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What is Sponcon, And Should Your Brand be Doing It?

Here’s everything you need to know about sponcon, from tips on working with content creators to examples of successful campaigns.

Alyssa Hirose November 2, 2022
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What are the pros and cons of sponcon?

Pro: It’s great marketing for your brand. Pro: You form professional relationships with influential social media creators. Pro: You get fresh, engaging content promoting your business.

Con: you’re going to have to pay — that’s where the “sponsored” part comes in. Surprise! The best things in life are not free.

Read on to find marketing advice for creating successful (and con-free) sponsored content for your brand.

Bonus: Get the influencer campaign template for brands to easily plan your next campaign and choose the best social media influencer to work with.

What is sponcon?

Sponcon, otherwise known as sponsored content, is a form of influencer marketing in which brands pay creators to make and promote content that features their brand.

Sponcon might look like a makeup artist receiving an eyeshadow palette in exchange for posting about a beauty brand, a travel blogger being paid to highlight a clothing brand’s hiking jacket or a chef being paid to use a certain ingredient in a recipe video. Sponcon comes in all shapes and sizes, and the more creative you are, the better.

5 tips for successful sponcon

1. Find the right creator

Sponcon is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and not all creators fit with all brands. This is the most important part of successful sponsored content: you have to research the creator you want to work with and make sure that their values align with your company values. Ensure that their audience is the audience you’re looking to market to, and that their content is the type of content that you’re willing to associate your brand with.

When you partner with influencers or KOLs, you’re effectively adding them to your marketing team. So devote both time and resources to making sure you find the right fit. For more on finding the right creator for the job, read Hootsuite’s Influencer Marketing Guide.

2. Write a clear brief

Because sponsored content and influencer marketing are relatively new (and always changing) industries, there isn’t a standard set of practices that exist. Expectations can fluctuate from creator to creator and from brand to brand.

To avoid complications, write a brief that is very explicit about the expectations you have for the partnership, including payment.

What is the information that must be conveyed in the content? What is the deadline? Do you want to review the content before the creator posts it?

Think step-by-step through the process to make sure you’ve covered everything before you reach out.

3. Incorporate input from the creator

The above in mind, it’s important to remember that this is a partnership — you can’t dictate every part of the sponsored content (if you wanted that, you’d be better off paying an actor and making a standard ad).

Creators have mastered making engaging, unique and interesting content that shows off their individual personality. So when it comes to discussing the delivered product, act collaboratively: let the creator be creative, it’s what they do best.

4. Disclose the sponsorship

Sponsored content needs to be marked as such for two reasons.

One, passing off a paid partnership as if it’s an unbiased opinion is icky at best and straight-up immoral at worst. And two, it goes against the policy of every platform.

Instagram, for example, states that branded content “may only be posted with the use of the branded content tool,” otherwise known as Instagram’s paid partnership label. TikTok says “you must enable the Branded content toggle when posting Branded content on TikTok.”

Despite these rules, it’s still common for brands and creators to post sponcon without properly labeling it. Some will add #sponcon, #sponsored or #ad to their content, but this technically isn’t the official disclosure that the social platforms mandate. And when you go against a platform’s policies, you risk the content being flagged or taken down (or worse, having your account suspended).

Don’t take that risk: slam those toggles.

5. Keep a close eye on comments and mentions

The internet is a beautiful, terrifying, unpredictable place. And while you’ll always be notified if there’s trouble going down on your own account (especially if you’re using Hootsuite Streams), you won’t get as much of a heads-up when sponcon is posted to a creator’s account. You might not be notified if trolls start rolling in.

Avoid a PR nightmare by paying close attention to the engagement that your sponcon is getting, both on your account and on the creator’s account. In fact, it’s best to discuss this situation before the content is posted—think about what your expectations are around people posting hateful or disturbing comments (for example, you might request that the creator delete them).

Another reason to be aware of comments and mentions is that they can act as a reasonable gauge for the success of the partnership. Does your collaborator’s audience seem receptive to the product? It’s a factor you should consider, especially if you plan to partner with this creator again in the future.

Instagram sponcon examples

A partnership that fits

The best kinds of partnerships are the ones that feel natural, and this collaboration between a baker and Bob’s Red Mill flour company totally makes sense. The baker would have used flour in her recipes regardless, so a callout to a specific flour company doesn’t feel forced.

Including an affiliate link

Eco-friendly clothing company Fig Clothing partnered with a photographer for this sponsored content. The post shares some advice from the creator herself, information about the clothing, and includes affiliate marketing, which allows the brand to better track how successful the collaboration was (the brand can see how many people used the creator’s code to access the 15% discount).

Adding personal touches

Del Taco’s collaboration with this family influencer is a great example of allowing the creator to add their own personal touch to the campaign. The video isn’t just a cut-and-dry advertisement; it shows each member of the family’s favourite pick from the menu, which fits well with the creator’s other content. It’s also very adorable.

