How to turn Sponsored Updates into a powerful creative system

Percolate’s Chris Bolman on a mindset that can transform your content’s effectiveness

August 18, 2015

It’s easy to think of Sponsored Updates as a platform for delivering content to your professional audience. Of course, that’s a role Sponsored Updates play exceptionally well. But if you’re treating them solely as the distribution arm of your content strategy, you’re missing the larger opportunity. For one, our experience at Percolate proves that within the creative of the Sponsored Update itself is where a lot of the brand-building impact lies. Second, it’s important to think of Sponsored Updates as an overall system for intriguing, educating, and building authority among your marketing audience. They are also a vehicle for building brand memory – what researchers in the emerging field of marketing science refer to as “mental availability.” This is your share of consumers’ minds, how – and how often – people think of your brand or product offering compared to competitors.

When I refer to Sponsored Updates as a system, I mean that you need an organised, consistent approach to turning your content into Updates, tracking and analysing performance, and using that data to inform how you create both future content and the Sponsored Updates that promote it. The interconnectedness of this system makes it hugely important to your content strategy – and means that every minute you spend fine-tuning it pays dividends.

If you think that’s an overstatement, consider this stat. At Percolate we changed the Sponsored Update and landing page creative for a piece of content we were promoting called “The Marketing Clock - Percolate's Framework for Effective Marketing.” When we originally published the piece, the content performed poorly, both as a Sponsored Update and on our other channels. Looking in part at the data from our Sponsored Updates performance, we re-titled the report “How to Design a Marketing Workflow that Wins Customers,” and launched it as a new set of ads. Tweaking the headline, image and link copy increased our lead generation from that update by over 500%, and the report became our most downloaded creative asset for the next two quarters. The underlying piece didn’t change – the big leap in performance was entirely due to the new creative positioning and second round of Sponsored Updates. To me, that demonstrates your advertising creative is some of the most valuable production work within your content system.

In some ways, you can think of Sponsored Updates as the equivalent of the sub-editor’s desk on a newspaper. Your reporters can go out and write great, original, agenda-setting stories, but it’s your skills at writing brilliant headlines and fitting them to the pictures you have available that decide whether those stories will be discovered and read. When it comes to Sponsored Updates, we believe that, like newspaper pages and ad layouts, every element of the creative matters: the copy, the image, the link description, and how they work together to win your target’s attention and communicate a promise about the content they’ll consume. 

One benefit of Sponsored Updates over print ads, of course, is they constantly add to your understanding of your target audience through the feedback loop of data they provide. You have the opportunity to learn and optimise continuously. That means a piece of content doesn’t just get one shot at connecting with an audience. Based on what happens you can retool your Sponsored Update, put it in front of that target audience again – and often get an even better result.

Treating Sponsored Updates as a system in its own right has delivered some strong results for our business. LinkedIn is now our top generator of leads from downloaded content. Our average click-through rate for our Updates is also 91% higher than the LinkedIn average – and our best-performing Updates do 4.5x better. Engagement rates are 30% above benchmarks as well.

On Thursday this week, I’ll be hosting a webinar with Jon Lombardo of LinkedIn that explores all of the elements that contribute to the success of your Sponsored Updates on the platform. If you have 30 minutes free then I’d recommend taking the time to tune in. I’ve learned attention to these details, and taking a systems approach to your LinkedIn marketing, can have a very beneficial impact on the success of your content.

Click here to register for Thursday’s webinar: The Sophisticated Guide to Sponsored Updates