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Sponsored Content vs. Branded Content: What’s the Difference?

In this article, we’re going to try and shed some light on the difference between branded and sponsored content.

The two terms are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably, so today our goal is to draw a clear distinction between the two.

1. Branded Content
As more brands embrace content marketing as a valuable channel to reach their customers, a new trend is emerging: brands are becoming publishers. What this means is that many progressive brands are beginning to create their own content hubs and micro-sites to publish relevant, educational content that’s produced in-house. The overall effect: brands are able to build and engage with their target audience by providing them with content that they find useful or interesting.

Here’s an example of branded content from American Express’s digital content hub, OPEN Forum:

OPEN_Forum

American Express treats their content hub as a true publisher. It refrains from sales pitches and instead, focuses on offering value-adding information to its visitors. This is a great example of branded content.

2. Sponsored Content
Sponsored content differs from branded content in two important ways: who the content is produced by and where the content is published.

While branded content tends to be produced in-house by the brand, sponsored content is usually a collaborative effort between the publisher’s editorial staff and the brand. Similarly, while branded content lives on brand-owned properties such as micro-sites or content hubs (like the one you’re on right now!), sponsored content is hosted on the publisher’s site, and therefore reaches the publisher’s audience. Think of it this way: When a brand wants to build sponsored content, they commission a publisher to both produce the content and to publish it on their website.

Since content strategy is often focused on building brand awareness, brands and publishers typically avoid a ‘salesy’ tone. Rather, they focus on delivering educational or entertaining content to readers. Brands value this because associations with a publication and exposure to its audience can drive awareness, traffic, conversions, and leads.

Here’s a great example of sponsored content that comes from a collaboration between fashion label Cole Haan and The New York Times:

Grit__Grace

In the above example, Cole Hann partnered with The New York Times’s advertising unit, T Brand Studio, to produce an impressive piece of sponsored content called ‘Grit and Grace’. Cole Haan commissioned T Brand Studio to promote its new collection of ballet flats. The result: a multimedia feature on three dancers from the New York City Ballet.

To summarize:

  • Branded content ‘lives’ on brand-owned properties, while sponsored content is integrated into the publisher’s site.
  • Branded content is produced in-house. Sponsored content is produced together with the publisher’s editorial team.
  • Branded content reaches the brand’s audience. Sponsored content reaches the publisher’s audience.

Source: Stack Adapt (http://blog.stackadapt.com/sponsored-content-vs-branded-content-whats-the-difference)

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5 Content Marketing Tips on Social Media for Small Businesses

If you own or operate a business that is reliant on web traffic in order to drive sales, much of your marketing efforts should be focused on attracting visitors to your website and converting them from prospects to clients or customers. One way to gain targeted web traffic through social media is to implement a content marketing strategy. Content Marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage your target audience. Let’s consider 5 Content Marketing tips to help your small businesses to build credibility, increase brand awareness, establish relationships and provide value to your target audience.

Keep social media posts “short and sweet”

Social networks use algorithms to read and analyze every social media post. The ever-changing algorithms determine what sort of content will be displayed in users feed. The algorithms analyze the post content (words, photos, link credibility), timing and users feed preferences among many other factors. Most social networks tend to favor short and meaningful content as well as engagement. Users are also more likely to view and interact with smaller ‘bite-sized’ content.

Share your own unique content to build your brand

Many small businesses are unaware of the significant advantages that unique content serves. Besides developing a brand and interacting with customers or clients, the objective of social media marketing is to drive traffic to your website to either attain email addresses, sales or prompt the visitor to contact you. If you are not sharing content on social media that is not inbound to your website, it simply isn’t going to result in web traffic. Use your content as a magnet. When you share content from other websites you will be providing value by sharing useful industry-related tips or entertaining your followers. When you share content from your own website you are trying to attract visitors to it where you will be able to encourage the desired transaction. It is often recommended to share a mix of outside and unique content. This will decrease the amount of content that you will be required to make and still allow for you to share useful content that will help you to enhance your digital brand.

Post content that will make followers look good when they share it

Engagement seems to be a metric that social networks are taking increasing cues from when it comes to showing up more users newsfeeds. Social media is an excellent branding tool and by sharing content that your followers would look good to share, they will be more likely to share it which will help you to expand the reach of your post and company page.