Detailing the partnership

Hitting that “paid partnership” toggle is the bare minimum when it comes to disclosing sponcon, and the more transparent that the creator can be about the partnership, the more authentic the collaboration appears.

This collab between a crochet artist and a yarn company is disclosed in full in the description (“a big thank you again to @hobbii_yarn who kindly gifted me some of their Friends Cotton 8/4 for this project”) and goes on to detail exactly which yarn was gifted. It’s a very genuine and professional move.

Beautiful lighting and videography

When researching creators to partner with, make sure you take a good look at their feed–does their content (sponsored or not) consistently have good lighting, editing, audio quality, etc? You want your product or service to be shown in the best light… literally. This creator partnered with skincare brand Olay and shot a really beautiful skincare routine video. It makes the products look awesome, which is great for the brand.

TikTok sponcon examples

Making relatable content

This partnership between the Royal Bank of Canada and a TikTok creator looks a lot different than the average banking ad. Rather than overloading viewers with information, it’s a playful video that talks more generally about spending vs. saving, and includes a call to action if folks want to learn more. Plus, it’s super relatable—the kind of TikTok that prompts followers to tag their shopaholic friends.

@peternugget #Sponsored by @RBC | It can be hard to be responsible with your money, but it’s always best to plan out your finances and budget accordingly! Take the time to figure out how much you’re spending and prioritize the essentials. Link in bio to learn more. #RBCTok #FinTok #budgeting #budgetingtips #moneytok ♬ original sound – peter nguyen

An engaging hook

Especially on TikTok, creators have to grab attention, fast. Be open to an engaging hook that’s not necessarily positive—for example, in this sponcon the creator calls a new Shiseido eyeliner “the weirdest eyeliner I’ve ever seen.” It’s an excellent hook for viewers, because of course, we want to know what the weird eyeliner looks like (spoilers: it looks great).

@stxph.h 3 Eyeliner shapes with 1 @SHISEIDO ArchLiner Ink!? Product hack alert! #sponsored #shiseido #TikOtaku #Beautyhack #Beautytips #BeautyObsessions ♬ original sound – stephhui

A satisfying video

It’s tough to resist a visually pleasing TikTok, even if you aren’t interested in the subject matter. This partnership between a sneaker artist and EA games is a perfect example: even if you don’t care about shoes or gaming, watching an artist paint clean white lines on a pair of crisp black shoes is deeply satisfying. It helps increase the views on the video, which makes the TikTok algorithm favour it.

@_ssneak_ 😱 the result 😍 @Need for Speed #SponsoredbyEA #NeedForSpeed #ChangeYourLane #LaneChangers #ad ♬ Trap, hip hop, dark beat ♪(963369) – Ninja_Muzik_Tokyo

Behind the scenes content

On TikTok, videos don’t have to be perfect to be successful, and showing the process behind making TikToks helps creators connect with their audience (stars, they’re just like us!). Encourage the creator to shoot behind-the-scenes content whenever possible—it might end up making an even better video than the sponcon itself. This BTS from a green-screened dancing pitbull is pretty entertaining.

@christendugger 🐕Hardest working pitty in the biz. #vankyo @Vankyo projector #pennythepitbull #sponsored ♬ original sound – Christen Dugger

Fitting the creator’s niche

This collaboration between the movie Smile and a TikTok creator with a sense of humour (and an unsuspecting partner) works because it looks very similar to other pranking TikToks the creator has made. While it’s clearly made for advertisement reasons, it has the same vibe as the rest of the creator’s portfolio, so it doesn’t feel out of place (and, like her other content, her followers love it).

@celinaspookyboo SMILE is in theatres 9/30 #sponsoredbyparamount ♬ original sound – CelinaSpookyBoo

Thinking outside the box

Okay, now forget everything you just learned about finding the right creator. Sometimes, the best matches are the unlikely ones–like this collaboration between the History Channel and a foodie TikTokker. The vibe of the History Channel is very different then the easygoing creator, but they found some clever middle ground–the history of lollipops—and this partnership feels fresh, inventive and engaging.

@cookingwithlynja #sponsored Staying Curious with @HISTORY #todayilearned ♬ original sound – Lynja

FAQs about sponcon

What’s a sponcon deal?

A sponcon (or sponsored content) deal is an agreement between a business and a creator. The business trades goods, services or payment, and in return the creator makes and promotes content that highlights the businesses’ products or services.

What does sponcon mean?

Sponcon is also known as sponsored content, and it’s a type of influencer marketing. Sponcon is content that is made by a creator in order to promote a business (and in return, the creator is paid in goods, services or money).

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By Alyssa Hirose

Alyssa Hirose is a magazine editor, playwright, comedian and comic artist based in Vancouver, B.C. She attributes her great sense of humour to 9 years of braces and good ol' elementary school bullying (unrelated, unfortunately).

Read more by Alyssa Hirose

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