Table of Contents
- What is sponsored content?
- Sponsored Content vs. Native Advertising
- Types of sponsored content
- Why should brands and creators use sponsored posts?
- The dos and don'ts of creating sponsored content
- Examples of sponsored content
- How to get started with sponsored posts?
- Measure the success of sponsored content marketing
What is sponsored content?
To put it simply, sponsored content is any content that a brand pays to have published and distributed (and, possibly, created as well). Whether it’s a blog article with backlinks to your website or a video posted by an influencer on Instagram, promoting your product – these all fall under sponsored content, of which there are numerous types.
Usually, sponsored content blends in with the distribution platform’s regular content, but is paid for by an outside advertiser. It’s fundamentally designed to promote a brand in a format that feels less intrusive than traditional online advertisements – unlike banner ads or pop-ups, sponsored content can fit seamlessly with the platform, making it feel less like an ad, and leading to better engagement with viewers.
Sponsored Content vs. Native Advertising
Sponsored content is often referred to as “native advertising”. Either term can be used for what is essentially, marketing strategies – some SEO specialists consider sponsored content a type of native advertising, while others believe that in native ads, the ad is created by the advertiser themselves, while in sponsored content, the advertiser pays a third-party company to create and publish the content.
Truth be told, there is no consensus on whether both terms mean the same or not – however, both fall under the broader umbrella of content marketing strategies designed to present promotional content in a way that fits naturally within the user experience. The most commonly used definition of native advertising is “advertising where the ad content matches the platform or medium it’s presented in, but is labeled as “sponsored” or “promoted” to indicate its paid content”. Essentially, native ads are designed to amalgamate with the surrounding content, offering a less intrusive experience for users.
An example of sponsored content would be an article in a tech magazine, paid for by a software company, but written by the magazine’s writer. Such an article may discuss industry trends and subtly highlight the software company’s solution as an example, together with a backlink.
An example of native advertising would be any “you might also like” sections at the bottom of many online articles – they look similar to other articles on the site, but when you click on them, they lead to content that promotes a product or service.
Types of sponsored content
Sponsored content can take many forms, depending on the platform and the target audience. We’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular formats for sponsored content, including visual content, articles, and podcasts – but you can also have sponsored social media content, movies, listicles, and more.
Visual content – photos and video
Visual content can range from simple photos or infographics to short clips (like reels and stories) and full-length features. They tell a story or inform the viewers about a certain topic, while subtly incorporating brand promotion. The visual nature of this type of sponsored content makes it potentially more engaging, as people tend to process visual information quicker and remember it more effectively than text.
Sponsored articles are the most common type of sponsored content – a written piece typically resembling the editorial content of the platform it’s published on. It’s supposed to be informative, engaging, and promoting a product, service, or brand in a subtle way.
In general, sponsored articles aim to follow the same style, tone, and format as the publication. For example, on a health and wellness website, a sponsored article about the benefits of a certain supplement could be sponsored by a company that sells such supplements.
Example sponsored articles, commissioned by Netflix in partnership with the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The article dives into how women are treated in American prisons (promoting Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” series”) and cocaine trafficking (promoting Netflix’s “Narcos” show).
Podcasts are one of the newest types of sponsored content, since their popularity is relatively fresh. The brand or advertiser pays to have their message integrated into a podcast episode, either through direct mentions or other creative methods. Given the intimate and personal nature of podcast listening, this approach to sponsored content can effectively engage audiences and create strong brand connections.
Ads in podcasts can happen pre-roll (at the beginning of the episode), mid-roll (in the middle, typically the most valued placement), or post-roll (towards the end of the episode). Unlike traditional ads, podcast sponsorships often allow for a more organic integration of the message - since the viewers often have a connection with the host, their endorsement will be much more effective.
Why should brands and creators use sponsored posts?
