Marketing Bootcamp

3 Tips for Creating Sponsored Content That Engages Consumers

We’ve all heard the complaints and are well aware of the stigma in regards to sponsored content -- consumers don’t want to engage with these types of posts because they recognize they are seeing an ad. But is this really true? Does every consumer on the planet shy away from sponsored posts on social media and digital platforms because they know it’s an ad? Or maybe -- just maybe -- is the manner in which these sponsored posts are displayed what drives consumers away?

We recently completed a data study on Instagram to dig deeper into sponsored content vs. non-sponsored content engagement rates, including likes and comments, segregated out by follower count. Data shows that sponsored content, whether a social post, a blog or a video, is engaged with equally in comparison to non-sponsored content, when done the right away.

Related: The Startup Marketer's Guide to Sponsored Online Content

Here are three tips to boost your sponsored content and ensure you are getting the engagement from your consumers that you seek.

1. Unnatural product placement.

We’ve all seen these. You’re scrolling through the feed of one of your favorite influencers, looking at pictures of their everyday life, and then wham -- you are treated to a close up picture of 15 different protein bars and a caption saying how much the person loves them. While it may seem like a good idea to prominently feature the product, this is highly unnatural. Your consumer wants to see the product being used in the influencer’s element. If it’s a clothing item, wear it; if it’s a food or beverage, have it next to you while you’re doing some other activity. The idea is to make it feel less like an ad and more like an item that just happened to be captured in the photo.

2. Poor photography.

This feels like a no-brainer, yet it’s one of the most common mistakes made by brands and influencers within sponsored content. Whether you’re looking at a sponsored post or your friend’s latest Instagram picture, no one wants to stare at a blurry or poorly cropped photo where it’s difficult to determine what is going on. Whenever possible, utilize an HD camera to ensure the best visual quality you can. It’s also helpful to use a small tripod, especially when your arms aren’t long enough for that perfect selfie.

Related: Native Advertising, a Boon for the Media, Can Help You Cut Through the Noise

3. Text on photos.

Any time I see content with a text overlay, I assume it’s an ad or a meme. Again, you want your content to look natural -- don’t type over it in big white block letters with the product name. Keep your text limited to your caption, but don’t go overboard there either. Data also shows that utilizing too many hashtags makes a sponsored post feel spammy and results in decreased engagement.

Related: 3 Reasons Customers Don't Care About Your Content

When your sponsored content is not high quality content, you’ll see a significant decline in engagement, particularly in comments. When your sponsored post is of poor quality and just feels like an ad, your consumer is less likely to engage with it. But when your sponsored post is properly placed, doesn’t include too many tags, utilizes sharp photography, and feels organic and native, you have a content tool that is statistically proven to generate results for your brand.