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Last week I opened up a discussion about sponsored content, and had some really interesting feedback that I’d like to share.
To start, let me be clear about what I mean when I say sponsored content – in this instance I’m talking about sponsored blog content. Paid for content has been around for a while, think print advertorials or media websites with posts ‘supported’ by a brand. It’s not a new concept, but the use of bloggers to host this content is just gaining traction, and it’s causing problems.
Too many bloggers, too much sponsored content, not enough understanding of ‘the rules‘ and a huge plummet in peer trust. Does that about sum it up? Yep, I think so.
Done right, sponsored content can be great. It provides income and extra interesting stuff to write about for the blogger and it creates awareness and traffic for the brand. Win/win. In theory. The issue now is how do we make sure we achieve this golden state without:
a. bloggers losing their peer trust and authority
b. brands wasting the opportunity for quality content
c. readers getting fed up and oversaturated with advertising
Perhaps let’s just start with some basics.
1. Stop with the sneaky sneaky. Yeah, I’m looking at you SEO/PR agencies. Trying to convince bloggers that they don’t need to disclose paid content or that paid follow links are totally fine and Google won’t penalise them is not cool. You’re making your clients look like dicks. Stop it.
2. Stop with the boring sponsored posts. Think quality over quantity. I’d rather read one totally bloody amazing authentic product review, than 10 run of the mill all sound the same copy and paste posts. I can tell what’s sponsored and what isn’t even if it hasn’t been disclosed. So can all the other blog readers. If you’re going to pay for content be willing to pay well, and let the blogger write it themselves.
3. Start investing in quality. If you start putting some strategic thinking behind social content you won’t need to resort to underhand methods to get your brand seen and heard. Plan long term, create kick-ass branded content, trust in your product, and the links will come.
Inspire bloggers to work with you instead of paying them to publish the same old blah and you’ll earn awareness, advocacy, traffic, people talking about and most importantly – love. (I’m not even joking, brand love is about the most important thing you can aim for.)
Summary: I’m not going to give away all the answers (well, I will if you hire me, ha) but it’s pretty simple – stop paying for low quality links and posts, and start spending money on branded content that will make people want to write about you.
I’m not saying “stop paying bloggers!”. It may sound like I’m not a huge advocate of sponsored content and to an extent that might be correct … I’m of the opinion that if you have to pay people to write about your brand then you’re not doing it right. And by ‘it’ I mean ‘anything’. But I do believe in paying bloggers for their time and effort – think long term relationships and blogger panels. In short: “spend your budgets more wisely, you get what you pay for”.
1. For love, or money? Think about why you started blogging in the first place – was it for the love of writing or to make a bit of extra cash? Don’t let the temptation of $$$ make you forget your purpose and lose the essence of your blog.
2. Learn the rules. If you’ve been approached by an agency for your first sponsored post, hurrah, well done! Next, swot up on the rules to avoid being bullshitted by a pushy SEO agency, or worse, doing something illegal. I can’t stress this enough – if you don’t know what a no follow link is, or why you legally need to disclose when you’ve been paid to write something, then step away from the publish button and do some research, right now.
(This post on follow/no follow from Geekalicious, and this one on disclosure from Cybher is a good place to start.)
3. Don’t sell your soul. Don’t be tempted to blog about something that has zero relevance to your blog for the sake of a few quid. You’ll lose readership and trust and it’s not beneficial in the long term. Learn to say ‘no thanks, but keep me in mind for more relevant stuff’.
4. Put it in your own words. Don’t publish content you’ve been given without tearing it apart and rewriting it in your own tone of voice. Your readers aren’t stupid and they’re going to know if you’ve just copy/pasted – especially when 5 other bloggers post exactly the same thing. Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised the number of high profile bloggers that are happy to publish word for word. What happened to blog personality?!
5. Find a ratio. Please, please think about how often you’re publishing sponsored content and how much non-sponsored content you’re offsetting that against. Don’t turn your blog into a review farm – you’ll lose readers and worse, your personality.
Summary: I understand wanting to make your blog profitable, I really do, but don’t let it be at the expense of your reputation. Be smart and stay authentic.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous blog post – you’re helping make the world a better place. Honest.
Agree/disagree with any of these points? Think I’ve missed something? Leave a comment or tweet me @sarah_saza.
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