Sponsored Social Media: The Importance of Transparency

pinky-swear - be transparent

Pinky-swear … Be transparent when using ambassadors or other influencers

Gone are the days when a monthly magazine ad was enough to keep your business growing. An ever-increasing array of creative marketing strategies is needed to breaking through today’s social media clutter. Quality content that captivates, informs or amuses is step one. Consistent, intentional posting and authentic engagement — step two.

Depending on your industry and target client, you might also consider additional steps including polls or contests, paid advertising or promoted posts and cross-posting among different social media platforms and accounts. Other strategies involve partnerships of various sorts, such as co-marketing collaborations and brand ambassadors.

Pay to play

To increase viewership, many brands are engaging in paid internet advertising. Online advertising allows you to increase exposure to potential customers who may not otherwise be aware of your company or product. Unlike traditional mass market advertising, it can be finely targeted to reach viewers with a specific interest in your goods or services.

Search engine advertisements, or pay-per-click (PPC) ads, are placed at the top of search results and highlighted with an “ad” indicator. When executed effectively, searchers who click through the ad are routed to a landing page designed to address the specific need expressed in the ad. The advertiser is charged based on visitor clicks of the ad. 

If you’ve determined (based on analytics) that a specific social platform is particularly effective for you, social media advertising may be a good strategy to consider. While each social media platform offers its own format options for ads, the common thread is increased exposure for a price. The buy-in can be as little as a few dollars to boost a Facebook post to a broader audience. Pricing varies widely depending on the platform, type of ad, duration and anticipated reach.

Facebook offers various advertising options which may appear in users’ news feed or in the right column. Ad types include image or video ads, slideshow ads and carousel ads consisting of a series of rotating images.

Instagram also offers photo, video and carousel advertising options.

Twitter offers promoted tweets which display in a user’s timeline. Usage data algorithms match the promoted tweets with relevant users. Less common advertising options are promoted trends (based on trending topics) and promoted accounts.

LinkedIn offers a variety of ad types (text, dynamic and display ads), as well as sponsored content that appears in the news feed of targeted users.

Pinterest’s promoted pins may be targeted by location, demographic and device type. Pricing is based on clicks, similar to PPC advertising.

While the ad types vary, generally all include some indication that designates the content as paid advertising.

Is that product passion real — or compensated?

Another way to expand visibility is through influencer marketing, where product ambassadors, bloggers or affiliates are used to increase exposure and reach of a product or message. Often, these individuals are the same demographic as your target customer, making them relatable and able to more quickly earn trust from prospective customers.

Influencers may write product reviews, publish blog posts about your service or product or engage in a variety of other grass-roots marketing strategies designed to increase exposure. While they more than likely have an authentic affinity for the products they endorse, typically these ambassadors, bloggers or influencers are compensated in some way in exchange for their efforts — such as a free product, entry into a contest, or payment for their review as an employee or partner.

When including ambassadors or other influencers in your marketing arsenal, it’s important to be transparent. A review or post should disclose the connection between the author and your company. Without full disclosure, you’ll risk losing the trust of the potential customer. Search Engine Journal suggests that the disclosure can be as simple as a hashtag like #sponsored as part of a social post.

It’s not me, it’s you

Today’s marketing can foster a perceived personal connection between brands and followers. Whether that connection is real or not, generally there is a greater expectation that brands will be above-board, up-front and honest. Like the “ad” designations in PPC advertising or “promoted” indicators on social media posts, influencer marketing should include a similar disclosure.

The customer acquisition process can be a long, slow dance which requires repeated exposures to your brand. Just one false step can damage that relationship-building effort irreparably. Lack of full disclosure by your influencers may be interpreted by a would-be customer as deceptive, undoing all the progress you’ve achieved through the courting process.

Take a step back and assess your influencer marketing approach. Not sure you can pass the “red face” test? Contact us for help.



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