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Marketing Content Strategy

Should You Budget for Sponsored Content in 2017?

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With the onset of fall come two constants: the smoky musk of autumn, and quarter four—which means it’s time to prepare your social media budget in advance of 2017. Even if your team has shaped a content strategy that evidences a keen ear for the needs of your audience and an arsenal of brand storytellers with unparalleled expertise in your industry, you’ll still need the extra human connection that a good social strategy can provide. And in some cases, that could mean factoring in some spend for sponsored content.

But here’s the problem: your social strategy’s spread across multiple platforms. You’ve got a Twitter marketing strategy in place, you craft content specifically for Facebook, and you’ve got your hooks in a handful of other platforms to capture your audience’s attention at all angles. Do you need to spend big on paid promotion across all those channels? Not necessarily. Each social media platform has different strengths and weaknesses, and every brand has its own content strategy goals. We recently took a look at the most important content marketing trends to consider in your 2017 budget. Now it’s time to look at which platforms best support those trends and the brands that want to capitalize on them in the year to come.

Twitter

While Twitter’s future remains rocky, it somehow continues to sign surprisingly major deals, such as the Thursday Night Football livestream. Your brand might not have marquee events to stream via exclusive partnership, but live video and the NFL are two major litmus tests for a social network with staying power. Even as Twitter’s growth has plateaued, its core user base remains passionately and defiantly engaged.

Brands with growth aspirations in Millennial and tech-forward communities can’t afford to ignore Twitter, even if they can’t afford to spend much money on it. Maintaining a strong presence there doesn’t require a lot of work: you can repost the same content you craft for Instagram or Facebook in a Tweet-friendly format, then use the platform for audience engagement by replying to questions and comments. No budget required—unless an audience comment is so good that you want to promote it as the best type of endorsement-meets-native-advertising.

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Facebook

Facebook remains the most popular social network on a global scale, with higher month-over-month growth, more users, and a higher user frequency than Twitter. And there’s good reason for that: by staying at the forefront of trends, it manages to keep its finger on the pulse of everything from traditional advertisements to native content to business pages to virtual reality. That means that no matter what your budget or preferred content strategy, you can achieve subtle or total content strategy success here.

Growth

From a business page that can organically share updates, stream live video, and respond to questions to some of the most specific targeted advertising in the world, Facebook offers brands of all shapes and sizes a veritable playground for experimenting with content strategies. Facebook bridges the gap between many of this year’s biggest trends—content promotion, interactive storytelling, and episodic content delivery—and the trends that are poised to be hottest in 2017. From live video streaming, which has exploded on Facebook and other platforms, to one of the slickest native content platforms extant, the social network remains ready to deliver effective content across audiences and media strategies.

Businesses using Facebook have the option to boost posts—an effective way to give your Facebook-specific content an added lift. Through boosted posts, after deciding which posts you’d like to amplify, you’re able to select the audiences you’d like to target, breaking things down by demographic and specific interests. Boosted posts also allow you to choose your budget, and will give you an estimate of your audience reach based on how much you’d like to spend, so you can adjust in real time before making your final decision.

Instagram

Instagram remains a go-to platform for brands looking to establish themselves as native content producers that engage with audiences through their own quality content. The good news about the platform is that everyone—from the largest corporation to your great aunt—is on a level playing field, though there are some exceptions. The algorithm it rolled out last year was really designed to give brands an advantage by boosting and promoting their content without it appearing as blatant as the sponsored posts of yore—since the Instagram feed is no longer chronological, promoted and branded content fits as naturally as the most popular posts any user’s friends or influencers might have uploaded since they last logged in. Because all posts look fundamentally the same (an image or video with a caption), there are no true interrupt ads to speak of. (Although with the FTC cracking down on Instagram’s sponsored content as possible being too subtle, the longevity of that advantage remains to be seen.) For now, if you’re a brand looking to grow its social presence via organically created native content, there’s nothing better than setting and achieving a “no interrupt” target for their advertising.

LinkedIn

With over 450 million users and counting, LinkedIn is a powerhouse platform for B2B content. In fact, according to Keith Richey, the platform’s irector of global marketing, “LinkedIn is the top [rated] social network for lead generation…94 percent of B2B [marketers] use LinkedIn to distribute content.” But just because your audience is there, doesn’t mean success is guaranteed on the platform. It takes a combination of understanding the platform’s professional focus, getting a good understanding of your audience via analytics, and a healthy variety of shared content to really maximize your Linkedin marketing strategy’s efficacy.

Once you have some of the basics of the platform down, LinkedIn offers brands the option to take advantage of sponsored posts and paid promotion. Through Direct Sponsored Content brands can A/B test their content with specific groups, testing (on a variable-by-variable basis) the kinds of headlines, teaser texts, and images that are most resonant with their audiences. With a good grasp on their audience preferences, brands can also take advantage of LinkedIn paid advertisements.

Niche Platforms

Of course, there are many more social media platforms out there. From kitschy one-off apps like Yo! to increasingly mainstream tools such as Snapchat, and more, audiences have more options than ever before. Niche audiences can often be effectively targeted by meeting them where they already are—on small platforms of highly engaged users who may feel particularly understood by any brand that joins them where they already are.

The Bottom Line

Marketing dollars are crucial to every brand’s bottom line, no matter how big or small the brand or the budget. When it comes to deciding where to place resources, both human and financial, the biggest question is still the same: where is your audience? Trends surrounding content consumption and which media methods they’ll prefer are always changing, but by understanding the major platforms they use, it’s possible to leverage the free content creation opportunities and a bit of smart investment in sponsored content to reach the largest audience possible with the smallest amount of outlay.

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John Montesi is a content marketing specialist who has worked with major companies in Silicon Valley's B2B and SaaS sector. He has placed professional articles in major online industry publications and personal writing in literary journals. John is a technophilic Luddite who still giggles every time his Google Calendar syncs to his phone. He likes to explain complicated concepts with whimsy and ease and is an accidental SME on software, real estate, sports, art, music, cars, and lifestyle brands.

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