How do start-ups go from being start-ups to established businesses? What is the key to that transition? We posit that businesses make this transition once they’ve found a way to extricate themselves from the typical start-up vicious circle. We’re, of course, talking about the cycle of marketing funding and growth i.e. you need funding for growth but you need growth for funding.
It’s an ever-teetering balance that businesses all over the world have to manage. The solution isn’t as much about finding free marketing solutions, although growth hacking helps, but instead about cost-effective marketing. One of the marketing areas that businesses can improve in is sponsored online content.
Sponsored online content is a very important aspect of marketing for most businesses these days mainly because of the kind of Returns on Investment (ROIs) it can bring. These ROIs, however, depend entirely on the sponsored online content strategy. Here, we’ll list steps designed to help businesses hack this effective marketing technique.
Step #1: Understand Why Sponsored Online Content Works
Sponsored online content is easy to define. It is content that you’re paying for on someone else’s publishing platform. However, that is the most simplistic explanation for sponsored online content. Let us try harder.
Sponsored online content will result directly in native advertisements. What are native ads? Native ads are advertisements that match the content that people are already reading on a platform. Whether native ads are in the form of written content, video content, or images, they resemble the content that surrounds them.
This is the biggest strength of sponsored online content. Other forms of advertisements are interruptive in nature. The best example of this is obviously the television commercials or even video ads on YouTube and pay per click advertising. Interruptive advertising objects the on-going content experience of the viewer or reader.
This, in itself, is counterproductive because the ad disrupts the on-going positive experience. Sponsored online content allows this positive experience to continue while inserting the sponsor’s marketing message into the mix.
You’re most probably wondering why understanding sponsored online content is the first step in the entire process. By understanding that sponsored online content’s biggest strength is its undisruptive nature, we understand what is required to make it work. The most important is the publishing platform.
Step #2: Research Publishers Deeply
One of the keys to getting the most out of sponsored online content is to find the right publisher. The right publisher in this scenario isn’t the cheapest option available but instead the one that provides the most value. How do you judge that value? It’s a combination of things but the following two are the most important.
The first is obviously the subject that the platform specialises in. You need this to be relevant to your business because you need the platform’s captive audience to be the same as your target audience. In addition, you need to consider the volume of that audience. Spending big bucks for a few hundred visitors will always be counterproductive.
Apart from these two most important criteria, you can evaluate other elements that add value to what you’ll be paying. The first is the presence of the publisher in social media. More generally, what kind of promotion practices they have in place and how much attention they give to sponsored content when it comes to promotions. Syndication with established networks may be something worth considering too.
Step #3: Tailor Content to Fit
In step #2, you found the right channel for your sponsored marketing message. Now, you need the vehicle to ply that channel. This means content. As mentioned earlier, one of the hallmarks of sponsored online content is that it doesn’t disrupt the on-going experience of the audience.
This is one of the reasons why publishers don’t accept content that stands out from what they’ve been publishing for so long and what has worked for them. The very best publishers will not budge from this requirement. So, you’ll have to adapt.
You’ll need to tailor your content to not only suit the subjects being discussed commonly on the publisher’s platform but also the tone and style of the content. Along with this, you’ll have to ensure that your content isn’t too “salesy”. This means that your content needs to be educative and informative rather than promotional.
There are two ways to do this. The first is to read comments on various pieces of content to understand the audience. Ideally, you should already know this audience and be able to pick up these cues without much effort. At the same time, even if you know your target audience, specific sub-groups in it tend to focus on different nuances. Identify the nuances most prominent on the platform you’re targeting.
The second is to simply go through the posts that are most popular on the platform. Most platforms will list these pieces of content in one way or another. Pinpointing the core concepts of these posts and then tailoring your content on them will result in most returns for your business.
Step #4: Recurring or Fresh Sponsored Online Content
Again, there are two ways through which you can approach your sponsored online content strategy. The first approach is that of SEO while the other is that of engagement. What your business needs at any particular time is something that you’ll be the best judge of.
If you want the SEO approach to the entire sponsored online content exercise, then the best thing to do for you will be to keep looking for newer publishers. In SEO, which stands for search engine optimisation, the primary objective is to get established online properties to link-out to you. These links are known as backlinks and they add to your importance in the eyes of the search engines.
The more backlinks you have and the more established the online property linking out to you is, the better your SEO score will get. However, in SEO, new backlinks from high-quality domains have relatively more value than new backlinks from the same domain. This automatically makes targeting new publishers more valuable than going after the same one.
On the other hand, if you want the engagement approach, then it’ll be better to get content on the same platform again and again. This will ensure familiarity for the visitors with your business, brand, and message. The more familiar the audience will get, the more likely it is that they’ll either engage with your business or convert into customers.
Typically, you’ll need both these techniques for your marketing efforts. You should start with the SEO approach and once you have sufficient visitors on your website, you can gradually move towards the engagement approach. In any case, you’ll need a mix of both these techniques to get the most out of any sponsored online content strategy.