Facebook is one of the most extraordinary ecosystems mankind has ever known. Nothing today compares to it.
- As a publisher, it spends essentially no money producing content because all of its content is user generated.
- Since the purpose of the network is for people’s personal and social lives, the user base is so broad it appeals to almost the entire Internet user population.
- It’s advertising platform is extraordinary because of the incredibly dynamic and highly targeted capabilities it offers advertisers.
Users agree to be advertised to as a caveat for using the social network, even if it’s not labeled as such (because we can easily ignore it and it will eventually go away). We actually like having relevant personalized advertising, unlike other mass media such as television and magazines where we must be entertained and stimulated by ads so that we tolerate them.
This doesn’t make Facebook the best and only place to advertise, but it does make it one of the best places for display advertising.
Most marketers would agree that unless display ads are highly targeted, personalized, and reaching masses of people, like they are on Facebook, their effect is highly limited.
There are still plenty of other, and sometimes even more impacting digital forms of promoting your business. While Facebook works to be more than just another push marketing tool, introducing features that help advertisers achieve deeper levels of engagement and conversion, smaller networks such as niche blogs and online communities have much going for them.
Niche Blogs and Online Communities
With blogs and other online publications, the game is the same but the playing field is different. For the most part, people frequent a blog or online community because the content is either specific, neutral, educational, informative, and/or useful. Most people aren’t there for social (or narcistic) reasons. They are there to share and exchange ideas, build credibility, and learn.
Display advertising on such sites is more limited than it is on Facebook. As a publication, the traffic volume is relatively low and the targeting capabilities aren’t as robust. Because of this, bloggers and online publications must find alternative ways to monetize their content without alienating visitors.
Sponsored Content and Advertorials
With sponsored content, niche blogs and online communities are able to provide a unique value and experience for advertisers and audience members alike. Just like with Facebook and Google, audience members are ok with “sponsored content” so long as it is labeled as such, being transparent about the fact that there is a benefit or exchange occurring between the publisher and advertiser.
An advertorial is precisely what it sounds like. It’s an ad presented in the form of an article and it should be labeled as “Sponsored Content.” Ideally an advertorial is written to articulately and tactfully identify a problem and demonstrate how the advertiser’s product or service addresses that problem. It’s no different from any other published piece except that it transparently associates the article to an advertiser.
Many publishers link sponsored content in emails to the advertiser’s landing page or website, but linking to a corresponding advertorial or landing page that you host produces other potential benefits that do not hinge on the advertiser’s process.
Your audience is interested in the content you produce, not in being advertised to, but they are open to relevant advertising when they are choosing whether or not to consume it.
Sponsored Content Outperforms Display
The effects of incorporating sponsored content into a niche blog or online community can be beneficial for the publisher and for your audience too, when done effectively. If not, it can be detrimental, so there is risk.
Compared with standard display advertising such as ads in a rotation or even retargeted ads, sponsored content consistently produces three to five times the engagement level of standard display advertising, at least with our experimentations.
Enhancing the CTR (Conversion Rate)
Additionally, sponsored content helps to enhance the CTR of the advertiser’s campaign. Depending on how sponsored content is implemented, numerous additional clicks can be generated from sponsored content on the blogs and from within emails, contributing to the overall CTR. If you build multiple versions of the landing pages then you can also see the effect that each different source has on conversion.
Unlike display ads where the advertiser is counting solely on landing page conversions, using the CTR (click-through rate) as a metric to help evaluate the performance of a landing page, when people click on sponsored content, new insights and actions can be triggered that are specific and precisely relevant to that person. These actions can include the triggering of an automated email campaign, display retargeting campaign, and even a phone campaign.
By reaching out to these folks individually via phone and one-to-one email, the conversion rate to hand raiser can increase a good 20-30%. These actions must be done strategically, methodically, and carefully to preserve the interests of the audience and the community over the advertiser. Just be mindful of the information you provide to the advertiser.
Let’s talk about this…
- Are you experimenting (or have you experimented) with sponsored content and advertorials on your niche blog or online community?
- If so, what has been the response from your audience and how has it affected your publication?
- If not, what are some initial concerns or considerations that come to mind for you?