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  • Writer's pictureKayla Stinnett

Sponsored Content vs. Native Advertising: What’s Right for Marketing Your Small Business?

Have you ever been pursuing the web or social media and noticed the disclaimer of “sponsored?” That’s what we in marketing like to call sponsored content. It can take many forms, such as a video from a social media influencer or an article from your local news outlet. But at the end of the day, it’s all just a paid ad camouflaged by a person or organization that you trust.

So when it comes to your small business, what’s right for you? Sponsored content or native advertising? Let’s dive into it!

Sponsored Content Explained

As I mentioned, sponsored content is paid advertising wrapped up in an influencer or other authority your audience trusts. Sponsored content is an advertisement created for a specific platform and seeks to get the consumer’s attention by advertising directly on another platform. It could be a video, gallery, article, and more.

For example, think about those review videos you see on TikTok. You’ll notice (or legally, there should be) a tag on the post or hashtag that notes it’s #sponsoredcontent. The same applies to articles on websites. Looking closely, you’ll see “sponsored content” at the top of the article.

What About Native Advertising?

On the other hand, native advertising doesn’t have the exact “covert” nature as sponsored content. According to Outbrain, native advertising is a form of paid advertising that matches the look, feel, and function of the media format where they appear.

Think about Facebook. Have you ever been browsing around and noticed a line of ads along the sidebar or fit into your feed? That’s native advertising!

Native advertising typically appears in "You Might Also Like" or "More Like This" lists within articles or posts you've seen. Its goal is to look similar to the content around it rather than disrupting the user’s experience.

It seeks to emulate the look and feel of the content around it rather than disrupting or cluttering the page. This makes native advertising an effective way to reach people because it doesn't disrupt their experience and is relevant to what they're looking for.

Native Advertising vs. Sponsored Content

Sponsored content and native advertising kind of sound the same, right? But you’d be wrong! They both serve the same purpose, but how they go about it differs. Essentially - native advertising is considered more authentic because it blends seamlessly, while sponsored content is meant to stand out. Sponsored content can also be more expensive than native advertising because the publishers have to take their cut of whatever content they have to create for your advertisement.

So What’s Right for My Small Business?

At the end of the day but it’s up to you to decide what’s right for your business, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • If you want a more discreet way of advertising your business, native advertising is for you. But remember that you’ll have to handle creating content and dispersing that out to your audience.

  • If you want something more “hands-off” and have the budget, sponsored content is for you. It can be pricey, but it’s a great way to create buzz for your business. But you should choose who you work with wisely! Do your research and ask the publisher to provide analytics and demographic information proving this is the right fit for your business.

  • Keep your personal opinion out of it! Trust me here. As a marketer, I always look for #sposoredcontent, which I can recognize even if they leave off that designation. I typically don’t trust advertising like that, but I always keep in mind that my personal opinion isn’t the opinion of the audience I’m trying to reach!

About the Author, Kayla Stinnett: Kayla Stinnett is a self-described chef, gin lover, and rambling woman. With over eight years in the marketing world, she’s the CEO of Iron City Social, HBIC at Quake Plus Size, and Managing Partner + CMO of Stargazer Brewing Company.


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