How to Reach Early Adopters with Sponsored Content

Portrait of Melina Panitsidis
by Melina Panitsidis
Aug 25, 2020
Sponsored content early adopters illustration

Early adopters love content. This tech-savvy group relies on content to stay updated on all things tech-related.

Actually— everyone loves content. In fact, 70% of people would rather learn about a brand through content than a traditional ad.

The bad news? The internet has become saturated with an infinite amount of content, which has naturally increased the competition over the years. Content has become so mainstream that over 4 million blog posts are published in a single day across the web.

This begs the question, how can brands stand out from such a crowded market while still taking advantage of the benefits of content to reach early adopters?

Enter, sponsored content.

A contextual strategy, like sponsored content, can grab early adopters' attention in the right way and help your brand cut through the noise to really stand out.

Let's explore how.

Sponsored content basics and what makes it unique

In the simplest of terms, sponsored content is content that a brand pays for. A brand will collaborate with a publisher's editorial staff to produce content that will then live on the publisher's website.

But what makes sponsored content worthy enough to earn a spot in your marketing mix?

It blends in

Sponsored content is a form of contextual advertising. Sponsored posts are designed to blend into whatever content surrounds it. In other words, the post would still fit into a publisher's website, even if it wasn't sponsored.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself: what’s so valuable about contextual advertising?

Well, 47% of consumers credit irrelevant and annoying ads for why they use an ad blocker. Consumers have literally stopped putting up with irrelevant advertising. With contextual advertising, brands align their ad placement with the content around it, making it relevant. This way, marketers don’t miss the mark with their target audience, and consumers have a more positive experience.

Bonus: contextual advertising, like sponsored content, minimizes ad dollars spent on users who were never interested in the first place.

Guaranteed exposure

Traditional branded content that lives on your website can be highly effective— but you have to work for it. When you publish content to your own blog, it’s not going to promote itself. That content’s exposure depends on your promotion strategy.

With a sponsored content campaign, you’re guaranteed exposure to your chosen publisher’s audience without the added labor of planning and promoting it yourself. And that’s not even the best part— brands who partner with a publisher on content see 50% higher brand lift on average.

Sponsored content gives brands unique access to a loyal audience that the publisher has already established trust with. This trust is shared with your brand because the audience associates you with the publisher.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's not. 

It works anywhere

Let's talk about the marketing funnel. Sponsored content fits at any stage of it. It's versatile enough to kick off the customer journey or drive lower-funnel actions. The difference lies in how you choose to use your sponsored post. 

If the goal is to build brand awareness, maybe your sponsored post is a simple listicle article— kind of like the example below.

Sponsored content Futurism example

Rad Power Bikes partnered with Futurism on a sponsored post that discusses how life-changing an electric bike can be. The sponsored post shares the positive impact of having an electric bike. The content is still highly relevant to Rad Power Bikes, but the overall content is used to share information while boosting brand awareness. So if readers happen to be in the market for an electric bike, Rad Power Bikes will be top of mind.

But maybe your end goal is driving lower-funnel actions like sign-ups, downloads, and free trials. Sponsored content works just as effectively at this stage of the customer journey.

A great example of this is Trello using sponsored content to increase sign-ups on their homepage. They partnered with Firefox to share a sponsored post in the web browser's new tab navigation, where Pocket recommends articles from across the web. Their sponsored post shared how users can work collaboratively and get more done with Trello.

Sponsored content Firefox new tab example

Ad blockers don’t apply

Ever since ad blockers became a thing, it's become increasingly harder for marketers to reach their audience.

Almost 50% of global internet users use an ad blocker today, according to GlobalWebIndex. So, if you're relying on traditional online ad channels to reach those tech-savvy early adopters, chances are you're missing the mark.

Since sponsored content isn't a traditional ad format, marketers can run campaigns without wondering if it's actually reaching real people. We promise you, it is. Ad blockers don't recognize sponsored content as advertising because its contextual nature and format don't look like advertising. And, let's be honest, it doesn't really feel like advertising either.

Why does sponsored content work exceptionally well for early adopters?

Early adopters are notoriously skeptical and hard-to-reach. They steer clear of most advertising. No amount of flashy creative and persuasive copy is going to sway this group. Why? Because they like to do their own independent research. And that’s precisely why sponsored content is an effective strategy for reaching ad-averse early adopters.

Sponsored content, aside from being a form of advertising, is a way to share information and provide real value to consumers— making it an ideal for audiences that like to do their homework before making any commitments. Since early adopters are keen on doing their own research, they're going to spend some time on a piece of content (sponsored or not) if it offers value and relates to them.

So, if content is so effective in reaching early adopters, why go the paid route?

Sponsored content gives marketers an opportunity to partner with well-known publishers that specifically cater to early adopters. These publishers have already established trust with your audience. A partnership with them is your golden ticket to grabbing their attention and piggybacking off that pre-established trust.

How to build a sponsored content strategy to target early adopters

Just because sponsored content is a highly effective strategy for engaging with early adopters, doesn’t mean your campaign will be successful without putting in the work to make it that way. Here are three key things to keep in mind when creating your sponsored content campaign for this tech-savvy audience.

Don’t make it about you

If it’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this: don’t make your sponsored post only about your brand. Since early adopters won’t accept anything you say at face value, it’s essential to be more strategic with your approach. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing their attention altogether before even getting started.

Consider your sponsored content campaign as a supplement that encourages early adopters to do their research. Tell a story that provides answers to the questions early adopters are searching for and less about promoting your brand. They’ll appreciate the insights they gain from your sponsored post and make a positive association with your brand in the long-run. 

Bottom line: make sure your content holds value and speaks to the questions your audience has. This strategy goes a lot farther with early adopters than just talking at them about your brand.

Solve their problems

Early adopters are eager to embrace new products and services before the mass market comes around to adopting them— hence the name “early adopters”— but that’s only if they can see how it benefits them.

If we really boil it down, brands exist to solve problems and fulfill needs. To be the solution for your target audience, you need to dive into what pain points and challenges they're facing. From there, you can tailor your sponsored content campaign to speak directly to early adopters about how your brand can solve them.

It’s important to note that while early adopters appreciate cool features, it’s never the deciding factor for converting, purchasing, or even engaging with your brand.

Partner with the right publisher

This might be an obvious point to make but, choosing the right publisher for your sponsored post will make or break your campaign. Take the time to get to know the popular publishers among early adopter audiences. Explore all of the possible websites, forums, and online communities they frequent.

Ask questions. What kind of content do they share? In what format? How big or small is their audience? Is their audience broad or more niche?

And don't forget about metrics! The great thing about sponsored content is knowing key stats upfront. From audience reach and basic demographics to CTRs and engagement rates, you'll be able to narrow down the publishers that can help you make the most significant impact.

Your brand won't be a fit for every publisher out there, so seeking out and analyzing this kind of information will help you choose the perfect publisher for your campaign.

Wrapping up

Early adopters are independent thinkers who have grown weary of advertising. Taking an alternative advertising approach, beyond the tired and traditional channels, is your secret weapon to connecting with this tech-savvy group.

Sponsored content is an ideal strategy because it allows you to tap into an engaged early adopter audience through websites they already trust while sharing valuable information your audience will appreciate.