The Scottish Government spent over £2m on social media adverts about Covid-19 in the last financial year, newly released figures show.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that £2.19m was invested in the government’s digital campaign during the pandemic, with over half the budget allocated to social networking giants Facebook and Instagram.

Officials spent £1.19m on Facebook and Instagram marketing, £446,852.92 on YouTube, £421,552.20 on Twitter and around £60,000 on both Snapchat and TikTok. Just £4,000 was spent on Reddit and £600 on LinkedIn.

A further breakdown of the spending figures shows that the highest amount of money was allocated to Covid adverts related to the Parent Club – a body that shares up-to-date government information regarding children’s health and education – at £399,282.66.

The second highest investment was in social media marketing about Covid health, at £185,057.27.

At the other end of the scale, just £12,641 was spent on Covid adverts connected to food supply.

The government data also shows that its social media campaign was primarily aimed towards young people, with £83,729.90 spent on adverts targeting this age group and just £16,386.76 spent on adverts targeting the elderly and vulnerable.

In July last year, Scottish Government figures released in response to a different FOI request revealed that £5.7m had been spent on public health adverts about coronavirus – including television and radio – since the beginning of the pandemic.

Harry Wycherley, founder of Edinburgh-based social media agency Breaking Media, said: “These days, everyone’s eyeballs are on their mobiles, and the platforms that they are on are, in most cases, social media.

“And obviously, Covid is a massive deal, so it makes sense that [the government] invested that much into social media.”

On the variation between budgets for different networking platforms, he said: “There’s a lot more general news stories and video content and stuff like that on Facebook and Instagram, whereas LinkedIn is more for specific professionals, and that type of content would probably not get as much engagement.

“There is also the fact that on Facebook and Instagram, you can target [people aged] 18 to 65 plus, whereas on LinkedIn, you’re really going to be just targeting graduates, or certain industries. So you’ve got a broader scope on Facebook and Instagram.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Effective government communication is essential, especially during a global pandemic.

“All our marketing campaigns are informed by analysis and data. These social media advertisements formed part of our wider coronavirus (COVID-19) communications strategy that has engaged key audiences and shared information and guidance that has helped keep people safe, protected the NHS and saved lives.”