Why Ecommerce Brands Should Invest In Sponsored Content

As an ecommerce store owner, you may be wondering what all the fuss around sponsored content is about. Today, marketing campaigns are formed of a combination of inbound and outbound strategies – blogging, social media, SEO, display advertisements, etc. It all depends on your business, but with sponsored content, you reap the benefits of both approaches.

As with most forms of marketing, it comes at a price. But arguably, as shifting algorithms render social media platforms less and less effective for brands, the investment in sponsored content is worth it. Here’s a little about what sponsored content entails, and how you can approach it for yourself.

Treading the fine editorial/advertorial line

Sponsored content should, essentially, read just like editorial content, merging seamlessly with the blog’s existing topics and tone. While it’s often labeled ‘sponsored’ or ‘collaborative’, it’s certainly not supposed to be purely advertorial, which is often very sales-focused. With sponsored content, you have the opportunity to let others know about your brand through the trusted recommendation of a writer with an existing audience. Unlike a straight review, it gives contextual, personal information that is far more engaging to the average reader.

An effective influencer has the power to drive engagement, brand awareness, and conversions – all great wins for your ecommerce business. When an influencer publicly endorses your brand, you’re not only gaining exposure, you’re gaining trust. In many ways, sponsored content is the new social proof. Plus, the benefits go both ways.

How to find influencers

Online influencers are everywhere, and operate on a range of platforms. Before you start looking, you need a clear idea of which platforms your target audience will respond to most.

A good place to start is by seeking out bloggers who have already written around related subjects to your brand offering.

But what’s the best way of finding them? There’s the manual option of course, but if you’re doing this at scale, you’ll need tools to help you. Here are three that’ll put you on the right course:

  • Buzzsumo – BuzzSumo collates content sharing analytics and influencer identification on one dashboard, with a handy search function that lets you filter by type.
  • Pitchbox – This sophisticated link building and influencer outreach platform makes it easy to contact and build relationships with targeted opportunities.
  • Famebit – A leading self-service influencer marketing platform, Famebit pairs brands with influential creators specifically for branded content. With Famebit, you can also leverage Shopify’s VIP program – ideal if you’ve built a store on Shopify already

Choosing the right bloggers to represent you

Sponsored content clearly has its advantages, however, success is all about working with the right people. It’s much easier to work from a single metric like social followers or monthly website visitors, but they don’t always give you the full picture. You also need to be looking at relevance, engagement, frequency, and authority.

  • Relevance – How aligned is this blogger’s content is with your brand message? Read their existing content to get a feel for their views and values.
  • Engagement – Are readers interacting with their content through comments and shares? How many of them are loyal, regular followers?
  • Frequency – Bloggers who post high quality content regularly are more likely to have a strong, loyal following who return to read their blog regularly and listen to its advice.
  • Authenticity – Engaging stories get more shares and comments than product promotions. Does the blogger use personal anecdotes, or is it all commercial?

The why

Because the reality is that sponsored content attracts more relevant, long-term customers – the kind who are most likely to become brand advocates. Banner ads and the like are far less effective now than they used to be – most of us simply ignore them. When was the last time you clicked a banner ad?

Users naturally place much more value on content that’s informative, inspiring, or educational. It’s not hugely surprising: no one enjoys being sold to. With sponsored content, you have a genuine opportunity to build trust around your brand, alter perceptions, and find ways to associate your brand with wider positive values – being eco-friendly or progressive, for example. This is harder to achieve with invasive advertising.

How much does it cost?

Sure, this is what you really want to know. And you might think (or at least hope) that it’s a simple answer. Unfortunately, it varies quite a lot.

You want sponsored content that meets your budget constraints and delivers reasonably good ROI. The creator economy is in a delicate and confusing place right now. As a guide, Hubspot puts forward the following formula:

BLOG PRICE = -60.5 + 5.97 (DA) + 0.978 (thousand FB fans) + 15.1 (PR) – 0.000007 (AR)

In this formula, DA stands for Domain Authority, FB stands for Facebook, PR stands for PageRank, and AR stands for AlexaRank. The representative example it puts forward is as follows:

A blog with a Domain Authority of 55, 25,000 Facebook Fans, an AlexaRank score of 1,500,000, and a PageRank of 4 could charge somewhere in the ballpark of $342.

There are all kinds of different approaches. Some use impressions as a benchmark, some use reads, and some use a combination of both. Ultimately, you will be the one doing the negotiating, so the best thing you can do is to really do your homework on the cost of content in your niche (this will vary) and get a clear idea of what’s included, e.g. social shares, follow/no-follow links, etc.

In summary, sponsored articles represent a promising opportunity for burgeoning ecommerce brands. The key is understanding how to plan these campaigns effectively and to build them into your wider online marketing strategy. Have you given it a go? We’d love to hear how you got on.