Include a web link, photo, video or any other form of media to increase reach and engagement

When social networks use algorithms to sift through content, they seem to favor content that includes some form of media. Video seems to display more often than photos or posts with links oftentimes. Reach (or impressions) are the key to attaining more engagement which will lead to more exposure for your brand.

Popular forms of content include: photos, slideshares, blog posts, podcasts, videos, graphics, news updates, quotes, webinars and livestreams

Your web content can take many different forms. Live or native video content seems to perform at a very high level (especially on Facebook and Twitter) and I would expect to see this trend continue. A varied content strategy would be wise attract a diverse audience. Once you are able to determine what forms of content are the most effective, continue to build upon them.
Source: Business 2 Community. Article by Andrew C. Belton (http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/5-content-marketing-tips-social-media-small-businesses-01614048#J7AY2ozIoI7RiebG.97)

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The 6 Online Marketing Strategies Every Entrepreneur Needs

The internet has radically transformed how we build and promote businesses: We have access to far more resources and far more potential than ever before. So, why do so many entrepreneurs end up neglecting these fruitful opportunities by forgoing marketing, or delaying it as an unnecessary expenditure?

There are a handful of online marketing strategies you need — as in, your startup won’t be able to thrive without them.
Criteria for “need”. You “need” these strategies? After all, isn’t marketing optional? Isn’t it possible to build a business even without an online presence? Technically, yes, but you’ll be missing out on enormous potential by doing so.

All the strategies I qualify as “necessary” exhibit the following traits:

  • Expected. People expect you to have these things in place, and if you don’t have them, they may think less of your company.
  • Accessible. None of these strategies is particularly hard or complicated; there may be a bit of a learning curve, but on some level, these are accessible strategies.
  • Affordable. You won’t have to spend much money on any of these strategies, making them easy to pick up even for tight-budget startups.
  • Valuable. These strategies all offer high potential returns, meaning that the cost for you, if you neglect them, will be significant potential.
  • Time-sensitive. The more time you invest in these strategies, the more powerful they become. The sooner you get involved, the bigger the payoff you can potentially get.

It’s the combination of these factors that makes your work in these areas necessary. These are the strategies I deem “necessary”:
1. Personal branding.

Successful businesses can generate a ton of momentum from successful entrepreneurs who lead them. Branding yourself, before your company, gives you the opportunity to leverage a more trustworthy, personal image to promote your brand.

It also gives you more power to meet and network with others, form more partnerships and lend a face to your otherwise faceless organization. And it’s free to do, from a monetary perspective, though you will need to invest a significant amount of time.
2. Content marketing.

Content marketing takes a variety of forms, and depending on how you form your strategy, could accomplish a number of different goals. For example, you could use white papers, ebooks and other long-form content to attract downloads, signups and conversions, or you could use an on-site blog to attract more inbound traffic to your site.

You could even use content as a form of help and troubleshooting, or some combination of these applications. Content marketing is incredibly versatile and useful, and, if it’s valuable, your customers will expect you to have at least some of it in place for them.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is the process of making your site more visible in search engines, so you get more traffic from people searching for the products or services you offer. Much of your organic search position ranking comes from the technical structure of your site and your ongoing content development strategy.

So, SEO is not much more of an investment if you’re already creating new content regularly — and it’s well worth that extra investment if for no other reason than to make sure your site is properly indexed.

4. Conversion optimization.

Most of these strategies aim to get more people on your site, but what do those people do once they’re there? Conversion optimization helps you ensure you get more value out of each and every visitor by maximizing your rate of conversion.

Sometimes, this means including more conversion opportunities, and other times, improving the ones you already have.

5. Social media marketing.

Social media marketing isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme you may have been promised, but there is significant potential in building and nurturing a social media audience. Again, content will come into play heavily here, as it will likely be the factor that attracts your audience to begin with. Here, you stand to gain greater brand visibility, a greater reputation and far more inbound traffic with your syndicated links.

6. Email marketing.

Email marketing has astounding potential for ROI because it costs almost nothing to execute. Start collecting subscribers from your existing customer base, your social media followers and other new opportunities; from there, even a simple content newsletter can help you encourage repeat traffic to your site, facilitate more engagement with your brand and keep your brand top-of-mind with your audience.

There’s one other key advantage these strategies offer: They all work together. While they can be pursued individually, each connects with and feeds into the others in some way. If you pursue them all, complementing your efforts across these multiple areas, you’ll see an even higher potential return.

Source: Entrepreneur. Article by  Jayson Demers (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/278923)

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