Within the past two weeks, social media has seen drastic changes from likes on Instagram practically disappearing into thin air to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracking down on sponsored content by establishing new rules to follow when advertising through influencers. With the media changing at high speeds, both marketers and influences should be aware of what this means for the future of their content.
Sponsored content comes with benefits especially when a brand is looking to expand and draw awareness. Utilizing sponsored content can help your message get heard more quickly and easier when everyone else is trying to get heard amongst the chaos. The content blends into users’ feeds and are not immediately noted as an advertisement in the consumers’ minds. These posts can also allow better education about your product as people are more willing to listen to a person, they trust talk about a product than a brand talk about itself. Additionally, it allows consumers to think positively about the brand since.
Although there are obvious benefits to using sponsored content on social media, there are also cons that companies need to consider before investing money into the content. Many users are beginning to question the authenticity of sponsored content as more influencers take on more opportunities to post the content. There have also been questions as to if sponsored content is ethical or not.
As the FTC has realized these challenges, it has created a guide to how to properly post sponsored content, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.” Some of these regulations include “disclose when you have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.” Others include simply making it clear and obvious that it is advertisement by using simple language. Influencers also cannot talk positively about a product that they thought was terrible as this perpetuates ethical problems. While disclosing the fact that a post is sponsored is an ethical approach, according to a study in the American Behavioral Scientist, “people tend to resist persuasion attempts when they recognize them as such.” This resistance is playing a role in consumers questioning the authenticity of sponsored content. In resisting the message, consumers may not react to the call to action in the way that a brand may have hoped. Disclosure influences consumers to become increasingly critical of the post and may dislike the sponsored content. There is also further potential for consumers to gain “a more negative brand attitude” compared to user-generated content according to an article from the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany.
At this point, influencers and marketers may be left pondering how to get around these challenges. According to TapInfluence, there are several best practices to producing great sponsored content. The first key is to make it personal. Users follow influencers because they, usually, enjoy listening to their experiences. If influencers can make the sponsored content more personal, then users may be more likely to gain some form of attachment to the brand. There should also be photos or videos that engage the audience. Visuals are much more engaging than text, so even if an influencer is simply posting a review on their blog, they should incorporate visuals that may set the brand apart from others. Furthermore, using SEO keywords and phrases can drive traffic to the content more easily, consequently driving brand awareness.
While these efforts will help your message get across more clearly, it is also important to stay authentic. This applies to both the brand and the influencer. Consumers can sense ingenuity which will devalue a brand’s message. Additionally, influencers need to be transparent about how they are being compensated for the content. This is done to follow the FTC Disclosure Guidelines and it helps maintain the users’ trust.
Sponsored content can be a beneficial investment for brands, but with so many companies noticing the efficiency in the content, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get heard. Brands can choose to target untraditional influencers to stand out. One company, Manu Atelier, had the former editor of Lucky magazine share an image of one of the company’s bags on her Instagram. After sharing the post, retailers started stocking the bag, ultimately leading to the bag selling out. Tapping into the “influencer-editor” market is a strong move because they are often seen as “a more believable authority” compared to our more familiar influencers. Editors are exposed to so many brands and have a strong reputation that consumers feel more comfortable with believing the editors.
Overall, the key to great sponsored content is remaining transparent and authentic. Consumers are growing more suspicious of sponsored content so step out of the box, try something different. Sponsored content is filling feeds and brands are needing to adjust their approaches to social media. As the FTC gets tougher on this type of content, it is also important that brands and influencers remain aware and proactive to avoid possible issues with their content. Sponsored content can increase awareness of your brand and should be used if companies believe that they will benefit from the content.
“10 Best Practices for Writing Sponsored Content.” TapInfluence, 24 Aug. 2012, https://www.tapinfluence.com/10-best-practices-for-writing-sponsored-content/.
“About Sponsored Content.” Small Business Trends, https://smallbiztrends.com/about-sponsored-posts.
“Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.” Federal Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/plain-language/1001a-influencer-guide-508_1.pdf.
Chitrakorn, Kati, et al. “How to Sell Fashion on Instagram without Traditional Influencers.” Vogue Business, 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.voguebusiness.com/companies/underrated-influencer-tactics-fashion-brands-ganni-revolve-nordstrom.
Content is king – But who is the king of kings? The effect of content marketing, sponsored content & user-generated content on brand responses, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 96, 2019, Pages 46-55, ISSN 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.02.006.
van Reijmersdal, E. A., Fransen, M. L., van Noort, G., Opree, S. J., Vandeberg, L., Reusch, S., van Lieshout, F., & Boerman, S. C. (2016). Effects of disclosing sponsored content in blogs: How the use of resistance strategies mediates effects on persuasion. American Behavioral Scientist, 60(12), 1458–1474. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764216660141