Here’s the thing about sponsored content: it makes sense that as a blogger you’d like to make an extra buck or score some cool swag now and then for all the work you do. Your readers get that, they really do. But there’s ways to do sponsored content well that readers won’t mind (and will maybe even enjoy) and there’s sponsored content that may, quite literally, be the downfall of your blog.
As I’ve been getting back into the swing of blogging lately, I’ve decided that I need to go make new blogger friends. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but since so many of my favorite people have left the blogosphere, I want to find new people to foster connections with. And as I’ve been flipping through 10,000 blogs, I’ve noticed a frequent pattern – really cool looking bloggers who look like totally awesome people, yet 4 out of 5 of their posts are sponsored! I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter how cool I think you are, I’m not following a blog that only shares posts they’ve been paid for. It begins to make them look inauthentic and creates a barrier from forming real connections.
So I’d like to take a moment to today to talk about how bloggers can create sponsored posts that make their clients and their readers happy.
1. Be picky about who you accept sponsorships from
This should always be your number one consideration – is this company a good fit for my vibe and my readers? Will it fit in organically with the rest of my posts? Will my readers actually be interested in their products and want to learn more? It’s totally okay to politely turn down sponsorship opportunities from brands without guaranteeing the PR person will never reach out again. When I worked in social media, I had multiple bloggers reject an opportunity from a chain retailer I represented, because they felt their values didn’t align with their own. Don’t give into the temptation of easy money. It will hurt you in the long run and isolate you from your readers.
2. Incorporate sponsored content into larger advice/story posts
Here’s a situation I’ve been in multiple times: a company reaches out saying they’re interested in a sponsored post from me. I email back suggesting that instead of doing a post purely dedicated to their company, I incorporate their company’s products into a larger post filled with advice or a personal anecdote. I explain that posts on broader topics tend to be more eye-catching and garner more engagement and shares. You know what? The company has always agreed with my recommendation! After all, who is really interested learning random facts about a random brand? Now, not only will your readers be happy to get genuine tips from you or hear an interesting story, the company is happy because I’ve come up with a creative way to introduce them to my readers. (See what I mean in this sponsored post I did for Fancy Feast.)
3. Always, always, always disclose
Despite my advice above about incorporating sponsored content into a more organic-sounding post, it’s still incredibly important that you clearly disclose at the top of the post and in every corresponding social media post that it is sponsored content. I’m constantly floored by how many giant bloggers fail to do this. Not only is it illegal to not do so, it comes off as disingenuous to your readers, who feel like you are trying to be sneaky by pulling one over on them. They’re not stupid. It’s a bad idea all around. (You can learn more about FTC disclosure laws in this post.)
4. Take really great pictures
This should apply to your posts in general, but in sponsored content it’s especially important to take high quality pictures for both your client and your readers. Beautifully shot imagery is the perfect way to make slightly forced, paid-for blog posts feel more beautiful and organic. You can make the product that you are discussing genuinely appealing and not just something you’re sharing to make a buck. (For example, in this post I did for Jord, I felt their wood watches were so beautiful, I focused on taking really good pictures and having a only small bit of copy dedicated to the brand.)
5. Don’t share too many sponsored posts (no matter how good they are)
This ties into my intro paragraph, which inspired this entire post. But seriously people, please share sponsored content sparingly. Please don’t share two sponsored posts in a row, no matter how good they are. We read blogs to form genuine relationships with their writers, and when we constantly see “sponsored” splattered across every post makes us feel like we stepped into a catalog, not a genuine journal. I have passed so many blogs by solely because their front pages contained too much sponsored content, and I’ve even stopped following blogs I once loved for the same reason. Readers understand that you want to make some money, they really do. But don’t betray that understanding by overdoing it.
Do you have any pet peeves for sponsored posts, or recommendations to ways that bloggers could make them better?