American Marketer


Facebook, Instagram users see the most paid posts: study

August 10, 2020

Instagram and Weibo are staple apps of globally minded Chinese millennials. Which platform should luxury brands choose to reach this lucrative fanbase? Image credit: Shutterstock Instagram users see more ads the more time they spend on the app. Image credit: Shutterstock


Social network Instagram and its owner Facebook show more advertisements to users than any other platform, including Generation Z-favorite TikTok.

On average, advertisements make up more than 20 percent of the content shown on Facebook and Instagram feeds, according to a study from Whistle Out. The frequency of social media ads depended on a variety of factors.

The study was based on an analysis of more than 8,750 social media posts on 175 different personal and professional feeds. Social media users were questioned about their habits, including time spent online and engagement with paid posts.

Social media ads
Respectively, Facebook and Instagram feeds consist of an average 21.2 and 20.6 percent ads or paid posts. By comparison, Twitter feeds are 14.2 percent ads and TikTok is only 2.4 percent ads.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter each have similar levels of peak ad saturation, or the highest percentage of ads a social network will show a user.

Facebook and Instagram feeds have the most ads. Image credit: Whistle Out

In the most ad-heavy feeds, paid posts accounted for 42 percent of all posts. This means some users on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are seeing four ads for every 10 posts.

Different factors seem to determine ad frequency.

Users who report ads tend to see 5 percent more ads than those who do not report ads.

On Instagram, however, users who spend more time on the mobile application tend to see a higher rate of ads than more infrequent Instagrammers. The average Instagram user spends 52 minutes each day on the app — the highest amount overall — and sees the second-highest number of ads.

Meanwhile, the average TikTok user spends 44 minutes a day on the app but rarely sees an ad. Notably, TikTok is the youngest of the major social media networks, having only debuted in the U.S. in August 2018.

Despite the high volume of social media ads, most consumers are reluctant to believe that their purchase decisions are based on digital advertising.

Less than a third of consumers surveyed for Trustpilot’s “Trustworthiness in Advertising” study reported being influenced by digital ads, including those appearing on social media feeds. The impact of advertising can vary based on medium and audience, though most consumers do not find digital ads influential (see story).