How to Make a #AD Not Feel Like an Advertisement

People hate ads. Invention after invention has been created with the sole benefit of avoiding ads. Such things like online ad blockers to clean up the web browser, as well as TiVo and similar systems that allowed the user to record live TV and then fast forward through ads. Many people are even willing to pay a premium price for a service just to avoid advertisements.

So when it comes to looking up the latest posts from their favorite content creators and influencers, the last thing they want to see is a blatant ad. It’s why many sponsored posts and videos get massively negative reactions and can lead to an influencer losing a chunk of their following.

If influencer marketing is going to become a major part of your marketing strategy, you can’t afford for your paid promotion to look like an advertisement. If it does look like an ad, it could possibly do more harm than good, such as people unfollowing the influencer, potential customers thinking negatively of your brand, or even very upset followers vocally disavowing the whole situation. It’s a fine line to walk between paying for promotion but not coming across as an advertisement, here’s how to do it right.

Picking the Right Influencer for Your Strategy

Avoiding the appearance of an advertisement all starts with what influencer you work with. Have the wrong influencer promoting your product and it doesn’t matter how well done it is, it’s going to stand out like a sore thumb.

It all starts with identifying your target market and finding influencers who have an overlapping or similar following. You wouldn’t ask a makeup and fashion guru to promote a new line of high-end power tools, it just wouldn’t work. The influencer needs to match your brand and audience. In an ideal situation, your product would be one your influencer already uses or will use on their own in the future.

Next, analyze how influencer marketing is going to fit into your strategy. Posts focused on improving brand recognition are going to look very different from one aimed at promoting a sale for a specific product. An influencer in the right niche that focuses on pointing followers towards a great deal could easily promote a sale, while a different influencer that focuses on brands could boost brand recognition.

Each influencer is going to have specialties and weaknesses. When picking an influencer, you need to analyze everything about them and determine whether they can accomplish your goals naturally.

Working Together to Craft the Perfect Campaign

Each influencer has their own brand, their own style, and their own way of posting. If you want your promotions to flow naturally with their other posts, you need to marry your brand to theirs.

Be willing to work with and listen to your influencer. They built their audience and should have a good handle on what they will and won’t like. An influencer with experience in paid promotions might even have a set guideline for posting #ad posts. Make sure they understand what your goals are and support them in trying to meet them.

That being said, be sure to advocate for what you want from the post too. You’re the one paying for it, so be sure you are getting what you want out of it. If that means including a link to buy the product or highlighting specific features, be sure they are included in some way or another.

Teaming Up to Do Charity Work

One very powerful tactic for influencer marketing is working towards a common goal or cause designed to help the world. People love it when companies engage in charity work or pursue a higher cause and that can go a long way for your marketing. Giving back to your community has a host of benefits, including how the public views you, improved employee morale, and more.

A common method for spreading both your brand and your charity is teaming up with influencers under a hashtag and making some sort of donation promise. Things like “donating a dollar for every like on this post” is a great way to both boost attention and support your cause.

Charity work is also amazing because it’s possible to work with influencers who also believe in the cause and might consider doing it for free. They get extra attention because of their charity work, you get a boost in awareness, and both can avoid having to slap a #ad or #sponsored on the post.

If your campaign is incredibly successful, it could go viral and attract the media’s attention. News coverage of both your business and your charity work could go a long way in helping both grow.

Don’t Make Your Influencer into a Sales Person

Influencer marketing does not mean transforming your chosen internet personality into a salesperson. If you don’t want to look like an ad, you can’t have the post act like an ad. That means avoiding hard sales pitches, having the same or similar posts go live too often, or providing little value in the post.

You need to make sure any type of promotion you pay for is still what followers want to see. A great way to view it is the difference between Super Bowl ads and everyday boring commercials. People want to watch super bowl ads. Some prefer watching the ads over the actual game. But in normal day-to-day life, people hate commercials.

Whatever you choose to do with your influencers, whether it’s a video or just a photo, make sure the quality of the post doesn’t suffer just because your brand or product is there.

Finding success in influencer marketing can’t be a one-time attempt. It takes time, hard work, and experimentation to find the perfect approach. Even marketing juggernauts like Pepsi make mistakes doing it, but the key to doing it right is to keep trying and adjusting your approach. With time, though, you’ll find the right approach to get high-quality paid posts up and grow not just your followers, but your sales too.




Ben Allen is a content marketer who believes in helping small businesses grow. When he isn’t writing about the latest and greatest in marketing tactics, he spends his time playing with his two daughters, reading fantasy and sci-fi books, and working on his own novel. Follow him at @allen24ben on Twitter for his thoughts on everything from marketing to video games. 

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