We're living in the age of the social Web. Each of us is publishing something or the other—from Facebook posts to YouTube videos, blog comments to geo check-ins. And each of us has a special ability to influence our friends, family, and colleagues in real time.
As a result, consumers now not only expect a company or brand to have a Web presence, but they expect engagement as well. Social media sponsorships are one way to start the conversation.
While the practice initially drew criticism from some who argued that social media content should remain ad-free, the trend shows no signs of slowing. In a May to June 2012 poll, a majority of US marketers, 55.5%, told social media marketing company IZEA that they had provided a social media user with some compensation in exchange for a mention on their social media channel.
Blog posts and tweets are the preferred vehicles for sponsored messages among both marketers and influences, the research found. But blog posts are more popular by a slim margin.
More than half (54 percent) of marketers has used a third-party blog to spread their message, while 55.4 percent of influencers has published a sponsored blog post. Sponsored tweets ran a close second, being used by 47.3 percent of marketers and 51.8 percent of influencers.
Three-quarters of respondents said they prefer cash. And while only three in 10 influencers prefer receiving free products for their promotional work, they also are unlikely to look a gift horse in the mouth — two-thirds of influencers said they would accept free products. Payment in the form of a discount or coupon barely nudged the needle with them, the survey found.
Social media sponsorships were first introduced to the market in 2006 to a significant amount of controversy and outright anger from those who felt social media should remain an advertising-free outlet for consumers. Today, social media sponsorships are a staple in most marketing strategies, whether a company pays cash for posts or all-expenses travel for a blogger to post on a company's behalf during an event. When it comes to the payoff, influencers have a clear preference for money, the survey found.
Interestingly, auto industry marketers most often said they measured the success of their social media sponsorship campaigns through criteria that were difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. Measuring the success of social media sponsorship campaigns remains something that's difficult to quantify. But more than eight in 10 marketers said they thought quality of content was an important factor in measuring success, while three-quarters cited the importance of sentiment.
The growth of social engagement isn't slowing, and as its reach expands even further around the globe, smart business leaders must use every tool at their disposal to connect—and engage—with customers.
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