Marketers rely most on blog posts and Twitter to reach their audience

Product placement is alive and well, having been reborn in the digital era as social media sponsorship—compensating social media users, or “influencers,” for mentioning a product or service. While the practice initially drew criticism from some who argued that social media content should remain ad-free, the trend shows no signs of slowing. In a May to June 2012 poll, a majority of US marketers, 55.5%, told social media marketing company IZEA that they had provided a social media user with some compensation in exchange for a mention on the user’s social media channel.

The research also found that blog posts and tweets have emerged as the preferred mediums for sponsored social media messages among both marketers and influencers. In fact, 54% of marketers had used a third-party blog to get their message out, while 55.4% of influencers had published a sponsored blog post, making it the most popular medium among both groups. But sponsored tweets were not far behind—the poll found they were used by 47.3% of marketers and 51.8% of influencers.

Interestingly, marketers most often said they measured the success of their social media sponsorship campaigns through criteria that were difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. More than eight in 10 marketers said they thought quality of content was an important factor in measuring success, while three-quarters cited the importance of sentiment.

When the topic of compensation arose, influencers showed a clear preference for money: Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred cash. And while only three in 10 influencers preferred free product for their promotional work, just over two-thirds of respondents said they would accept it. Influencers had the least tolerance for payment that came in the way of a discount or coupon.

But paying influencers can raise some complications for both marketers and influencers. While older media channels, such as TV and radio, are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), social networks are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has its own set of rules regarding sponsorship disclosures.


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