What Does Sponsored Content Mean for Content Marketing?

We’ve all seen it on Twitter: a brand’s or celebrity’s account delivering a seemingly succinct and action-driving message, only to end with a distracting “#spon” or “#ad,” in the hope of complying with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) new social media advertising regulations. Even worse, a brand may decide to begin its 140-character message with “SPONSORED,” essentially negating for the user everything that comes after: Because it’s sponsored, it can’t be trusted or organic, right? Wrong.

We know through the world of content marketing that sponsored content is useful, exciting, informative, and entertaining. But still, these jarring indications of a payment exchange between an advertiser and influencer are a turnoff for readers.

Many celebrities, from Kim Kardashian to comedian Michael Ian Black, are ignoring the FTC rules—and wading into uncharted legal waters when it comes to these #spon messages.

The uncertainty, and mixed use and application of the #spon and #ad practices, begs the question: Are they necessary? But more important, can a message be effectively conveyed with these designations? The answer to the latter is yes, and here’s why: Twitter is already an advertising platform, selling promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trending topics for a pretty penny in an effort to turn a profit. So third-party Twitter ad services are only one more piece of the money-making pie, although this time, instead of the money going to the company providing the platform, it’s going to the users who are providing the entertainment.

As long as ads are relevant to viewers, it should not matter if they end with an #ad. In true social media form, a greater debate may be sparked around the topic, which may even increase the value of the #ad.

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For example, if a fitness blogger publishes a piece of content marketing—say, a post about the benefits of a new protein shake—and with that ad bundle makes a deal to do a sponsored tweet on the topic, it would not be a far stretch for the blogger’s followers to see a fitness influencer promoting a protein shake. On the other hand, if an #ad tweet were about a car dealership or competition reality show, the value—and the user reaction—would most likely end up differently.

Sponsored tweets—even those with an aggravating and poorly conceived hashtag—are a valuable new segment in the content marketing sphere that helps break through the clutter.

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