The Benefits of Sponsored Stories and Sponsored Images
By now you’ve probably seen a little icon or note that says something is a “sponsored story.” You can find sponsored stories, sometimes called a promoted story, as well as sponsored images all over the web, and for many getting involved in this marketing tactic is a great way to get new eyes on your brand. This is definitely a paid promotion strategy, but it’s a great supplement to the paid ads you use for Google and other search engines.
However, and as with all paid marketing approaches, sponsored stories aren’t worth it for all businesses. You have to first consider some of the places where you can get involved in sponsored stories, what goes into the process, and decide whether or not the extra work is worth it for your business.
How Sponsored Stories and Images Work and The Benefits
A sponsored story essentially means that an article you write (or image, video, etc.) will show up on a particular website, and then you will get a little blurb that says the story was sponsored by your website. It will also look different on every different platform where you’ll find sponsored stories (a few examples in the next section). There are a few major benefits to this type of paid promotion:
- Great for Testing. These types of promoted ads can oftentimes be less expensive than your typical display ads, so it’s a good place to test and see what works.
- Link Building. You should get a link back to your company, which can help your link profile earn those authoritative mentions.
- Higher Visibility. Your content is put in front of the eyes of an entirely new audience.
Again, how a sponsored story, image, video, etc. will look will vary, but the idea remains the same in all the cases above—you can pay to have your work promoted and shown on these platforms in the form of an actual story, video, image, etc. as opposed to an ad.
Getting Involved With Sponsored Stories on Popular Platforms
It would be nearly impossible to show you what sponsored stories look like on every platform where you have that opportunity because there are so many options, but the platforms described below are some of the most popular that offer the benefits discussed above:
The sponsored stories you can include on Twitter are actually called “promoted tweets.” These tweets can appear on the Twitter feed of anyone who might be interested (not just people who follow you or vice versa) because of Twitter’s targeting features. This is also a great way to grow your social community, and you can track your analytics to see which posts are successful.
Buzzfeed is all the rage right now, so if you have some quick tips that you can make creative, paying for a sponsored story on this platform is a great move.
Facebook is actually undergoing quite a few changes to certain features of their sponsored stories, but by and large, the purpose remains the same. In short, marketers can no longer purchase sponsored stories separately, but instead the social context—stories about social actions your friends have taken—is now eligible to appear next to all ads shown to friends on Facebook.
Explaining how to make this happen is a little bit more complicated because you have so many choices. If you’re looking to get involved with sponsored posts on sites like Forbes or USA Today, you will have to visit their websites and talk with their PR Director or find a link that explains how to get started. In some cases, this can be very difficult, so I recommend starting with social networks and some smaller publications.
How to Find Quality Sponsored Story and Image Opportunities for Your Company
When it really comes down to it, you can have a sponsored story, image, video, sponsored links, listings, and even playlists. Because you have so many options, it can be tough to know where to begin and where your company would benefit most, so you have to really do your research and go through some testing and trial/error runs.
Your first step needs to be to determine what your audience responds well to and what your business creates. If YouTube and video have never gotten you far with your audience, a sponsored video might not be worth it. If you’re not a company focused on music, then don’t bother paying for a sponsored playlist spot.
Next, you have to visit the site where you want to have a piece of promoted content and see how to get involved (obvious, I know). For some of the larger sites, you will have to talk with quite a few people, but once you’re considered a partner it should get easier and easier to get involved. Lately breaking into some of those larger publications has been tough, so I recommend starting small and working your way up.
Extra: The Benefits and Pitfalls of Sponsored Stories for a Publisher
If you’re on the other side of things, the one publishing the sponsored stories and images, you’re working with an entirely new ballgame. In other words, you have to think about whether or not the sponsored stories you’re publishing on your site are really going to help your website in the end.
Sponsored stories on your site generally get a high CTR, but the pay that you get in return can actually be quite small (formal ads are usually more expensive). Since your sponsored post has a widget or link to send people to that website, you actually might be sending your visitors somewhere away from your website. You need to make sure you’re weighing your options based on who wants to publish on your site.
How Sponsored Stories Can Complement Your Organic Search and SEO
In the end, sponsored stories can help complement your SEO the same way that any type of paid promotion will. Paying for ads can help boost your efforts and get you to where you want to be right away. This can help you test your ads and your content to see where people are really responding, which should in turn help you improve your content and messages that you’re trying to rank organically. The more data you can have, the better.