A poll of 300 leaders from retail organizations around the world, conducted by Smartly.io and the eTail conference series, revealed that 74% of respondents had allocated at least one third of their marketing budget to social media advertising.
Respondents indicated they plan to increase their social ad spend in 2021, with the lion’s share of their social ad budget going to Facebook, followed by Twitter, and then Instagram.
The poll included retail leaders from the US, UK, India, Australia,, Indonesia, and Canada, with 34% of respondents from other locations.
Below, we highlight some of Smartly.io’s findings. You can download the full report, Global Social Advertising Trends in 2021: How Brands Are Adapting to Disruption and Changing Consumer Habits, from.
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Facebook reigns supreme
Smartly.io’s research revealed that global social media advertising budgets increased in 2020 compared to 2021. Most organizations spent between 31% and 50% of their overall ad budgets on social media versus 26% to 50% the previous year.
Facebook was the most popular platform for retailers to advertise on, with 93% of respondents indicating they were currently buying ads on Facebook. Other top platforms include Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok.
The following chart illustrates the top advertising platforms among survey respondents:
Instagram provided the highest return on ad spend (ROAS), per 40% of survey respondents, up from 21% in 2019. Spend varies depending on country, with the US and Europe spending more on Instagram ads than other countries.
Writes Smartly.io: “Although about 25% of Asian organizations prioritize Instagram, most others prioritize Facebook and LinkedIn for their ad budget.”
Although Instagram had a higher ROAS versus other platforms, 76% of brands indicated they planned to increase their spending on Facebook ads in 2021.
This appears to be at the expense of other platforms, with about 40% of respondents indicating they planned to increase their spend on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn this year. Additionally, about 18-24% of brands plan to decrease spend on the latter three platforms, as illustrated in the following chart.
Manual ad management is a challenge
Over 70% of respondents struggle with manually managing their social media ads. The challenges of ad management include:
While most respondents agreed that some manual management is necessary to create engaging, unique, and personalized social media ads, most were open to automation.
90% of respondents said they didn’t use automation technology to facilitate social media ad development and management in 2020, but 81% indicated that they were interested in automating at least part of the process, up from 65% in 2019.
Writes Smartly.io, “Automating the creation and delivery of advertising content can reduce manual processes in the advertising process and save teams significant amounts of time.”
The benefits of social media advertising automation
Most respondents said they optimized ad delivery using first or third-party data, but there was more work to be done in terms of creating more personalized ad messaging at scale. Smartly.io notes that automation breaks creative siloes, enabling better communication across an organization.
While 71% of respondents felt their marketing and creative teams collaborate effectively in all stages of the marketing process, the report revealed that a key trend for 2021 is a push for social media advertising and creative teams to work more closely together.
“By bringing these two teams together, retailers have the potential to generate social media advertisements that speak to their customer segments on a personal level, improving ROAS and generating more opportunities to optimize social as a channel,” writes Smartly.io.
Other key trends include:
2021 social media advertising planning
Smartly.io’s report includes a comprehensive list of all trends gleaned from their survey with strategies that retailers can build into their social media marketing plan for 2021.
Examples include: diversifying social media advertising channels, increasing Facebook spend to remain competitive, and automating some of the ad collaboration, development, and management processes.
You can download Smartly.io’s complete 2021 social advertising trends report.