Sponsored posts are a great way to benefit both the brand and the content creator. When executed well, sponsored content can effectively grow both audiences. Let’s take a closer look at some reasons why brands and creators should consider implementing sponsored posts into their strategy:
Sponsored posts allow brands to tap into the creator’s established audience, making sure the content is seen by engaged and often loyal followers. These creators typically have niche audiences, allowing brands to choose creators whose followers align with their target demographic easily.
Audiences tend to trust and value recommendations from their favorite creators much more than traditional advertisements. This trust can give brands a positive reception, and sponsored posts can be much more cost-effective, especially when considering the engagement and conversion rates they can achieve.
For many creators, sponsored content is a primary revenue stream that allows them to continue producing content and growing their platform. By partnering with relevant brands, they can also introduce their audiences to products and services that align with their interests.
Collaboration with brands can also lead to higher production values and access to events and products before they’re widely available, creating new opportunities for creating effective content. Partnering with well-regarded brands can also boost a creator’s credibility and reputation, and can lead to long-term relationships with strong brands.
The dos and don'ts of creating sponsored content
Now that we know what sponsored content is and how advantageous it can be to both creators and brands, let’s explain what you should and shouldn’t do when preparing a sponsored content campaign.
- Give full disclosure – Always make it clear that your content is sponsored. This not only fosters trust with your audience, but is also necessary to comply with many advertising regulations – use explicit labels such as “#sponsored” or “Ad” prominently on your content.
- Know your audience – Understand who you’re trying to reach. Conduct research on their preferences and interests – your content will resonate much better if you do.
- Provide value – Make sure that your content offers something of value to the audience – whether it’s information, entertainment, or a solution to their problem, it will increase the likelihood of engagement.
- Choose the right platform – Adjusting your platform and content to be relevant with your target audience is essential for creating valuable messages. For instance, younger audiences might prefer platforms like TikTok or Instagram and short video clip format., while a professional audience on LinkedIn might appreciate long-form articles or infographics more.
- Test and optimize – Use analytics to track the performance of your content. Adjust and refine your approach based on the results.
- Don’t be overly promotional – Audiences can be easily turned off by content that feels too much like a sales pitch. Try to strike a balance between actual useful content and promoting.
- Don’t hide the fact that it’s sponsored – Always be transparent. Trying to hide the sponsored nature of your content can easily backfire, damaging trust and even threatening legal consequences.
- Never compromise quality – Just because it’s an advertisement doesn’t mean it can’t be of high-quality. Make sure that all content you publish (or have published) is well-researched and well-written.
- Don’t ignore feedback – If your audience provides feedback – whether it’s positive or negative – don’t ignore it. Use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Examples of sponsored content
With so many types of sponsored content, it can be difficult to spot it at a first glance. In this part of the article, we’ll go through some of the most popular social media platforms for sponsored content – along with the upsides and downsides of each one.
Sponsored content on Instagram
Nowadays, the platform is dominated by short-form video content. Reels can be used by brands to publish short and engaging videos to showcase products or services, along with built-in e-commerce features for easy buying.
Instagram allows brands to sponsor stories that disappear after 24 hours, but can capture immediate attention of their audience. Posts and stories can link viewers directly to purchase.
Example: Multiple beauty brands collaborate with a popular beauty influencer to showcase new lines of makeup – the influencer shares a video tutorial of herself trying out different shades, with the brands’ products presented to the camera. Links to all brands are presented in the description, and users can clearly see their effects.
Sponsored content on TikTok
On TikTok, brands can sponsor viral challenges to encourage wide participation, or collaborate with more than one influencer to create a side-by-side content (known as Duets). Original audio can be created and promoted for users to incorporate into their own videos, and TikTok provides a large database of sounds and music to use in corporate advertisements. Direct in-video shopping is also available, shortening the user journey necessary to make a purchase.
Example: In this TikTok, a fitness influencer and known bodybuilder showcases his collection of supplements, provided by BioTechUSA. The brand’s TikTok page is directly linked in the description.
