Why your Sponsored Updates should be doing more than just delivering content

How to maximise the creative opportunity with Sponsored Updates

February 23, 2016

Sponsored Updates are one of the most powerful content marketing distribution channels on the planet. They deliver your content right in the feed of your target audience, in a highly trusted environment where people turn for relevant advice and guidance. And they give you access to a global audience of more than 400 million professionals. But delivering content isn’t all that Sponsored Updates can do. They are also an important creative opportunity in their own right – and an equally important source of data and insights.

I like to think of Sponsored Updates as the equivalent of the sub-editor’s desk on a newspaper. The paper’s writers would go off, find and create valuable and informative content. They’d write stories that would offer great value to readers, provided those readers took the time to read them. But it was in large part the skill of the sub-editors that determined whether those stories were read or not. It was they who would come up with the perfect headline, and match it with the perfect image, to capture people’s attention and get across why it mattered. 

Sponsored Updates as creative opportunities

I’ve always thought that this was one of the most creative roles in journalism – and now it’s one of the most creative roles in content marketing. The content of the Sponsored Update that appears in your audience’s LinkedIn feed gives you three important levers for gaining your audience’s attention – the more creative you get in using them, the more effective your content will be.

Our research consistently shows that Sponsored Updates with a strong visual element (striking photography or video) outperform the competition. As my colleague Dan Kent-Smith explored on our blog last year, your headlines deserve a content strategy of their own. And the copy of the update itself is a fantastic opportunity to engage and get key brand messages across, even before people click on your link.

I presented a webinar with Chris Bolman of Percolate last year, in which Chris spoke about how the very fact of your updates appearing in the feed of your audience is enough to give you a greater share of audience-members’ minds, and build memories around your brand. An update doesn’t have to be clicked on to start delivering benefits for you.

Sponsored Updates as sources of insight

That said, the ultimate role of your Sponsored Updates is to drive engagement. And one of the most valuable things about them is the data they generate to enable you to optimise your approach, and engage more of your target audience.

This is why we recommend developing several versions of your Sponsored Updates so that our systems can automatically divert budget to those that perform best and optimise your campaign as you go. The great advantage of this is that it enables you to be more creative with your headlines, trying a few different ways of promoting your content – and knowing that the version that works best will be more likely to appear in people’s feeds.

For deeper insight, it’s well worth spending time with the analytics that your Sponsored Updates generate. They’ll help you to work out which types of content are engaging different elements across your target audience – and this can help provide you with a greater understanding of who you should be targeting, and why. Several brands have told us how their Sponsored Updates activity has highlighted new growth opportunities by revealing needs and interests amongst key groups that they didn’t know existed.

Sponsored Updates should be your first stop for distributing content to professional audiences. And the more creative use you make of them, the more ways they’ll contribute to your strategy. For more ideas check out our Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn.