Pay to play — that's what the world of social media advertising has come to. As a brand, you've got as much visibility as Where's Waldo, only that people aren't actively trying to seek you out.
Enter sponsored posts; your marketing ally to the ever-changing algorithm that's keeping your brand in the organic reach wasteland.
Sponsored posts can be leveraged on multiple social media platforms to help your brand build greater brand awareness with potential customers scrolling their feeds.
By the end of this article, you'll know how you can use sponsored posts in your own marketing strategy, and how to maximize their ROI.
To get there, we'll cover:
- Facebook & Instagram Sponsored Posts vs. Influencer Sponsored Posts
- How to get an influencer to do a sponsored post
- Maximizing the return on a sponsored post
Facebook & Instagram Sponsored Posts vs. Influencer Sponsored Posts
What is an influencer sponsored post?
As you're scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, it's common to see influencers using the 'sponsored post' hashtag or labeling their gram with an 'in paid partnership with X brand.'
Basically, it's the influencer's way of telling you: "Hey, I'm getting compensated for posting about this." And it's also covering themselves, and the brand they're working with, when it comes to the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Act's advertising rules and regulations.
Here's an example of Hailey Bieber's paid partnership with Jimmy Choo on Instagram.
Now, another example of what a paid partnership looks like on Facebook from Cristiano Ronaldo ...
This type of influencer-generated content (IGC) is often repurposed into a brand-owned sponsored post (paid ad).
So how are influencer sponsored posts different from branded Facebook and Instagram ads?
It essentially comes down to whether your social media ad includes an influencer or not. When you think about it, not every brand-owned paid ad has an influencer in it.
Case in point ...
So just to recap:
For the sake of clarity, here's how we would define each:
Facebook ad or Instagram ad = when a brand promotes a paid ad (not including influencer-generated content) under the brand's social handle. This might also include boosted posts which is when a brand can put money behind a post on their organic feed to improve its reach.
Influencer sponsored post = a type of paid post where an influencer creates an organic promoted post of a brand's product or service typically labeling it with 'ad' 'gifted' 'sponsored' or 'in partnership.' This also refers to when a brand might repurpose this content into a brand-owned paid ad across channels that runs under the brand's handle.
But there's something you may not realise when you see influencer sponsored posts. It could actually be influencer whitelisted content.
Influencer whitelisting allows brands to run ads shown under the influencer's handle. Meaning, the brand gets full access to the influencer's social media accounts. Influencer whitelisting is still technically influencer-sponsored content, but there are far greater benefits to influencer whitelisting.
Is one social media platform more lucrative or popular for sponsored content?
Hubspot conducted some research to find out where marketers saw the highest social media channel ROI in 2021. Among Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter, and Snapchat (interesting, no mention of TikTok), the clear winner was Facebook with over 40% of marketers saying it was the most effective channel. This was followed by around 30% saying Instagram had the highest ROI.
Both Instagram and Facebook are effective channels to use as part of your influencer marketing strategy.
But, it's actually one of the last steps you need to worry about when it comes to the Influencer Marketing Pyramid.
As you can see, the first step is product seeding which is the number one thing we always recommend you get started with. Also referred to as influencer seeding or influencer gifting, the process involves sending free products to influencers with no strings attached (i.e no expectations that they will post about it). It's a long-term game plan, but the most sustainable way to build out your influencer marketing strategy.
More on this later ...
How does a sponsored post look in comparison to an organic post in the news feed?
For visual reference, here's a comparison of an influencer sponsored ad alongside an influencer organic post (as they would appear in a Facebook and Instagram news feed).
The benefits of a sponsored post over an organic post in terms of results
We all know the social algorithms are making it harder for brands to reach as many people as possible when posting organically.
So if you are sinking dollars into paying influencers for a one-off organic post, you probably aren't reaching their entire audience.
As you’ll see in the image, Callie Bundy was only able to achieve 3k likes even though she has over 300K followers. This is standard for that level of influencer, garnering only 1-2% engagement with no more than 10% of her audience being reached as an impression.
In comparison to Influencer organic posts, Influencer sponsored ads have the potential for unlimited reach, engagement, and frequency given the fact that you are in complete control of the distribution via paid media.
Let’s elaborate on this a little more ...
When running Influencer ads, there is no longer an algorithm limiting the reach to less than 10% of their audience. Instead, advertisers are able to access and put the influencer’s ads in front of every single one of their followers, at a frequency they prefer.
Frequency means the number of times the influencer's content is served — we recommend a minimum frequency of two. This maximizes the influencer's existing post in front of that pool of people at that stage of the funnel.
In addition to the more expansive potential of reach, frequency, and engagement, influencer-sponsored ads enable an actual customer journey to take place with greater amounts of content speaking directly to each touchpoint.
Instead of having a one-off post that will gain limited traction for a measly 24-hour period, you are able to build out a full-funnel, consisting of specific content with the influencer for each step of the customer journey.
