If you really want to give voice to your business and tell your story, you should consider sponsored content. A sponsored post is one that is written and created specifically for an advertiser. It is displayed right in the main editorial column of a publisher’s site. The posts are treated like any other post you’d see on a website: they are uploaded, published, and tracked through a site’s analytics. Since they take the shape of a regular post and can fit seamlessly into a blog, they are a great choice for delivering the exact message that an advertiser wants in long form, supported by text, photos, video, or other forms of media.
Traditional advertising can certainly be effective – for example, take a look at the celebrity endorsements for Pepsi and Coke shown here. But these advertisements explicitly “sell” a product, and that’s not what our team is after when we create a sponsored post.
When they are done well, sponsored posts do not sell or even have an advertorial sound (unlike the celebrity endorsements above). After all, readers are smart and can sense when content isn’t genuine; people prefer to read posts that are interesting and hopefully entertaining — but most of all, people prefer posts that are not directly selling something to them. By writing quality sponsored posts, an advertiser has the opportunity to leverage the voice and trust of the site to its maximum benefit. If an audience already trusts the blog, the sponsored post will fit right in. Sites that serve a community and often feature what to do in the neighborhood – such as Brooklyn Based for Brooklyn or PoPville for Washington DC – are natural fits for these kinds of posts.
Sponsored posts are unique in content, but have a particular form: they contain a native ad unit under the lead image for the advertiser’s logo, link and byline, as well as multiple target links in the body of the post itself. The posts contain social media buttons that are built in, which enable readers to easily share the content. The posts are optimized for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. It is of utmost importance that it can reach an audience, regardless of where the content is viewed.
Case Studies: Creating Sponsored Posts for Columbia Waterfront Condominiums, BRIC House, Point2 Homes, and onefinestay
Take a look at this sponsored post that BlankSlate created for Columbia Waterfront Condominiums. Developer Marshall Sohne wanted to advertise his passive condos in Brooklyn prior to the first open house. Using photos supplied by the advertiser, a lot of research, and relevant links, BlankSlate was able to create a post that could stand on its own regardless of who wrote it and why. Further, this post proved that good, unique sponsored content succeeds: the day it was posted, it was reblogged by Curbed with a link to the site, which means that this sponsored content got even more traffic.
BlankSlate created the sponsored post above when BRIC House, BRIC Arts | Media’s new building, opened in October 2013. The opening of a huge new cultural center in Downtown Brooklyn attracted a lot of media attention. BlankSlate worked closely with BRIC’s marketing team to figure out how we could offer something different than what other news outlet would potentially offer, and came up with something very unique. The post utilized vintage postcards of the old Mark Strand Theater that was renovated to create BRIC House. BlankSlate syndicated this post out to Brownstoner, The L Magazine, and Brooklyn Based, each of which sent out a dedicated email to their list of 30,000+ subscribers. What set the post apart was that it had good content and great photos. Having this kind of media and user-friendly content makes a sponsored post go from mundane and selling to exciting and engaging for a reader. Photos often can really help and drive a post.
Yardi, the company behind Point2 Homes and Property Shark, approached BlankSlate for a sponsored post highlighting their real estate search site. It was important to differentiate Point2 Homes from other real estate sites after all, since there are so many – and the point here was to drive traffic to Point2 Homes. The sponsored content team this time created maps that helped demonstrate a variety of important visuals that are important when finding a home. The post was sponsored, but it was also just good content: it showed everything from tax values to flood zones in neighborhoods. The post was syndicated across the NYC sites Untapped Cities (pictured above), Brownstoner, Brooklyn Based, and Brooklyn Mag, and was modified to fit PoPville (Washington D.C.), ARL Now (Arlington, VA), Swamplot (Houston) and Candy’s Dirt (Dallas). In other words, this content was strong and broad enough to go cross-country.
BlankSlate created a sponsored post for Onefinestay, which like an upscale version of Airbnb , to be featured on Brownstoner. A few months later, the client requested a modified version the post with photos of some gorgeous new apartments. This time, the post’s audience was expanded, as the post also was published on Brooklyn Based, where it was both posted to the blog and sent out as a dedicated email. The really attractive photos of the apartments set this post apart, yet again proving that good (and good looking!) content is what drives a sponsored post.
Why is BlankSlate’s sponsored content successful?
There’s no question that the most important element in sponsored content is the content itself. Do Brownstoner readers care about another open house in Brooklyn? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t – after all, there are so many. The job of the sponsored content team is to find the angle that will grab the audience’s attention and get the audience on their side. There is a lot of inherent power in sponsored posts, because people don’t care that the posts are sponsored, so long as the story interests them. They will read and share these posts just like any other posts that they would share, and further, help advertise for the client without seeming too direct. Other publications might even pick up the posts and spread the advertiser’s message around the Internet.
Since content is key here, it’s important to note that before anything is published, sponsored posts go through a quality control process and are sent to the advertiser for review. Advertisers should always feel assured that they are in control of the message, not at the mercy of bloggers.
Of course, it’s not enough to have good content; it needs to be distributed effectively. Through BlankSlate’s network of local sites, the team can directly reach over two million people per month. Throw paid and earned social media and retargeting into the mix, and we are able amplify this reach to many millions. With sharing and reblogging, these posts get distributed all over the Internet, proving that when strong, good, unique content is shared, the advertiser can succeed in really getting its message across. And it’s a win-win situation: the advertiser succeeds, the sponsored content team facilitated it, and the reader enjoyed what he or she read.
To find out more about creating and placing sponsored content with BlankSlate, you can contact us here.