Does Sponsored Content Work on Social Media? What the Numbers Say

October 15, 2020

Woman looking at phone outside alone

Paging through a travel magazine, you come across an article extolling the virtues of a particular Caribbean island. It’s got beautiful images, and the copy that describes the beaches, the history, the attractions, and the food is both engaging and informative. Maybe that should be your next vacation destination? Looking closer, you see a disclaimer in small type: “Promotional Content.” The article is actually a long-form ad.

“Advertorial,” as it’s known in publishing, is the same idea behind Sponsored Content online. Sponsored content is essentially a form of native advertising created by a business that’s distributed on a publishing platform, such as a social media site. It mirrors the format and style of the surrounding content to seamlessly blend in with the feeds of targeted users. Consequently, users perceive it as less disruptive and more trustworthy than traditional advertising. 

Why Is LinkedIn Sponsored Content So Powerful?

Today’s consumers don’t appreciate being bombarded by ads that are “interruptive” — meaning the ads have minimal relevance to their needs and don’t align with the context of the platform, or the user’s mindset while engaging with it. Instead, people respond to engaging, entertaining stories that seamlessly align with surrounding content and provide helpful, relevant information and solutions — which is why Sponsored Content can be so effective.

Consider these statistics:

  1. More than 70% of consumers say they prefer to learn about a product or service through content rather than traditional advertising. (Content Marketing Institute)
  2. Two in three consumers trust branded content more than traditional advertising. (MediaPost)
  3. 38% of business, entertainment, and news audiences say sponsored content adds value to their experience on a website.  (IAB/Edelman Berland)
  4. More than half of business, entertainment, and news audiences reported in-feed sponsored content as increasing favorable impressions of the brand. (IAB/Edelman Berland)

When it comes to sponsored content, video is clearly king:

  1. Video ads earn 30% more comments per impression than non-video ads in feed. (LinkedIn internal data)
  2. LinkedIn members spend almost three times more time watching video ads compared to time spent with static Sponsored Content. (LinkedIn internal data)
  3. 72% of Gen Z consumers want video or infographics to better explore or visualize data.  (MediaPost)
  4. Shorter videos are most effective—15 to 60 seconds in length is most likely to drive complete views, engagement, and clicks. (LinkedIn internal data)
  5. One might make an argument for going even shorter: Among quick, GIF-style videos, ads shorter than 5 seconds saw a 52% lift in the engagement rate, compared with the 43% lift for 5- to 15-second videos and 25% lift for 15- to 30-second videos.  (VidMob)
  6. Early branding is beneficial. When branding was introduced within the first 2 seconds of the ad, there was a 58% lift in company page clickthrough rate (CTR) and a 16% increase in engagement. (VidMob)
  7. Language that speaks to improvement performs well. Videos that contained language referencing upward movement ("gain," "growth," or "amplify") saw a 53% increase in engagement. (VidMob)

However, content can be time-consuming and challenging to plan and create, and in some cases it can be difficult to prove ROI. Marketers are struggling with the demand to produce content that meets the needs of its targeted audiences and results in more qualified traffic and leads. In another report, only 12% of marketers thought their content was connecting with the right audiences.

Creating sponsored content on a platform with a built-in audience that’s receptive to learning and networking reduces those challenges and makes it easier to connect. LinkedIn, with more than 700 million professionals, offers significantly greater exposure for content than other channels, with the ability to zero in on highly specific target audiences, helping you find quality leads that are more likely to convert. Dutch cable and mobile company Ziggo found audiences that viewed its Sponsored Content videos on LinkedIn converted at twice the rate of other social media platforms, even when the content didn’t focus on its products.

Whether your goal is to drive traffic to your website, build brand awareness, or generate actionable leads, LinkedIn offers several options for Sponsored Content creation that builds a relationship with your prospects by cultivating familiarity, trust, and credibility. Ultimately, this ad format makes it easier for businesses to create relevant content and get it in front of the right audience.

Measure ROI and Optimize

LinkedIn Sponsored Content offers a one-stop-shop for not just creating and distributing content but for measuring its performance and making adjustments as necessary. The platform makes it easy to gather data on audience demographics and engagement, test difference copy and creative, and optimize based on the results. This creates a feedback loop that supports content with greater relevance and resonance for your prospects — as well as metrics on interactions and conversions that provide proof of your sponsored content’s impact.

Software firm Percolate used Sponsored Content to reach multiple audience segments and leveraged the findings from campaign performance to adjust and refine content over time. As a result, Percolate experienced an average clickthrough rate that was 91% above LinkedIn benchmarks, and LinkedIn is the company’s top generator of leads from downloaded content.

Create Your First LinkedIn Sponsored Content Campaign

Getting started is easy. We offer step-by-step instructions on starting your Sponsored Content campaign as well as a plethora of tips and best practices for content planning, formatting, testing, and more. Create your campaign today.

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