They say that we are addicted to mobile devices. Actually, we are addicted to content. Our smart devices are simply the most efficient means with which we access this content – for now. So how can marketers get into the content game?

Brands want to get their content in front of the right audiences. Partnering with existing publishers can effectively reach prospective consumers and accelerate your brand exposure in the market. As the relationship between publishers and social platforms grows closer — and as more straightforward forms of advertising are being challenged by ad-blocking – the role of Sponsored Content is increasingly gaining in popularity as marketers adapt their strategies to recognize the interests of discerning audiences.

What is Sponsored Content?

Sponsored Content is editorial content that is published on platforms not owned or controlled by the brand but is paid for by the brand, hence the ‘sponsored’ label. Sponsored Content takes the same form and qualities of a publisher’s original content and aims to position the brand as a topical expert by delivering interesting content that is relevant to a publisher’s audience.

It also goes by other names, such as ‘Native Advertising,’ ‘Advertorials’ or ‘Content Marketing’. They are essentially the same in that they are paid content. Some will further delineate each of their definitions, but despite the interchangeable and sometimes confusing industry jargon, marketers and publishers alike must remember the end goal.

The goal is to refine a piece of content to the point that it is something readers would really want.

On top of the affiliation with a credible content source, skillfully executed Sponsored Content augments a sponsor brand’s credibility with prospective consumers. The positive effects generated from this type of partnership is the next best thing after earned media (i.e: reviews, editor’s picks, features) because readers expect all content to be scrutinized and curated by a publisher’s unique editorial standards. Meeting the readers’ expectations here means they’ll be more willing to engage with the content, which opens up the possibility for your content to go viral – the holy grail of marketing outcomes. Yet while earned media opportunities can be elusive, Sponsored Content solutions are more readily available to serve and nurture a similar advantage for building brand value and awareness.

Doesn’t Sponsored Content look and feel like an ad?

Well, it shouldn’t feel like an ad, and that’s the point.

A distinctly un-salesy topic is key to good content creation if you want readers to care or give you their attention. Serving useful or entertaining information is a great way to favourably influence the perception of the sponsor brand.

While a brand may help shape the content, publishers know what makes the most sense for their audience and can provide the best content strategies which comply with ethical editorial standards.

After all, it’s their original content that drives the views which marketers covet in the first place. They have built their audiences and understand how they behave. From a viewer’s perspective, it’s just another form of content. They don’t differentiate content by paid or non-paid. They simply care if the content is useful or helpful to them.

The Benefits of Sponsored Content

Still not sure if Sponsored Content is a fit for your marketing mix?

Let’s break it down to the key value propositions:

  • It fits in with the publisher’s content stream and seamlessly places your brand directly in front of their audience.
  • It positions a brand as a topical expert or thought leader.
  • It is mobile responsive, just like any of the publisher’s own content.

Oh yes, we are breaking down the strategic values, too:

  • Interesting, useful, or inspiring brand content is more likely to be liked, tweeted, and shared than a sales pitch.
  • Online Sponsored Content provides back-linking to your site from a credible and popular content source, which helps boost your website’s SEO.
  • It can be boosted on the publisher’s social channels to reach new audiences.
  • Display ads paired with Sponsored Content can get more engagement.
  • It can be evergreen content or it can capitalize on seasonal trends. Both are good, but trending content moves quickly, so be ready to act fast.

As a former in-house marketing producer for a couple of national retail brands, I have witnessed the impacts of content marketing first-hand. When targeting the right audience with the right publishing partners, it really works. I have seen spikes in sales and momentary brand buzz as a result of getting my brands placed into media content streams.

In fact, I still remember the first time I saw real, tangible results: orders were coming in and the customer service department suddenly got a lot of action. My team experienced a mixture of delight and awe, thinking “Omg…it actually works!” There is no greater joy to a marketer than to see results. After the buzz had passed and things settled back to our old, normal pace of business, we were left wondering if we could make it happen again. We. Were. Hooked.