Will sponsored content disclosures hinder influencer marketing?

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The social media space is gradually changing to incorporate new platforms and new opportunities for brands looking to engage followers.

As this space grows, we’ve seen the use of sponsored content and influencer marketing become an increasingly common tool used by brands who want to seamlessly fit their products into the flow of social posts.

But recent threats by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding stricter enforcement of influencer disclosure on posts for which they’ve received compensation, have brands considering whether this marketing tactic will remain as effective as it’s been in the past.

There’s a common misconception that viewers are less engaged with disclosed sponsored posts since followers are aware that they’re ‘reading an ad.’

In actuality, influencer marketing efforts display a more genuine and relatable feel when compared to traditional TV and print ads, making them more effective at engaging followers, even with disclosures.

By following a few simple guidelines, brands can ensure sponsored posts receive equal if not more engagement than non-sponsored posts.

Sponsored content is engaging

Disclosures for sponsored posts are not new, as they’ve been a requirement in the blogging community for years. With the emergence of new social media platforms that feature less text and more graphics, we’ve seen fewer influencers displaying diligence with their disclosures, until recently.

Influencers are beginning to understand the repercussions of not identifying sponsored content and the importance of being transparent about their affiliations with brands, going beyond Instagram and YouTube and even into Snapchat

While many brands are hesitant about disclosures as they fear identifying a post as an 'ad' or 'sponsored content' will deter readers, recent studies have shown that engagement with sponsored content is more surprising than you’d expect.

Our recent data study shows that non-sponsored posts and sponsored posts have nearly identical like rates, meaning followers may not be as off-put by sponsored content as advertisers may believe.

The increased use of mobile as a content source has followers avoiding complex content that is difficult to read on a mobile device

The study, which analysed approximately 86,000 influencers, found that followers tend to engage more with sponsored content than non-sponsored content across most follower ranges.

In the 1,000 to 10,000 range, non-sponsored content performs slightly higher than sponsored content, but there is a clear switch in the 10,000 – 100,000 range and above, where sponsored content received greater engagement.

When done correctly, sponsored content evokes emotions and includes a call to action for followers to share their own stories, making it more relatable and driving followers to engage through their own experiences.

Engagement depends on quality 

What drives our engagement with specific posts is not whether a post is sponsored or non-sponsored. Instead, engagement is highly dependent on the quality and characteristics displayed in the content.

After analysing the posts in the sponsored content study, Markerly found that there were three content characteristics that brands should avoid with sponsored influencer posts, as they deter engagement:

  • Low-quality photography
  • Unnatural product placement
  • Text covering photos

One of the biggest differentiators between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sponsored content is quality. Social media centers heavily on visually stimulating posts, particularly with popular platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Gone are the days where a simple cell phone video or picture would suffice.

Follower expectations are now set very high and there is a demand for all content to meet a certain quality level in terms of camera work and editing.

When creating engaging sponsored content, it’s also important to consider how to make product placement feel organic with the rest of the post. When a product feels unnatural and looks like it doesn’t belong in the image, it creates that sensation of ‘reading an ad.’

Posts that casually integrate a product into the influencer’s every day activity however, enhance the value and credibility, making it seem as though the influencer does actually like the product, with or without compensation.

In addition, the increased use of mobile as a content source has followers avoiding complex content that is difficult to read on a mobile device. Instead followers are selecting simple, easy to follow posts.

Text is helpful to convey a brand message however, when used with graphic-heavy platforms, it should remain a separate entity from the visual aspect of the post. By creating two separate spaces for the text and the graphic, followers feel less overwhelmed and more likely to engage with the content.

If you’re considering using social media influencers in your next marketing campaign but feel worried about how sponsored content disclosures will impact engagement, remember that followers are less concerned with whether or not a post is sponsored, and prefer quality and the genuine feel over all else. 

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