If you’ve spent time scrolling social media feeds, reading online articles, or browsing blog posts for recommendations on the latest products, you’re probably familiar with content that has disclaimers like “Presented by,” “Partnered with,” “Paid post,” “Promoted,” and numerous similar labels. These common phrases indicate you’re looking at sponsored content, which means a brand like yours spent some money to get that specific piece in front of a particular audience.
Sponsored content is an excellent tool for brands to reach their target market without sounding like they’re trying to sell them something. It holds valuable information and helps persuade potential buyers without seeming too pushy. This type of native advertising is consistent with the rest of the site a customer’s visiting and is not intrusive, nor is it aggressive. It looks like it’s supposed to be there naturally, which customers appreciate.
What Is Sponsored Content and When Should You Use It?
Sponsored content isn’t restricted to any type of format or style. It includes everything from articles and infographics to social media posts and podcasts episodes. Other common forms of sponsored content include:
- Blog posts
- Carousel ads
- IGTV episodes
- Snapchat stories
- YouTube Videos
Due to its nature, social media is perhaps the most obvious place to find sponsored content online. It tops the list of paid methods B2C marketers use to reach their target audience. To use it in your favor, all you need to do is ensure that the company or influencer you’re sponsoring posts about topics that align with your brand and engages your core audience.
When done right, sponsored content will help you seamlessly advertise your products or services while providing your prospective customers and captive clients with added value. As a result, your brand will appear more memorable and credible by creating an enjoyable user experience — instead of disrupting it. This will ultimately generate more leads than any other paid advertising effort.
Sponsored Content vs. Affiliate Marketing
Sponsored content has been around for over 100 years. It started in the 1920s, when radio stations transmitted soap operas and sneakily marketed certain products within the stories. While it still hasn’t left the radio, sponsored content today spreads across pretty much any channel you can imagine, from television to online platforms. As mentioned above, brands pay other companies and influencers to mention their products and services organically within their posts.
Many people might think that sponsored content and affiliate marketing are interchangeable terms. The truth is, however, they hold some differences. Affiliate marketing uses partners to promote a merchant and its product. Affiliates get a commission every time somebody buys from that promotion. Sponsored content creators, however, get paid for their participation and not based on successful conversions.
The Benefits of Sponsored Content
People have developed a genuine aversion to intrusive online ads — so much that they’ve successfully figured out how to ignore these types of online marketing efforts. Consequently, display ads, banner ads, full-page ads, and such don’t perform that well anymore.
Sponsored content offers a solution to this conundrum by inconspicuously placing ads in plain sight — but in a more discrete way. On most social media feeds, sponsored posts look like any other type of content the average person would upload. If the content is consistent with the page, it seems more natural and makes readers put their guard down.
As to rules and regulations, according to the Federal Trade Commission, as long as the content clearly states it’s connected to a brand, it should be okay (read more on affiliate disclosure requirements). All disclosures regarding sponsored content must be written in an unambiguous language and in a font and color that’s easy to read. The primary perks of paying for sponsored content are:
- It generates increased sales.
- It gets higher engagement rates.
- It builds trust.
The Drawbacks of Sponsored Content
Some may claim that sponsored content might be misleading to the consumer. That’s because as long as a brand is paying to post about their products or services, there will be someone willing to talk wonders about them. Since sponsored content is hard to distinguish from editorial content, it can jeopardize the integrity of a publication and the brand’s image. Other shortcomings of sponsored content are:
- It can create difficulty in measuring performance.
- Sponsored content can be deceiving if not done correctly.
- The creation process is long and expensive.
Combine Sponsored Content and Affiliate Marketing
Using sponsored content as the sole element in your strategy might not give you the results you’re expecting. Combining it with other marketing efforts, however, will boost your chances of generating more leads and ultimately driving more conversions.
An affiliate program in conjunction with sponsored posting can do wonders for your brand. It allows you to recruit those partners who charge a flat fee and don’t find it convenient to get paid upon conversions. While using both methods at once might be more expensive than relying only on your average affiliate program, it will help you engage with your customers on a deeper level.
You can always negotiate with your partners and ask them to meet you in the middle. Or you can offer them a lower rate on their sponsored content while still getting them involved in your affiliate commission scheme. At the end of the day, by sharing your affiliate link over and over, they could end up making more passive income than they would with their sponsored post fees.
Another way of dealing with this issue is offering potential partners free samples and discount codes. The product value will make up for any paid sponsorship fees so that you can mix both marketing models successfully.
Sponsored content is a highly useful tool to reach an audience you’d otherwise miss with traditional advertising. It will make your brand seem more trustworthy and encourage customers to give your products or services a shot, thus considerably increasing sales. However, combining both affiliate marketing and sponsored posts can further boost your conversions and increase your return on investment. If you’re ready to give affiliate marketing a go, contact us and let us help you set up and manage your program.