How Many Social Media Users Engage with Sponsored Posts?

March 21, 2022

In a reflection of the extent to which social media has become an advertising vehicle around the world, a recent report estimated that spending on social media ads globally would overtake search advertising by the end of 2021, while another forecast that social ad spend would overtake TV this year. But which platforms’ users tend to interact with paid social the most, at least in the US? A report from GWI [download page] investigates this and other social trends.

The report finds varying levels of reported engagement with paid social across platforms, but not to a large degree. Sitting on top of the heap are Pinterest and Reddit, with 18% of each of these platforms’ surveyed users ages 16-64 saying they had clicked on a promoted/sponsored post on a social media network during the prior month. Users of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram – three popular platforms for youth – closely followed, each at 17%.

At the bottom of the list, but still close in engagement, are Facebook users, at 15%. The network remains the most-used by marketers for social advertising, with this perhaps having an impact on users’ propensity to engage with paid social.

Of note, though, is that TikTok users’ engagement with paid social has slipped, while Facebook users’ engagement with promoted or sponsored posts rose in comparison with the year-earlier period.

Marketers may be benefiting from Facebook in a variety of other ways, too. As GWI’s report concludes, “social commerce is on the rise,” with increases in the percentages of social media users who have used Facebook Marketplace or Instagram Shopping in the previous month seen across generations. Roughly 3 in 10 Millennial (31%; up 9% year-over-year) and Gen X (29%; up 24% year-over-year) social media users had used Facebook or Instagram for commerce in the previous month, as had 22% of Gen Z (up 9% year-over-year) and 19% of Baby Boomer (up 33% year-over-year) social media users.

Some Interact with Brands on Messaging Services

Messaging services are also emerging as a channel for brand interaction. Per the report, roughly 1 in 6 (16%) Telegram users had interacted with a brand on a messaging app in the past month. Some WhatsApp (12%), Discord (10%) and Facebook Messenger (8%) users reported the same.

The use of some messaging apps is also climbing. The most broadly used messaging apps in the US – Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessage – each saw a 1% dip in use year-over-year in Q4, but others enjoyed increases. Those included WhatsApp (#3 in usage; +6% in use year-over-year), Discord (#6 in usage; +33% in use year-over-year), and Telegram Messenger (last in use of the 7 analyzed; +86% in usage year-over-year). The only messaging app to see a considerable decline in use was Skype.

Social Media Use Corrects Following Pandemic Peak

Social media usage climbed during the pandemic, but may have peaked for the time being, according to GWI’s report. Gen Z social media users in the US spent an average of 3 hours and 11 minutes per day on social during Q4 2021, down an average of 5 minutes per day from the year-earlier period. Millennials’ Q4 2021 average of 2 hours and 42 minutes per day was also down 5 minutes from their peak in Q3 2020, while Gen Xers’ 1 hour and 55 minutes per day in Q4 2021 was down 8 minutes from in excess of 2 hours per day a quarter earlier. Baby Boomers remained the most constant in their use, with social media users in this generation spending an hour and fifteen minutes per day on average during Q4 using social media, just 2 minutes off their high from the previous 4 quarters.

On average, social media users in the US reported spending an average of 2 hours 18 minutes per day on social during Q3 2021. This was on par with users in Asia-Pacific (2:17) and ahead of those in Europe (2:05), but trailed the global average (2:29), with those in Latin America and the Middle East & Africa (each at 3:34) leading the way.

About the Data: The figures concerning paid social engagement and messaging app use are based on a survey of 23,727 US social media users ages 16-64 conducted during Q3 2021. The figures on social commerce and brand interactions on messaging services are based on a survey of 18,990 US social media users ages 16+ conducted during Q4 2021.

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