Influencer sponsored ads have far greater conversion potential. Given the fact that Facebook's ad platform has the ability to set up campaigns designed to optimize for purchases. Whereas Organic social does not have this capability.
How To Get an Influencer To Do a Sponsored Post
This speaks to the content marketing side of things. When looking for influencers to partner with, you're really looking for high-quality content creators.
Back to the topic of product seeding. This is actually one of the best ways to get content produced by influencers for a low investment. The term "seeding" refers to sending your product out to influencers free of cost.
You can use our all-in-one seeding app to speed up this process and stay on top of what has been sent and to whom easily.
The idea here is that over time you'll be able to quickly identify the influencers who love your product and allow you to impress them by quickly shipping out a new product to them and building a relationship with someone who is already familiar with your product and loves it.
How much do influencer-sponsored posts cost?
We see two different costs here — cost for the creation of ads and costs for running the ads.
If you use product seeding you're likely to be able to get a ton of influencer-generated content for free — no need to pay for a fancy studio shoot or forking out hundreds or thousands of dollars to pay the right influencer in exchange for a shout-out.
We use MightyScout which is a great cost-effective tool to help you monitor and build up a library of influencer content that is organically posted on all the social media platforms.
You're able to download the content that's posted on behalf of your brand directly from MightyScout's platform.
Once you have the content to run with, the ad spend amount is completely contingent on the influencer’s audience size.
As you can imagine, if you’re working with a Macro influencer with 1M followers in comparison to a micro-influencer with 10k followers, your budget for ad spend will be substantially different when targeting their audiences via Facebook or Instagram Ads.
Here's a practical way to calculate how you should budget for FB/IG ads based on the influencer’s audience size.
Maximizing the Return on a Sponsored Post
The biggest way you can maximize the return on a sponsored post that is organically posted by the influencer is by turning that content into a series of ads, not just one. Instead, you can build out a full-funnel approach to your content.
Just make sure you follow all the rules when it comes to obtaining the content rights to using the influencer's content!
How to target your influencer sponsored ads: reaching the target audience at each step of the customer journey
From your Facebook Ads Manager, you can build audiences based on age range, gender, location, and specific attributes such as demographics, interests, or behavior.
For setting up the targeting of your influencer sponsored ads, you can create a custom audience based on everyone who engaged with the influencer's account in the past 365 days.
Here's how to do it:
- Click Audiences
- Create Audience
- Custom Audience
- Instagram account or Facebook account
- Click the dropdown menu and select the influencer’s IG/FB page
- Click “Everyone who engaged with your professional account”
- Type in the past 365 days
- Click Create Audience
Targeting an influencer's lookalike audience
Many hold the belief that an influencer's captured audience (which consists of their followers and engagers in the last 365 days) is the only audience to find success with when targeting influencer's Facebook or Instagram Ads.
On the contrary, if you're looking to reach a new audiences or larger audiences, targeting an influencer's lookalike audience could be worth tapping into and testing!
By building influencer lookalike audiences, you are leveraging Facebook’s machine learning system and their plethora of data for your benefit as they are able to create highly converting, target audiences for your influencer campaigns.
Put in simpler terms, when building an influencer’s lookalike audience, you’re asking Facebook to pool together a group of people that your influencer content will resonate deeply with and lead to greater conversions.
Facebook's ability to pool together unique people within influencer lookalike audiences is unmatched and we highly recommend building these audiences out every time you run an influencer campaign.
How to structure your influencer ad campaigns
Instead of A/B testing the performance of the influencer’s audience vs the influencer’s lookalike audience, we recommend stacking these audiences all together within the same ad set within a CBO campaign.
By stacking these audiences in a single ad set within a CBO campaign, you are once again leaning into Facebook's machine learning system as they identify and target the cheapest conversions on your behalf out of the collective audience stack.
Check out the case study below that showcases the performance of a Micro Influencer's lookalike audience.
Our Target Objective: Achieve a $40 CPA using Influencer Page Ads.
The Results: The Influencer Lookalike (LAL) audience outperformed the rest of the influencer funnel and the rest of LaserAway's account, beating the target metric by +60%.
While promoting influencer lookalike audiences isn't the next gold rush via Facebook or Instagram ads, it's definitely worth testing within your influencer paid media funnels for optimising the return.
The beauty about advertising influencer sponsored content is that you're leveraging the trust that the influencer has already built with their followers. They respect their opinion, so if you're able to associate your product with an influencer in an ad campaign — you'll quickly build trust with their audience.
Getting Started With Influencer Sponsored Posts
Using sponsored posts, you're able to release your brand from being at the mercy of social media algorithms. It's getting harder for organic content to get any cut-through, even for influencers.
So instead of spending your digital marketing budget on influencer sponsorships that only give you a small 24-hour window to see any return on organic posts, you can repurpose this influencer-generated content into a series of paid ads that align with the entire customer journey.
That said, influencer sponsored posts have a greater potential of helping your brand reach more people, boost engagement rates, and increase conversions.