It’s hard to deny that sponsored social use by brands is on the rise. Whether a promoted post on Facebook or engaging an influencer to blog on your behalf, and everything in between, brands are waking up to the reality that this is how you get in front of people on social channels more effectively.
But how effectively?
IZEA, for the record a company that sells sponsored content, just released it’s sixth annual study of the practice. The State of Sponsored Social study which is a survey executed by Right Brain and the Halverson Group is pretty convincing. The numbers are on the rise: More brands have dedicated budgets for sponsored content than in years past; Brands find the practice to be more effective than in year’s past; Sponsored content continues to out-perform display ads as an income source for publishers, now by a 2-to-1 margin.
But here’s the kicker in this year’s study: Consumers now say that sponsored social content, which they recognize as different from organic content, is more effective at delivering a marketing message than all other forms of traditional advertising except for television. And surprisingly enough, TV ads rank below sponsored content on Periscope, SnapChat and Instagram on the effectiveness scale.
In fact, all social platforms scored at least a 7.0 on the effectiveness scale the study measured. Only TV advertising (7.3) scored more than a 6.9. All social channels scored at least a 7.0.
This is what consumers say!
While it might be exciting for IZEA and the proponents of sponsored social content to see this result, let’s put a little qualitative context around it. Sponsored content on these social platforms is relatively new and stands out as a result. I’ve barely used Periscope at all, so I’m going to instantly notice sponsored content there. SnapChat is the same. Sponsored content is essentially the only type of content there other than messages from your friends. How can you not notice it?
While there is certainly merit to saying sponsored social content is more effective than traditional advertising methods according to consumers, we should dial back our enthusiasm just a bit and realize that effectiveness is relative to the size and freshness of sponsored content on the platform in question.
Also, television advertising is typically aimed at building brand awareness, but sometimes includes direct calls-to-action, driving consumers to buy. Good sponsored social is typically a soft-sell at best with soft calls-to-action and the aim of simply engaging and saying top-of-mind. So my question back to IZEA would be, “Sponsored posts are effective at delivering what type of marketing message, exactly?” The study doesn’t say.
For brands, sponsored content will continue to be a major focus to solve the problem of reach. Breaking through the algorithm on Facebook, and soon to be other platforms that tighten the screws on their business models, is now a must have for brands participating in social. This data only adds gasoline to that fire.
But we have to watch the effectiveness scores over time. The most important piece of data we’re missing is the effectiveness scores from next year’s survey. The direction of the scores will give us much more insight into what consumers are really thinking.
Should every brand run to services than supply sponsored content and fork over tons of cash to make it happen for them? Not really. Experimenting with it can’t hurt, but it won’t be a pivotal shift for most companies.
Still, when consumers willingly say that sponsored content on social channels is effective, it appears the social media purists may be wrong about it.
Do you use sponsored content? How and on what channel? We’d love to know your experiences with it in the comments.