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To put it succinctly, sponsored content is all around us. When a brand partners with an influencer to create a series of Instagram posts featuring a product, it is producing sponsored content. When a brand hires someone to write a blog post or article in a magazine (to be paid for by the brand), it’s also producing sponsored content. There are many types of sponsored content. Here are a few:

Sponsored Content Definition

The American Press Institute offers a more comprehensive definition of sponsored content: It’s content that is designed to look and feel like the content you would usually find from a publisher. It’s also content that aims to be entertaining or useful while subtly improving a person’s perception of the sponsoring brand.

Why Is Sponsored Content Important?

The goal of sponsored content is slightly different than the goal of traditional advertising. When you see a traditional ad, such as a TV commercial or banner ad online, it is usually selling you a specific product. An ad for a smartphone wants to remind you to buy that smartphone. An ad for a pair of jeans wants you to buy those specific jeans.

Meanwhile, sponsored content wants you to get to know the brand. The goal of a piece of sponsored content might be to get you to look at a company in a new light rather than getting you to buy a specific product. For example, a clothing brand might run a blog post on “five ways to be eco-friendly and stylish.” After reading that post, you might be more likely to associate the brand with eco-friendly fashion or causes, even if you didn’t before.

Types of Sponsored Content

Sponsored content takes many forms, depending on the brand and the type of creator it works with. Some types of sponsored content are more popular than others. You might find certain types of sponsored content in a big name publication, like the “New York Times,” or on the social media profile of an influencer or blogger.

The 2017 State of the Creator Economy (SOCE) study looked at some of the most popular social media marketing approaches used by marketers. Below are the top five most popular forms of sponsored content in 2016 along with the percentage of marketers who use that form of content:

  • More marketers us Sponsored Facebook updates than any other form of sponsored content (68 percent)
  • Twitter comes in a close second with half of marketers using Sponsored Tweets (50 percent)
  • Multimedia forms of sponsored content are on the rise with a focus on Sponsored video content (44 percent)
  • Still up there are Sponsored blog post (42 percent)
  • Also on the rise are Sponsored photos (41 percent)

Example of Sponsored ContentSponsored Content in Action

What does sponsored content look like? Examples of sponsored content are plentiful. We detail some of the most noteworthy types of sponsored content from the past few years below.

Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work. Published in the “New York Times,” “Women Inmates” was an in-depth look at how the current prison system doesn’t work for women. It looked like a legit piece of journalism, and it was — it just also happened to be sponsored by Netflix.

6 Reasons Dining Out Is the Best Way to Explore Your City. Published on Elite Daily and sponsored by NYC Restaurant Week, the blog post didn’t promote one specific restaurant or even mention the existence of restaurant week. Instead, it was a listicle highlighting the benefits of going out to eat.

Crazy Busy Day? Helpful Hair Tips. Sponsored video content is a little different from sponsored editorial. In her sponsored video for Dove dry shampoo, beauty vlogger Ingrid Nilsen shows the viewer how to use the product and why to use it, then goes on to provide general tips for styling your hair. Written editorial pieces often don’t make specific mention of the sponsoring brand or product.

Make Sponsored Content Work for Your Brand

If you want to make sponsored content work for your brand, the first step is finding people to actually create the content for you. Using a creator marketplace is often the way to go. You’ll find influencers and creators of all kinds on a marketplace, from Instagrammers to writers and from video creators to dedicated Twitter users. Whatever form of content you want, you’ll find someone to make it.

For a sponsored content campaign to work, it needs to do two things. First, it needs to make sense for your brand. The article on women inmates is a perfect fit for “Orange Is the New Black” and Netflix. A video showing people how to use dry shampoo makes perfect sense for a beauty vlogger. So choose creators who have expertise in your brand’s niche.

The content also needs to fit within your budget. According to the SOCE, there’s often a price perception gap between marketers and creators. That gap works in favor of the marketers. For example, an influencer might charge an average of $238 for a blog post. A marketer usually expects to pay around $345. Sponsored videos often cost around $228, while marketers are occasionally ready to shell out more than $400.

Think of sponsored content as a way for customers to get to know your brand. You’re not producing advertorials or pushing products on them. Instead, you’re creating informative content that they can benefit from.