Diversifying Paid Social: Beyond Meta

Sam Thompsett
May 1, 2023

TikTok is the second fastest app ever to reach 1 billion users, achieving the feat in just 5 years. Stats like that mean brands aren’t just raising a curious eyebrow at TikTok’s potential, its growth means organic and paid social media strategies are being questioned more than ever before. Should your business move its digital marketing budget away from Meta and reinvest it into other platforms? It’s not a new question, and it’s been on the radar for many of our clients and the industry for more than a few years, however, in 2023 things are different and here’s why.

Unless there is a dramatic shift in the fortunes of Meta and their stumbling attempts at innovation and the shrewdness of their investments - did you know that Meta has invested $10 billion in the Metaverse, which is 10 times what it paid to acquire Instagram? - their future does not look bright. Unlike past periods of turbulence, most notoriously the Cambridge Analytica scandal that Meta is still battling legally against, Meta is now under intense pressure from competitors, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, it will be no surprise to you that the rising star of the industry is TikTok. Facebook’s popularity is dwindling and TikTok’s is soaring:  

TikTok has been the most downloaded app every year for the past 3 years, with a massive 672 million downloads in 2022. Over the same period, downloads of the Facebook app have dwindled, shrinking from 540 million downloads in 2020 to 298 million in 2020.

But, don’t be too hasty to green-light the decision to move all your budget to TikTok just yet, it’s important to remember that Facebook has by far the most active users of all social media platforms - as of January 2023 it has a massive 2.9 billion active users. No other social media platform comes close to that. TikTok’s growth has propelled it up to #7 on that list and no doubt it will continue to rise, the jury is still out on whether it will sustain that growth in an ever-changing social media landscape.

Most popular social networks by number of monthly active users (million) January 2022 - Statista (2022)

Younger demographics, who are the driving force in the future of social media, are a great audience to analyse to inform our predictions on what’s next for the industry. And, it’s clear that they want something wildly different from what was previously on offer from the big players: 

  • Interestingly, Instagram has not seen the same decline as Facebook in popularity, app downloads are still strong and young people are still using the platform (although the rate of growth is slowing). This is why when we run paid Meta activity for our clients we pay close attention to our budget split and performance for Facebook vs Instagram.

  • Snapchat has long been popular with younger demographics, however, as an agency, our clients typically have an older target audience so it isn’t a platform we run a great deal of paid activity on.
US teenagers' preferred social media platform (2012-2021) - Statistica (2022)

No doubt Facebook will continue to have a large share of users for the foreseeable future, but our view is that Facebook is well on its way to becoming a legacy social media platform. Social media usage in the future is unlikely to be monopolised by a single platform, and advertisers will instead need to pick and choose which one they use depending on the preferences of their target audience. This approach is already at the heart of our social media methodology. When we approach awareness strategies we ensure we line up our targeting to our client’s customer profiles and Google Analytics insights. However, in the future advertisers must be more conscious of factoring in a platform fit too.

Social media platform usage by age range- Marketing Charts (2021)

So, where should you diversify? The platforms we are asked about most regularly are TikTok, driven by its user growth and hype, and Pinterest, which presents a unique opportunity compared to other social media platforms as it has a specific audience - it’s affluent, it’s female-centric and users are in the mindset of inspiration.

It is challenging for some to cut through the noise surrounding TikTok to unearth the reality - how much are advertisers really spending currently on the platform? You may have read articles where brands and agencies are spending 25% of their social media budget on TikTok - but for us currently, that isn’t the case. We’re predominantly an agency that focuses on e-commerce retailers and we are recommending clients test the platform and benchmark performance against their Meta KPIs. That is if they have the precursors to success in place and for many where many fall down is… creative.

A brand cannot transfer its creative strategy from Meta to TikTok and expect to see results, TikTok has a unique creative proposition. Users baulk at the thought of clicking on professionally shot, salesy ads - the reason they love the platform is that it’s entertaining, and they do not want to be sold to in the traditional sense. TikTok has the highest average daily user engagement of all the major social platforms - including YouTube. The reason for that is that users enjoy its unique content, but that presents a challenge for advertisers that pushes them outside of their comfort zone - how can I adapt my content to a creative style that is so alien to the content I am used to producing? Broadly speaking, the answer to that is that you can’t, it needs to be created specifically for TikTok. When advising our clients on producing TikTok content we focus the conversation on these key pillars:

  • Be entertaining, not salesy and provide value:
    TikTok positions the platform as a search engine rather than a traditional social media platform. What is your audience looking for? What will grip your target audience's attention? Does your product provide a solution to a problem? How can I immerse the user in my brand?
  • Be authentic:
    Content cannot be professionally shot, it must be produced TikTok-native, UGC style. It must be filmed in a natural, authentic environment.  
  • Partner with influencers:
    TikTok is an influencer-centric platform, and where influencers see the most engagement. Partnering with relevant influencers that have sway within your target audience’s TikTok community will deliver stronger engagement.
  • Utilise the unique features:
    TikTok is a full, screen sound advertising opportunity for advertisers that they should grab with both hands. Test hashtag targeting.

If you’d like an example of a brand doing TikTok content right, then look no further than our affiliate client OnlyCurls. They hit all 4 of the pillars mentioned above. Their content engages with their niche by providing super relevant content that solves a problem. OnlyCurls’ creative is built on guiding their audience through their curly-hair care journey in a TikTok-native style, whilst welcoming them into the curly-hair community and establishing the brand’s mantra.

Idea 1 - Brand Story

Idea 2 - How To

The results we’ve seen so far across our clients are encouraging, with comparable click-through rates and a much lower average cost compared to Meta, albeit at slightly reduced session quality. 

