprioritize news are no longer unexpected, and at the end of the day have little impact on publishers’ social and audience development strategies, according to publishing executives who spoke with Digiday. Three of them said it was hard to measure how much traffic was actually coming from the News tab compared to the main Facebook news feed.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising,” said one publishing exec, who asked to remain anonymous. “It doesn’t seem that the News tab was sending tsunamis of traffic to any publishers, but it’s just this slow chipping away of all of the different places in which users of Meta products can reliably find high quality news.”

Facebook isn’t faring as well as it used to with agencies and brands either. Recent surveys from Digiday+ Research found that agency spending on Facebook is trending downward, while spending on sibling platform Instagram is trending upward. Seventeen percent of agency pros said in Q1 2024 that their clients put none of their marketing budgets toward Facebook, up from 11% in Q3 2023. Meanwhile, 40% said in Q1 2024 that their clients spend a large or very large portion of their budgets on Instagram, up from 38% in Q3 2023.

Brands and retailers are also spending a lot more on Instagram this year than on Facebook, according to Digiday’s surveys. The difference between the two platforms when it comes to big spending by brands, retailers and agency clients is likely because Instagram blows Facebook (and all other social platforms, for that matter) out of the water when it comes to driving conversions and branding. Instagram came in at the top of the list for both among all social channels, Digiday’s surveys found.

The stats:

  • Fifty-four percent of brand and retailer pros said in Q1 2024 that a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets goes toward Instagram, up from 33% in Q3 2023. Meanwhile, 36% said in Q1 2024 that they spend a large or very large amount on Facebook, up from 23% in Q3 2023.
  • Forty-one percent of brand and retailer pros said Instagram is the best social channel for driving conversions, compared with 29% who said Facebook is best. And 55% said Instagram is best for branding, while 12% said Facebook.
  • Fifty-six percent of agency pros said Instagram is the best channel for branding, compared with 8% who said the same of Facebook. And 43% said Instagram is the best for conversions, while 30% said the same of Facebook.

Read more about brands’ and retailers’ Meta investments

Digiday+ Research digest

Facebook isn’t the only social platform facing struggles this year. A bill requiring China’s ByteDance to divest from TikTok within six months or face a ban in the U.S. is moving on to the Senate after the House of Representatives passed it yesterday. Advertisers say they’re keeping close watch, but remain undeterred in shelling out ad dollars for now. More than a third of brand and retailer professionals (35%) said in Q3 2023 that they purchased advertising on TikTok in the past month, up from 24% in 2022, according Digiday+ Research surveys.

The stats:

  • More brands are also spending a lot on creating original content for TikTok. In Q3 2023, 39% of brand and retailer pros told Digiday that they invest a lot in creating original content for TikTok, while less than a quarter (23%) said the same in 2022.
  • The percentage of brands and retailers who have said TikTok is extremely valuable for branding has been trending upward. In Q3 2023 almost half of respondents (48%) said TikTok is extremely valuable to their brand, up from 39% in 2022 and 24% in 2021.
  • TikTok was marketers’ third most-used social media channel in 2023, after No. 1 Instagram and No. 2 Facebook. Sixty-two percent of marketer respondents said their company uses TikTok, according to Digiday’s CMO Strategies series.

Read more about brands’ and retailers’ TikTok investments

Podcast networks iHeartMedia, Spotify and PodcastOne have publicly announced plans to debut AI-generated audio translations of shows. The question of quality of those generative AI translations is leaving agency executives with some reservations, however. One podcast ad agency exec, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told Digiday they would only be interested in buying ads around that content if the quality was “really good” and if it had an audience. A main draw of podcasts — and often podcast ads — is their perceived authenticity and the sense of trust that often builds between audience and host, according to Digiday+ Research’s report on the state of podcast ad spending and strategies. It’s unknown whether AI-generated audio translations of podcasts will appeal to listeners in the same way.

Insights and stats:

  • Nearly three-quarters (71%) of marketer respondents said they agreed that podcast advertising is more engaging than most forms of advertising — 38% agreed strongly, while 33% agreed somewhat.
  • More than half of marketer respondents (55%) said they have purchased endorsed host-read ads. Podcast ad buyers Digiday interviewed said they preferred host-read ads because of their ability to personally engage listeners and to produce tangible results, like site visits.
  • “We have been experimenting. It’s getting better. Not quite to the level we need it to be to say, ‘Let’s roll it out.’ But it’s making fast-paced gains in terms of the quality. And we anticipate probably this year that we’ll get stuff of that quality.” — Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeartMedia, on AI translated podcasts during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call

Read more about the state of podcast advertising

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