Social Media Sponsorship – Small Business Success or Threat?
If you aren’t familiar with social media sponsorship don’t worry…you soon will be; sponsorship is one of the fastest growing segments of social media marketing and management. In fact, according to the most recent State of SMS Report, social media sponsorship isn’t just hot..it’s sizzling! Unfortunately, there are some very serious blights in what is an otherwise sunny outlook. Today we are going to tackle this hot topic to demonstrate why social media sponsorship is so popular..and potentially dangerous…to small business owners.
Social Media Sponsorship Defined
For those that need a quick tutorial on social media sponsorship, in a nutshell it is simply the practice of compensating a social media publisher for content designed to promote their brand, product or service. The social media publisher may be informal or formal, a business or an individual. There are few limitations and a wide variety of methods used to sponsor social media influencers. Speaking of “influencers”, those are the publishers or owners of the social media site and may include anything from well known professional bloggers and channel owners to individual Facebook users, Tweeters or anything in between.
The key ingredient to sponsored social media is the power to influence others. When asked whether or not they would consider monetizing social media efforts, more than 9 out of 10 influential voices responded in the affirmative….and more than 6 out of 10 have reported doing so at least once in the past year! Clearly this is a trend business owners can’t afford to ignore but learning how to get it right can be a time consuming and very costly lesson for individual marketing professionals.
Where There is a Will There is a Way
So, we already have established the willingness of social media influential voices to monetize their efforts but what method works best? Should business owners invest more money to tap into highly influential voices or spread the message by incremental small messages shared by thousands? It depends! This is one area where one size does not fit all. The key it to understand the client demographics, the social media platform in use, the legal ramifications, ROI and other complex considerations in order to create a comprehensive user experience capable of generating real returns. For instance, borrowing from Amazon.com, one of the more understated but successful online retailers in history, a combination approach is clearly demonstrated. Amazon provides “Vine Voices” for retailers to send books, electronics, food and even major household appliances to customers in exchange for a review. But Amazon also uses small $2 incentives to promote on-demand video or mp3 music products via Facebook etc…again, the type of sponsorship initiative must match the demographics, desired outcome and cost/reward ratio.
Which Platform is Preferred?
The vast majority of sponsored content to date is found on Twitter but in part, that is due to the use of limited campaigns and ability to use micro-compensation features. Sponsored blog posts are historically the next most popular but beginning to slow in comparison to the rising star of video which has grown from a mere 10% of the market to an eye-opening 33% within the past year. Last but not least, sponsored check-ins are an especially attractive option for local business owners as represented by their rapid rise from a mere 7% to 22% in the past year.
Compensation doesn’t always need to be in the form of cash; coupons, discounts, product samples or other creative options are all considered compensation….and this is always where it could become potentially problematic. As we recently reported, the FTC is taking a closer look at compensation in the social media sphere including asking people to “like” a post in order to receive a coupon or discount code. Unfortunately, a significant number of influential voices have little understanding or even awareness of FTC guidelines placing the sponsoring company in a precarious situation.
The Need for Professional Sponsorship Oversight
The growing legal battle surrounding FTC guidelines, sponsorship and incentives demonstrates the urgent need for professional social media management oversight…especially for sponsorship campaigns. Unfortunately, this is one area where many less experienced social media consultants can lead a company astray; wittingly or not, the final responsibility resides with the small business owner making sponsorship one of the most promising but also perilous social media marketing practices currently available. They key is to work with a reputable provider that understand the legal requirements in a volatile and rapidly changing environment.
- In the past, most influential voices consisted of celebrities or highly recognized users but everyday social media influencers tend to demonstrate higher rates of trust and greater ROI.
- Quality content is still the single most important predictor of campaign success when using sponsored social media.
- Just under 30% of influential voices perform this full-time averaging over 160 hours per month or the equivalent of a full-time job.
- Be prepared to compensate!
- Do not overlook FTC and other legal issues! When in doubt, work closely with your social media management firm to coordinate all marketing efforts in compliance with legal requirements.