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Sponsored Content: The Future of Advertising

Sponsored content is a great way to drive traffic to your brand and grow your audience. Learn more about this marketing tactic here.

Traditional advertisements like billboards, print ads, and direct mail are quickly becoming outdated. While they're still effective, many brands turn to digital media like sponsored content to reach new audiences without disruption.

Sponsored content isn't a new concept, but it's one that's gaining popularity as companies invest more in digital marketing than traditional forms of advertising. If you read magazines, you've probably already seen sponsored content without realizing it.

So what is sponsored content marketing, and how can you begin using it to attract customers? Keep reading to learn more about this marketing strategy and why it's more effective than traditional advertising.

What is sponsored content?

Sponsored content is any type of paid advertising or promotional media —print or digital— purchased by an advertiser and circulated by another brand, publisher, or individual. Sponsored content is something many of us come across every day on social media.

Ultimately, a brand creates sponsored content advertising through a social media platform, and that platform acts as a publisher. Any time you see a sponsored post in your Instagram feed, it's sponsored content. The goals of sponsored ads are to bring paid traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and boost sales.

What makes sponsored content unique compared to other forms of advertising is that it matches the branding, look, and feel of the publisher, so it's less disruptive than popups or traditional print ads. In addition, most consumers don't realize when they're engaging with sponsored content because it blends with the overall aesthetic of the publisher, making your brand appear more credible and trustworthy.

Sponsored content is available in many forms and formats, ranging from blogs to listicles, social media posts, videos, and more, allowing them to be more effective and engaging than traditional ads.

If you're familiar with different types of advertisements, you might compare sponsored content to native ads. Not all native advertising consists of sponsored posts, but all sponsored posts are native ads. They're similar because they fit seamlessly into a publisher's platform, whether a social media page, another website, or a print magazine. Technically, sponsored content is native advertising because it fits in with the publisher's website or social media branding.

However, sponsored content is more of a partnership, while native advertising is similar to purchasing ad space. Depending on the agreement, the advertiser may create sponsored content, but the publisher will ensure it matches their tone of voice.

Examples of sponsored content

Sponsored content marketing can be used with a digital or print media strategy to boost brand awareness and drive conversions. There are several types of sponsored content available to create and purchase from publishers and other brands. This includes:

Sponsored photos and videos

Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok ads are some of the best examples of sponsored content available. These posts are native ads that match the general appearance of whichever social media marketing channels are used. For instance, if you scroll through Instagram, you'll notice that sponsored posts look like posts from your family or friends.

Sponsored influencer posts

Scroll through your favorite social media platforms, and you'll find influencers willing to work with your brand. While social media ads are some of the most common forms of sponsored content, there are other types of sponsored videos and photos. For instance, you can sponsor YouTube videos and other social media posts by working directly with a content creator.

When you partner with an influencer, they're responsible for creating and promoting the sponsored post on their social media platforms. This is how influencers earn money for their posts — they monetize Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube by forming partnerships with advertisers.

Sponsored articles

Sponsored articles appear in digital and print publications. They can be written by either the publisher or the advertiser, depending on the terms of the deal. For instance, you can create a blog for your brand using the same tone of voice as a publisher to appeal to their target audience.

When crafting sponsored articles, you should avoid being overly promotional. Publishers want your sponsored posts to feel like their own website content. Other publishers may choose to monetize a website by partnering with brands, so sponsored articles aren't necessarily limited to top-tier magazines and newspapers.

Benefits of using sponsored content

Sponsored content marketing can help you reach a wider audience and attract more customers. By leveraging the audience of various publishers, you can increase traffic to your website and improve brand awareness efforts.

A few of the most significant benefits of using sponsored content include the following:

Increase referral traffic

Sponsored content can increase referral traffic to your website. While you shouldn't be overly promotional in your content, you can have a call to action that tells visitors what to do next. For instance, if you work with an influencer to create sponsored social media posts, you can provide them with a link to purchase the advertised products.

Establish thought leadership

Sponsored content can help you establish thought leadership by working with a publisher already considered one in the industry. For instance, influencers are thought leaders to their followers. So if you're a beauty brand, working with a beauty influencer can increase your credibility by leveraging their expertise.

Reach wider audiences

Sponsored content allows you to leverage the existing audience of influencers and publishers to expand your reach. If you choose the right type of sponsored content and partner, you can connect with customers more likely to purchase your products and services.

How to identify sponsored content

Consumers don't always know when they're viewing sponsored content. Sponsored social media posts are easier to spot than articles because most people can tell when they're looking at a branded image instead of a photo posted by their friends and family. But some types of sponsored content are challenging to identify because they closely resemble the publisher's content and tone of voice.

Sponsored content is designed to look like non-sponsored content because it's less disruptive. As a result, it won't look like a regular banner ad. However, there are rules for publishers when creating sponsored content. Ultimately, they must tell users, readers, viewers, and consumers that a piece of content is sponsored, signaling that they've received some form of compensation in exchange for publishing the post.

Different phrases you might see to distinguish sponsored and non-sponsored content include:

  • "Sponsored"
  • "Promoted"
  • "Paid partnership"
  • "Paid"
  • "Affiliated with"

This information must be clear, so you'll often see it at the top of a post or article.

Best practices for creating sponsored content

In some cases, the advertiser isn't responsible for creating sponsored content. However, if you're the publisher working with a brand, you'll be responsible for producing and promoting sponsored content. Here are a few tips to help you create effective sponsored content:

Always disclose

You should always disclose if your content is sponsored or paid for by an advertiser. For instance, if you're an influencer working with a clothing brand and they want you to mention them in a post, you must reveal that you've received compensation in exchange for the post.

In the United States, for example, disclosing sponsored content is a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirement to ensure your followers know you've been paid to promote a product, service, or brand. Luckily, if you're an influencer, the only thing you have to do is write in the caption that a brand sponsored your post. If you're a YouTuber, you can include that information in the video description.

If you're not an influencer but monetize your blog by working with various advertisers, you must still disclose that the article is sponsored using some of the language we discussed earlier.

Make it natural

Your sponsored content should never sound promotional. While a brand can sponsor an article, the article shouldn't promote any particular product or service. Instead, it will provide insight into a topic that the publisher's audience would find interesting. Your sponsored content should always sound natural. For instance, if you're an influencer, your audience might want to see how you'd use the product in your everyday life instead of simply telling them about its features.

Use visuals

The best part about using videos or photos is that you don't need to know how to write sponsored content. Instead, you can use branded imagery that aligns with your overall business goals without seeming overly promotional.

Write quality content

If you're not working with an influencer and are instead partnering with a publisher, you may be responsible for writing your own content. Ultimately, whether you or they write it depends on the nature of the agreement.

If you're responsible for writing the sponsored article, you'll have to work within the publisher's guidelines and follow their tone of voice.

You should review examples of sponsored content to see how other advertisers approached a subject. If you already invest in content marketing, you probably have a good writer on your team who can help.

Promote your business with sponsored content

Sponsored content can help you reach your target audience to boost brand awareness and conversions. Once you've determined which type of sponsored content is right for you and have identified the best channels, you can use Mailchimp's suite of marketing tools to create engaging posts.

With Mailchimp, you can make stunning graphics, visual content, and social media ads that convert. Try Mailchimp today.

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