A person holds a phone with an influencer holding a microphone leaping out of the phone representing using sponsored content.

The “Dos” and “Don’ts” of Sponsored Content

By now, if you haven’t seen some youngin on a commercial, billboard, or social media feed dancing and sponsoring a product, you must live under a rock. Sponsored content has blown up with the advent of TikTok and Instagram. These platforms provide ample opportunities for your business to creatively put your name out there more than ever before. Not all content is good content, though, and sponsored content can be a double-edged sword. 

What is sponsored content, anyway?

Before we cover HOW to use sponsored content, it’s first important to establish WHAT sponsored content is. Sponsored content can take two different forms: 

  1. Organic social media posts that are sponsored by brands who are paying the people posting them (AKA influencers, or anything you see tagged as #ad on Instagram or “sponsored” on YouTube) 
  2. Traditional display advertising on social media or websites that is highlighted as a paid promotion, ad, or sponsored content. (Articles, etc. that look more ad-like)

That’s the dictionary definition, at least. So, what does sponsored content look like? In short, it looks like working with another person or business to promote your product or service. On Instagram, picture someone or something using or posing with your product (if we’re selling mustard, a hot dog influencer is a great example). These ads are meant to serve a less threatening, more targeted, and more engaging form of marketing to your target audience. Traditional display advertising does this but feels more stale thanks to the lack of human energy coming from the organic social post. 

Sponsored content can take many forms. We know it best as the influencers across the internet making more money than our minds can comprehend, but there are many more avenues to explore with sponsored content. 

Your favorite podcast is a great example. Audio-sponsored content is on the rise and is a relatively untapped market. Streaming services, YouTube, you name it. If people consume media from that platform, it’s ripe for sponsored content. 

Are influencers and other sponsored content really worth it? 

Justifying the price tag for a 30-second video can be difficult. Are these short blurbs really worth all that? Well, according to an IPG Media Lab study, people remember branded content twice as long as they do non-branded content. 

This isn’t new news, though. Branded content has been around for decades, harkening back to early radio and print. So we know that there is historical precedent for value here. 

Additionally, a Nielsen report reported that quality branded content and sponsored content outperform pre-roll advertising by nearly 50%. 

So, in short, yes. They are worth it. 

In addition to those impressive statistics, there are intangible benefits that don’t necessarily become clicks on a page or sales on a sheet – that’s eyes on the content. It takes several views of a product or service before a customer is ready to buy. So, getting eyes on your content gets you one step closer to converting viewers into customers. 

Brand awareness and impressions are often difficult metrics to hang a hat on, but they are important ones nonetheless. Work with your marketing partners to establish what KPIs and goals you have for working with sponsored content for the best results. Next, let’s look at some pitfalls to avoid when working with sponsored content. 

Sponsored content pitfalls to watch out for

Sponsored content showcases the human side of your product and helps consumers to connect with your brand messaging in a unique way. For best results, though, sponsored content needs to be carefully thought out – not just released into the wild. Understanding the goals, audience, and purpose of sponsored content is the key to successful experience. Watch out for these pitfalls when you start your sponsored content campaign: 

No direction

Many companies see a successful marketing campaign on TV, TikTok, or even a bus bench, and say “Ooooh I want that!” Hold your horses. Before you jump into that particular snake pit, what is your goal? 

Establishing relevant KPIs and channels to track successes is a must for any campaign. If you don’t have a direction or goal in mind, then there is no way to determine if the campaign was a success. KPIs are also a good way to tie in incentives, especially when working with influencers. 

Budgets are part of the planning process as well. How much money do you want to spend on this idea, and when is it time to call it quits? Without this plan, you can overspend, or even underspend, and see diminishing returns on your investment. 

Know your audience

Nothing is worse than getting an ad that makes you go, “What?” The same is true for sponsored content. Know what audience your business is looking to target. When considering influencer marketing strategies, make sure the influencer or partner you are working with targets your audience directly. 

For instance, a cake baker would be a poor partner for our fantasy mustard company. Some partnerships can be weird, and their weirdness can bring about sales and attention. Just make sure that before you swing for the fences, you have some data behind it so if it does underperform, your business can learn and try again. 

Communication is key

Let’s face it. Some people just are not good at communicating. That is their right, until it affects the bottom line. It’s important that when working with influencers or other partners that there is a clear understanding of expectations related to the process and communications. 

Make sure that all of the details are written in a contract that has been vetted by more than just your intern. While we love to look for the best in everyone, sometimes a reminder of what was agreed upon is necessary. 

On the flip side of that coin, though, make sure you are not withholding information from your influencer. Nothing kills a campaign or the energy of your sponsored content partner more than slow approval, lack of communication, and confusion. 

Keep it legal 

Sponsored content produces a much different “vibe” from traditional advertising, but there are certainly still rules. The Federal Trade Commission publishes online advertising and marketing guidelines that are absolutely essential to follow. 

We know what you’re thinking. “Oh, they won’t notice if I just slide by. We are a small company.” While this might be true, the reward does not outweigh the risk. Fines, bans, and removal of content are just some of the things that can potentially happen. 

For instance, SMS marketing fines can reach up to $1,500 per text message. When you are sending hundreds or thousands of texts at once, that can really add up. 

So, make sure before you start your sponsored content that you are checking for FTC compliance

Need help with influencer marketing strategies? Bullseye Media can help.

Looking to upgrade how your company uses sponsored content? Or maybe you need some guidance on influencer marketing strategies. Whatever you need, we’re here to help. Bullseye Media has the experience you need to level up your content marketing. Our Minneapolis-based marketing team has helped companies like The Simple Scrub leverage influencer marketing for incredible growth. 

Reach out to explore our portfolio and service offering. We have a team of digital advertising gurus, SEO specialists, graphic design DaVincis, copywriting champions, and celebrated cinematographers that are in a class of their own. Let us help you positively disrupt the market and rediscover the power of your brand.