Expect branded content to come up on your social media sites and newsfeed
Facebook, Twitter, and Mashable are just some of the popular sites that will open their doors for corporate marketers to post their branded content. This changes the rules of the game entirely, for these internet giants and their millions of members, and for advertisers who are pulling out all stops to get their message through to them. Like the age-old line between news and business as practiced by traditional journalism, content aggregators and social media networks separated original content produced by members and users from marketing-driven messages meant to promote an advertiser’s product.
In its early stages, the digital players positioned themselves as champions of freedom and free content, untouched by the kind of capitalism that wants to influence opinion or sell to a community. Their users would not have tolerated it, either; they want to search, chat, and watch videos without a product being shoved into their faces. That’s why Facebook kept its paid ads small and confined to a particular location on the user’s page; it was visible enough to be clicked on and yet it was not entirely intrusive.
Now, the number one social media network in the world is among the first to redefine the rules. Web publishers and advertisers can now post their articles, links, videos, images, and other forms of content that have been paid for by their marketers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook product manager, Clare Rubin, said that the move was a response to the “evolving part of the media landscape.” At the same time, she also reiterated that this would not be in-your-face ads glaring right through the user’s screen, but “quality content” that can be shared with the friends, followers, and fans of the influencer.
Digital media leader Mashable is also gearing up to allow its advertisers to post their branded content across its many platforms, says the Business Insider. Business is driving this strategy, as Mashable’s customers are keen on creating more and more sponsored content. Sponsored content is branded content with one significant difference: it is a result of an active collaboration between the advertiser and the content platform. While the message will reflect the tone and style of the advertiser, the final content form must flow with the overall themes of the platform.
“This can work only when the marketer exercises integrity and excellence,” says Dom Einhorn, the founder and CEO of news content curator Born2Invest. “Our digital audiences today look at the source: is it a news agency, a company, the government? As long as that is clear, then they can be more receptive to the content, which is something they can use, and in a style that is attractive to them. Marketers who want to capture the audience know they cannot do it through a brazen hard-sell. Ultimately, they must project themselves as an authority that is providing the reader information that is important to them, and which they cannot get from anyone else.”
That approach can work for those who are still feeling the waters. Meanwhile, Twitter may not have yet laid out the red carpet for sponsored or branded content at its fullest, but it has unlocked the gate. The social media site has Promoted Tweets, but an advertiser who wants to promote their product in a more organic way can simply participate in an ongoing conversation. Brafton advises them to use Social TV as a jump-off point. As the different showrunners and fans talk about what’s happening on their TV shows, a brand that is not connected with any TV show can now post a tweet that is relevant to the discussion, while promoting the said brand. Twitter will allow that kind of marketing with very little reservations.
The reactions of the netizens are still uncertain. As branded content becomes part of the ecosystem, some will applaud it as a new source of relevant information while others will criticize the way that advertising is now encroaching on user space. Ultimately, it may boil down to usability and how important the content is to the user. The challenge now for brand advertisers is to how to come up with engaging, interactive material that will draw in, and not repel, a whole new audience of social media networkers.