How To Create Sponsored Content that Delivers

Kelly Kirkham puts sponsored content under the microscope and reveals the top tips for creating content that really works…

Sponsored content has been a hot topic in the news lately and has been heavily disputed by big names such as John Oliver from HBO, as well as major publications like the Wall Street Journal.
If you’re not sure what sponsored content is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Contently revealed that the majority of people are confused by the concept. In a nutshell, though, sponsored content – also known as native advertising –  is essentially the next generation of the advertorial. It’s content that is published to serve an advertiser’s own interests, but disguised to look like unbiased content. It can be a full page advert in a newspaper that’s made to look like a news report of feature. Or it can be posts on facebook which are hidden in your timeline and made to look like your other genuine posts.
For example: Let’s say that you look out your window and it’s raining. So you head to your computer to check out the weather forecast. You visit a site that says that a hurricane is inevitable and you need to race to your nearest Big Box store to stockpile toilet paper and batteries. This is valuable information only if (1) you read this from a reputable weather service and that (2) the information is accurate and a hurricane is actually heading your way. If you return home with your toilet paper and batteries only to find that the hurricane alert was posted by the big box store to promote sales and it’s actually sunny and calm outside, you would be very upset.
The most recent studies show that 54 percent of Americans don’t trust sponsored content. As many as two-thirds of the sample surveyed also felt that sponsored content had ‘tricked’ them at some point.
The nation’s irritation at being bombarded by sponsored content has reached such a climax that Google engineer, Ian Webster, created a sponsored content detector in his freetime.
AdDetector is a plugin that can be downloaded for Chrome or Firefox. It works as a filter for content on your screen. The plugin will provide visual banners around featured content alerting readers to who is sponsoring the information you have access to.
Content creators shouldn’t get anxious about this new development. They should see it as an incentive to improve the quality of sponsored content. Native advertising should be all about creating content that provides consumers with valuable entertainment, knowledge, or resources as a helpful tool. At no time should content be used to ‘trick’ or ‘conive’ readers into taking actions they wouldn’t normally take. This being said, we have all seen the articles when scrolling through our news feeds that are obviously rubbish. This is unfortunate and inevitable. Because of this misleading content, it is important to establish a trusting relationship between readers and those posting content.
So there are some top tips to follow when creating sponsored content to advertise your business in this tuned-in new world…
1. Inform
Educational or informative content is viewed by an online audience as more trustworthy than anything else. Bear this in mind when you’re planning an advertorial. Put some real thought into the sort of content that your potential customers would find helpful and make that the focus of your ad.
2. Be Relevant
They say all publicity is good publicity, so it’s easy to jump at the chance of sponsoring content if it’s in a good location, no matter what the content is. However, you need to make sure the things you are sponsoring are relevant to your brand and your customers. For example, if you have a limo hire business, it’s not necessarily going to be that helpful for you to sponsor an article on cross stitching, even if it is in the biggest crafting magazine going. Take inspiration from IBM, who sponsor Rugby data because they are experts in the data field, or RedBull, who can sponsor content on extreme sports because they are associated with energy.
3. Don’t patronize
View your audience as equals when writing informational posts. Don’t assume your readers are uneducated in standard business practices or everyday know-how.
4. List your sources
Be sure that all information given can be cited with credible sources, otherwise readers will feel they have been deceived by the misinformation. Claiming outlanding statistics or falsehoods will only build resentments.
5. Offer a balanced argument
Always cover both sides of the story to avoid a pushy sales like approach. By visiting all areas  your readers will feel like they have been properly educated in the matter.
6. Embrace social media
An article referred by a friend will always seem more credible than a post sent to you by a stranger. By creating easy ways to socially share content, you create a platform for your information to be shared within a social circle (You can try it out by sharing this post with your friends!).