Many people use the phrase “sponsored content” as if it’s just one type of content, but it can actually refer to several types. If you’re unsure about the benefits of sponsored content, or whether you should be using it at all, we’re writing this post for you. Keep reading to learn some fundamental content marketing tips, and how sponsored content can fit into this.
Shades Of Sponsored Content
Let’s start by breaking down what sponsored content can mean. Here are the most common:
- An article or other piece of content in a physical or online publication (e.g. magazine) that looks like the editorial content but is actually a paid ad.
- An ad on a social platform (like LinkedIn) that is displayed as part of the newsfeed.
- Any form of content (a quiz, slideshow, photo, video, text, etc.) that is displayed by a third-party and intended to look like it’s from that third-party, while actually being paid for by someone else.
One of the most frequently used forms of sponsored content takes place on social media today. We’ve all seen folks on Instagram, for instance, holding up a container of protein powder with a caption about how life-changing it is, followed by that subtle little hashtag #ad.
This is because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has very clear guidelines about online advertising and marketing. So, influencers and publications must disclose when they’ve been paid or otherwise compensated to promote a business, product or service. This keeps things on the up and up, and prevents sponsored content from misleading the public.
How Does This Fit Into Your Marketing?
Before you start considering sponsored content, rewind a bit. What is your overall marketing strategy? Some organizations have decided that customer retention and increasing customer value is their best bet for long-term growth, so their marketing should center on nurturing and upselling existing customers. There wouldn’t be a strong argument in favor of sponsored content for such a company, because their budget would, generally speaking, be better spent on customer marketing.
If your strategy is focused on customer acquisition or brand awareness instead, content marketing can be an incredibly effective marketing approach worthy of investment. This typically includes blog content, other website content (e.g. e-books, infographics, etc.) and guest posts on third-party websites. In addition, it can include sponsored content. The main difference between the first examples listed and sponsored content is that the former are free (aside from the time spent writing/creating the content) and the latter costs money.
How Much & For Whom?
If you do want to pursue sponsored content, it can be a great way to reach new audiences. In fact, research shows that people remember branded content twice as long as they remember a traditional advertisement. So, start by reviewing your marketing budget. A general rule of thumb is to plan to spend 7-8% of your gross revenue on marketing. Check in on how close you are to the percentage, and whether you can stand to increase your marketing investment or need to cut back.
If you have more room to invest into marketing, or can eliminate a different, less effective tactic from your mix, you’ll have an idea of what you can put into sponsored content. From there, make a list of possible third-party destinations where your ideal customers spend their time (don’t know your ideal customers yet? Go back to this blog on buyer personas and start there first).
If your target buyer is a young mom in the 30-40 age range, for example, you’ll want to sponsor content on different platforms and in different ways than you would if your target is a businessman in a leadership role who is between 40-50.
Look at the user demographics on social platforms to see where your ideal customers spend their time, and then check out specific influencers to see who their fans are. The young mom demographic will likely be reachable by Instagram, Pinterest or a parenting magazine, while the older businessman would have higher odds of seeing your sponsored content on LinkedIn, Facebook or a business publication. Make sure that, whichever routes you choose, you’re iterating and testing to get the most bang for your buck.
Sponsored content has a way of coming across as more credible and trustworthy to audiences than actual ads from a brand or content on a company’s own site. You can get effective results by thinking strategically, going where your buyers are and partnering with a marketing expert who knows the ropes. Speaking of… we’d love to help you get started!