July 28, 2009
Sponsored conversation is a strategy that allows companies to tap into the tempest of social media marketing. By offering compensation to publishers, marketers can enjoy exposure through Twitter, Facebook, a sponsored blog, and similar online channels. This strategy should not be approached haphazardly. Paid blogging is still misunderstood by many people and there remains a potential for stirring controversy. That said, if executed properly, a sponsored conversation can generate measurable buzz and produce scalable sales.
We will describe how paid blogging and other forms of sponsored conversation provides marketers with a seamless blend of public relations online and advertising. We’ll also explain different methods of compensation and the parameters by which performance is measured.
Sponsored Conversation: The Best of Both Worlds
The challenge of traditional advertising is that it often lacks a conversational voice. While placement and exposure are guaranteed, the message lacks authenticity. As a result, it is not uncommon for advertising campaigns to generate low response rates. By contrast, when a blogger or social media publisher mentions a particular company, his or her post is infused with an authentic voice. That natural authenticity can produce an enormous increase in response rates. The challenge is that the exposure is unreliable.
A sponsored conversation merges social media publishing with advertising to provide the best of both worlds. Marketers can take advantage of paid blogging to guarantee coverage of their brand and products through an authentic voice.
Methods of Compensating Sponsored Conversations
There are many ways in which marketers can compensate a sponsored conversation, including cash, shopping sprees, and gift cards. For example, in late 2008, Kmart offered shopping sprees to several high-profile bloggers in order to enlist their help to promote a seasonal sale. Other forms of payment may include specific products such as software, movie tickets, groceries or even cars. In early 2009, Symantec compensated bloggers with products related to their business. Because compensation can be negotiated individually, companies can easily manage the ROI of each sponsored conversation.
Sponsored Conversation Supports Flexible Performance Parameters
One of the key advantages of a sponsored conversation is the flexibility with which companies can measure results. By tracking impressions, unique visitors, or actions, marketers can calculate their ROI based upon the performance parameters they define. Advertisers can have trackable links placed within blog posts, tweets, and status updates in order to measure the effectiveness of each individual sponsored conversation.
For example, a company might wish to pay a blogger or social media publisher for each new post or status update. Or, they might prefer to pay per click based on a value they calculate for each visitor. Some marketers might wish to design a payment schedule based on post-click conversions generated on the company’s website. This flexibility in measuring each conversation’s performance allows advertisers to control marketing campaign costs while maximizing their ROI.
How to Make a Sponsored Blog Work
There are two main criteria that influence how well a sponsored conversation performs. Both are left in the hands of the blogger or publisher. The first factor is a full disclosure of the sponsorship. Few things will impact a publisher’s credibility more than hiding the fact that they are receiving compensation for posting about certain products or services. The second factor is authenticity. A publisher must have the freedom to post with sincerity. That means communicating both positive and negative thoughts (if any) to their readership. This authenticity is essential to making a sponsored conversation work. Without it, a blogger or social media publisher will lose credibility.
Sponsored Conversation: Blending Public Relations and Advertising
As long as a sponsored conversation is transparent and the publisher is given the freedom to write with sincerity, advertisers stand to yield significant benefits. They will be able to enjoy guaranteed exposure for their brand and products. Plus, they can tap into a publisher’s social media network. Each person within that network controls and influences their own network. If orchestrated correctly, a sponsored conversation can be launched to trigger a groundswell of buzz and sales. It is measurable; it is scalable; it is a cost-effective marketing solution that seamlessly blends advertising and public relations online. For many companies, it can form the foundation of long-term brand loyalty.
With 20 years marketing and advertising experience, Rostin Reagor Smith is on the cutting edge of internet marketing. Combining Social Media Optimization with more traditional SEO and SEM methods, RRS is a consulting firm specializing in enhancing clients’ online presence and managing their public relations online. SEO, SEM and ORM, Online Reputation Management, are combined in this successful formula. http://www.RostinReagorSmith.com