Sponsored content on Facebook
Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for sponsored posts because of its advertiser-friendly features, advanced targeting tools, and more than 3 billion active users monthly. Live videos allow brands to create real-time engagement with their audiences, be it for product launches or Q&A sessions. Carousel ads also enable advertisers to display multiple images or videos in a single ad, perfect for showcasing a range of products or telling a story.
Sponsored posts can appear directly on users’ feeds, and can be tailored to reach very specific demographics. They behave like normal posts, but brands can pay to boost their reach outside the people already following the page.
Example: Tentsile - a company manufacturing tents and camping hammocks – posts a sponsored ad to Facebook, linking to an article that helps distinguish their products from fakes. The message is catchy and encourages users to click the link.
Sponsored content on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is great for sharing longer content like case studies and industry insights, engaging the professional community by asking relevant questions or providing valuable information. LinkedIn can also be used to effectively promote webinars and professional events, along with lead gen forms that collect leads directly through sponsored posts without the user having to leave the platform.
Example: Utah State University used LinkedIn sponsored content to advertise their 1-year MBA program. Thanks to the targeting options available on the platform, the university managed to easily reach top candidates and converted more than 70% of clicks into requests for information.
How to get started with sponsored posts?
First, define your objectives. Understand what you want to achieve – are you looking for brand awareness, website traffic, or sales conversions? This also includes identifying your audience – their age group, interests, and demographics.
Once you know for whom and why you’re creating sponsored posts, it’s time to choose the right platform. Look for influencers that are relevant to your brand and have high engagement rates. Consider using tools like Upfluence or Brandwatch that can help you find the right influencer.
From the creator’s perspective, setting up a media kit would be useful – it should include information about your audience demographics, engagement rates, past collaborations, and testimonials from brands you’ve cooperated with. It’s sort of a resume when pitching to brands.
Negotiate fairly – understand your worth and consider factors like time spent creating content and your reach when discussing compensation.
Publish sponsored articles with WhitePress®
WhitePress® offers a seamless content marketing platform for brands and publishers to collaborate on sponsored articles that resonate with readers. With an extensive network of publishers, brands can reach diverse audiences with ease. The platform is easy to use and order content with, simplifying the entire content distribution process.
For brands looking to amplify their reach and gain credibility, WhitePress® provides a trustworthy and efficient solution.
How to order sponsored content with WhitePress?
Begin by registering an account on the WhitePress® platform or logging in if you already have one. Fill out your company's profile, ensuring all details are accurate. This helps in tailoring the experience and matching with appropriate publishers.
Search and browse through the list of publishers available on the platform. You can filter by niche, audience size, demographics, and other criteria to find the best fit for your brand. Determine your budget for the sponsored content – this will often influence which publishers you can collaborate with.
Once you've selected a publisher, proceed to order content. Outline your requirements, such as the topic, style, any specific points to cover, and the desired length of the article. After the content is written, it will be sent back for your review. Check for accuracy, alignment with your brand, and overall quality. Provide feedback or request revisions if necessary.
Measure the success of sponsored content marketing
Measuring the success of sponsored content marketing is crucial for understanding ROI and making informed decisions for future campaigns. Look at the most important metrics:
- Likes, Shares, and Comments: Basic metrics that provide insights into how your audience is interacting with the content.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): This metric reveals how many viewers clicked on links in your content, leading to your website or a specific landing page.
- Dwell Time: Measures how long users spend on your content – longer times usually suggest more engaging content.
- Generated leads: Tracks how many leads (sing-ups, contact forms, etc.) came directly from your sponsored content.
- Sales Conversion: Measures the number of sales that can be directly attributed to the sponsored content.
- Conversion Rate: The percentage of users who take a desired action after engaging with the content.
- Total impressions: Tracks how many times your content was displayed on someone’s screen.
- Unique impressions: Monitors how many individual users saw your content.
Regularly measuring success ensures that you refine your strategy over time, achieving better outcomes with each new campaign. Take all the advice presented in this article and put it to good work – with time and some effort, you’ll see your audience and online reach grow before your eyes!