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The Anatomy of Paid Social Posts


Contalto has been tracking paid social posts on Facebook and Instagram since July last year. Before getting into the numbers though, let's define paid social in the context of digital branded content.

What we're covering are paid posts using publishers' social media accounts (or the accounts of their content studios) where there's a clear relationship between the publisher and the promoted brand.

Usually, as with this example, it's [Publisher name] with [Brand name] and 'Sponsored', but there are many instances where the brand name is not explicitly mentioned, and only clicking through to the linked destination will reveal this.


Over 80% of the publishers tracked by Contalto are active users of paid social media for branded content promotion, and this amplification has been bundled as part of the publisher's commercial offering for some time now.

The amount of amplification varies substantially from one publisher to the next. The average of 2.2 posts per publisher-hosted branded content URL masks the fact that a number of publishers post 10+ times on their brand partners' behalf.

Social Post Types

In studying paid social posts, we developed a typology that reflects the broad types of post that we encounter, and the chart below shows the overall distribution of these.

Publisher-linked social posts promote and link to publisher-hosted branded content articles, videos and ad features, i.e. content that lives on the publisher's site, or at least uses the publisher's domain in its URL.

Brand-linked posts promote and link to content on the brand's site. In the case of B2C brands, this is often simply a link to buy the promoted item directly from the brand's e-commerce page.

Pure Social posts do not link anywhere, and are effectively branded content in their own right, often in the form of a video.

E-Commerce here means 3rd-party retailers or e-commerce sites, i.e. not the brand's own shopping pages.

As the above table shows, brand-linked posts are far more likely if the promoted brand is B2C, and especially if it belongs to the luxury or apparel sectors. Publisher-linked posts are near universal among many B2B-related sub-sectors, which tend to use branded content for its story telling prowess and awareness building rather than conversion.

Volumes & Formats

So far this year, Contalto has identified 23,000 paid social posts featuring over 1,600 brands, meaning that each brand has benefited from an average of 14 posts paid for by their various publisher partners.

In terms of formats, 33% of paid social posts use video versus 67% with a static image.

Social in Contalto

We've made it easy to analyse paid social in the Contalto app via two key features...

The Platform Control in the toolbar lets you manage the type of branded content displayed on your screen at any time. Click to cycle through total content (web + social), web only, social only, and back to total.

The Content Overview is our newest dashboard, which gives a powerful overview of digital branded content as a whole and by platform (web vs. social and Facebook vs. Instagram), and lets users select the platform each chart, ranker and table is based upon.

Get in Touch

Contact us ( to learn how Contalto's web and social coverage and analysis can benefit you and your team.


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