These days, the general public has grown accustomed to the growing commercialisation of their news feeds – but is that a negative thing? Has the very word ‘sponsored’ become tainted with cynicism? Does the sight of paid-for content make people tune out and dispel any power the marketing may hold?
As brands begin to revaluate their digital customer targeting methods, the topic of sponsored content is becoming more scrutinised.
At a recent Digiday conference in Colorado in August, marketers were asked to ponder the future of content marketing and the continued efficacy of the sponsored post. Attendees included representatives from big brands like Reebok, Heineken and Urban Zen and many were exploring the idea of life outside the sponsored post. “When you’re selling a product and you’re not editorial, but you’re trying to create content people actually want to read, we fear that people are going to immediately bounce the second they realize they’re reading sponsored content or brand content,” said one marketer at the event.
According to Tristan Hall, Consultant at Cogs Agency, ‘At the core of every notable and sponsored social campaign is a gifted strategist.’ This ultimately means that the penetration of any good campaign is at least partly due to the strategy implemented by one – or a group of – creative individuals. And, it’s in this area where the technology and platforms change and progress at a rate like no other, so it’s important to target customers with different strategies and formats to ensure the end sales goals.’
With all that in mind, what are the pros and cons of sponsored posts?
1. More effective targeting
Sponsored posts can effectively hone in on a particular demographic and device type so you can maximise your chances of reaching your target audience via the best possible medium.
2. Less intrusive
People tend to be less annoyed by advertising if they feel it relates to them in some way. Content that is aligned with the person’s interests and lifestyle serves to enhance their experience online – rather than detract from it.
3. Sizeable ROI
Sponsored online content is still a relatively cost-effective means of communicating with your audience. YouTube, for example, only charges you when your content has been viewed. And, more generally, the fact that your content is being served up to people who have a predisposition to liking it, means the chance of those clicks turning into sales is exponentially higher.
1. The stigma
But despite all that, it’s becoming more and more difficult to convince customers of the ‘authenticity’ of a post. They have glimpsed the man behind the curtain. Marketers now have to push through a barrier of scepticism and suspicion in an effort to entice people.
2. Steep learning curve
Online habits and preferences evolve so rapidly that it is essential for marketers to stay ahead of the curve. Content should change to reflect customers’ changing interests – and to avoid becoming stagnant.