TikTok’s usage is dominated by younger demographics, 39% are between the ages of 18-24, however, the platform is becoming more popular with older audiences, especially 25-34-year-olds who currently make up 29% of its user base. TikTok is pushing this message hard, so let’s see if that ageing trend continues and the platform becomes even more viable for advertisers. For now, TikTok’s user growth, the opportunity to engage with your target audience in a unique way and showcase your brand from a different perspective, combined with lower costs, means that the opportunity of paid advertising on TikTok is impossible to ignore. Your first point of the call is to ensure you have an organic profile presence before embarking on paid activity with a clear creative strategy, this will enable you to test the platform in the right way.

So… Pinterest. Why would a brand explore paid Pinterest advertising as an alternative to Meta? Well, look no further than its affluent and female-centric demographic. Pinterest users have a 40% bigger basket size compared to social media platforms and 73% of its audience is female, therein lies the opportunity if that’s your brand’s target audience. It was insightful that in our recent Masterclass session on “Diversifying Paid Social”, a majority of follow-up questions were about the potential of Pinterest rather than TikTok, and that was because of its lucrative audience. Pinterest is also less demanding creatively, so it’s easier to get started and to keep things fresh. Pins have longevity and users are still likely to engage with Pins after a year, so the recommendation is to refresh the creative less regularly than TikTok - monthly will do instead of every one to two weeks.

The outlook for the platform is slightly mixed, as the rate of new user growth has slowed quite considerably since 2019 but it’s expected that advertising budgets will continue to grow pretty consistently up to 2026.

Pinners are searching for inspiration, with 97% of the top searches being non-branded, and people use the platform when they are considering what to buy or what to do next. Therefore, the platform lends itself better to products that are not impulse buys, but rather well-researched considered purchases that require forward planning. For example, the platform is more suited to a home decor brand than a fashion brand. However, like TikTok, with an adapted creative strategy it can work for all industries. All brands tie their marketing to a seasonal calendar and that’s even more apt for Pinterest. Brands must tie their activity to annual moments - think Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day, Easter etc. - and this activity must be up and running well in advance. We wouldn’t expect you to have Easter ads up and running straight after Christmas like the supermarkets…but we would recommend starting Easter activity in mid-February. Pinners are planners and planners like to be organised.  

An example of a perfect industry match for paid Pinterest advertising is baby products & equipment. Very few things in life require as much planning as having a baby, and Pinterest has the perfect audience. A strength of Pinterest vs Meta is that we can link your targeting to actual searches made on the platform, similar to TikTok hashtag targeting and just like a Google Ads custom segment. So, in a Pinterest strategy, we’d recommend matching content themes to these keyword groups & audiences, for example, for the baby sector we might have a keyword & content group for nursery furniture, baby clothing, and travel equipment amongst others, so our creative is closely tailored to the audience we are targeting.

We know that’s a lot of information to digest, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the social media landscape has changed significantly. You need to be proactive rather than reactive in assessing the potential of each platform for your target audience to avoid falling behind. Brands need to be closely monitoring their Facebook performance - is your session quality as strong as it once was, and should you be prioritising Instagram? You can’t ignore the growth of TikTok and it should be tested with a tailored creative strategy, whilst the opportunity of Pinterest’s audience for your brand should be assessed.


  1. Isaac, Mike (February 2, 2022). “Meta spent $10 billion on the metaverse in 2021, dragging down profit.”, 2022, The New York Times.
  2. Rosenblatt, Joel & Bloomberg, (March 1, 2023) Meta says its $725 million lawsuit settlement ends Cambridge Analytica scandal. U.S. state lawyers say not so fast, Fortune.
  3. Blacker, Adam, (January 4, 2023), Worldwide and US Download Leaders 2022, Apptopia.
  4. Dixon, S (January 28, 2022), Fastest social networks worldwide to reach 1 billion monthly active users as of September 2021, Statistica.
  5. Dixon, S (February 14, 2023), Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2023, ranked by number of monthly active users, Statistica.
  6. Ceci, L (September 5 2022), Number of TikTok users worldwide from 2020 to 2025, Statistica
  7. Dixon, S (October 17, 2022), Most popular social networks of teenagers in the United States from fall 2012 to fall 2021, CMSWire.
  8. Knatrowitz, Alex (October 14, 2022), How Facebook's Thinking About Its War With TikTok, CMSWire.
  9. Dixon, S (Feb 15, 2023), Number of Instagram users worldwide from 2020 to 2025, Statistica.
  10. Joseph, S (Jan 17, 2023), Ad spending on TikTok defies advertising slowdown, Digiday.
  11. Dixon, S (May 30, 2022), U.S. users daily engagement with leading social media platforms 2022, Statistica.
  12. Ceci, L (February, 2023), TikTok: distribution of global audiences 2023, by age and gender, Statistica.
  13. Geyser, W (July 29, 2022), The State of Influencer Marketing 2021: Benchmark Report, Influencer Marketing Hub.
  14. Dixon, S (February 24, 2023), Distribution of Pinterest users in the United Kingdom (UK) as of January 2023, by gender, Statistica.
  15. Elofson, E (July 7 2021), The future of shopping: from inspiration to action, Pinterest.
  16. Wilson, Christine (January 7 2019), Updated: Lifespan of a Social Media Post, MTOMConsulting.
  17. TikTok For Business, Editorial Team (February 4, 2021), Using audience features to power up ad performance, TikTok
  18. Dixon, S (January 28, 2022), Annual Pinterest user growth in the United States from 2018 to 2022, Statistica.
  19. Faria, Julia (January 6, 2023), Pinterest advertising revenue worldwide from 2017 to 2026, Statistica.
  20. Pinterest, Redefining reach: Why it matters for your brand.
Back to Resources Hub