I discovered blogs almost ten years ago. The first blogs I fell in love with were healthy lifestyle blogs (I’m pretty sure you burn extra calories reading fitness blogs). These young women (it was an all girls club at the time) blogged about every aspect of their lives: their meals, exercise, friends, and family.
After a few months, I felt like these strangers who I’d never met were my close friends. If they said doing 100 jumping jacks a day was a great idea, I started jumping. If they said that X Brand Granola was the best thing ever, off I went to the store.
The trust bonds that people form with bloggers and other social media gurus is amazingly strong. For businesses, both large and small, forming professional relationships with popular social media users is a fabulous way to spread the word about your product. These gurus can promote your product or service through sponsored content.
What is sponsored content?
We’ve been exposed to traditional advertisements our entire lives. You probably drooled over Snickers commercials when you were a kid. Now you see ads on the side of your Facebook page for flower delivery or that swim suit you just looked at on JCrew’s website.
Sponsored content is a different form of advertising. The American Press Institute defines sponsored content as “content that takes the same form and qualities of a publisher’s original content.” Additionally, sponsored content delivers “useful and entertaining information as a way of favorably influencing the perception of the sponsored brand.”
How does sponsored content work?
Let’s say you have a company called Charlie’s Chocolate Cherries. You make chocolate covered cherries, fresh during the summer and dried during the winter (Yum!). Your company is new, and you want some exposure. You do some traditional advertising, which works great, but you want even more people to know about your fabulous product.
So you reach out to Betty Blogger, Izzie Instagrammer, and Yara Youtuber. They’re super popular social media gurus with boatloads of followers and often focus on food. They’re happy to work with you to feature your cherries on their channels.
There are several ways sponsored content can work:
- Samples for review: Offer Betty, Izzie, and Yara a free supply of your chocolate covered cherries for them to review.
- Risks: They may choose not to review your product. Or they may give it a bad review.
- Having a positively reviewed product outweighs the potential risks. Good reviews can give your new company much needed exposure to a large group of potential customers.
- Paid posts: Pay a flat fee for doing sponsored posts or videos.
- Work with social media gurus to have more extensive coverage on their platforms.
- The gurus will incorporate your product into a larger story, which makes your chocolate covered cherries seem even bigger and more exciting than they already are.
- Personalized experiences: Incorporate a fun activity into free advertising for your product.
- Invite Betty, Izzie, and Yara to your workspace to watch you dip the cherries in chocolate. Or perhaps even a trip to the cherry orchard where you source your cherries.
- The gurus will work your product into a bigger narrative of their lives, crafting a compelling story with gorgeous visuals.
One of the best things about sponsored content is that you can customize it to fit your company, your intended audience, and your marketing partners. There are endless ways to introduce your product seamlessly to a large social media audience.
Is sponsored content effective?
The ultimate goal of any advertising is increased sales. Traditional ads have been around forever, but sponsored content on social media is new. Because of that, measuring the effectiveness of sponsored content is tricky.
Sponsored content is so new, that its effectiveness has not been studied much. However, a survey published by Contently asking about 500 Internet users their opinion of sponsored content indicated that people are somewhat skeptical of it. The survey may have been biased, though, by those who felt strongly enough about the issue to respond. Also, it focused on people’s feelings about sponsored content – not empirical evidence about whether it increased revenue.
There may not be formal studies touting sponsored content’s usefulness, but based on anecdotal reports from many small businesses, it has helped spread the word about their products. Sponsored content helps you read new and bigger audiences than you could on your own. Getting social media gurus to honestly say great things about your product, gives your business a level of trustworthiness that traditional advertising cannot easily achieve.
One shouldn’t paint sponsored content as bad based on such limited results. In today’s world where Internet is king, promoting your business through sponsored content is an excellent way to get your name out there. The more familiar people are with Charlie’s Chocolate Cherries, the more likely they’ll be to turn to you for their candy needs rather than the dastardly Chuck’s Chocolates.