Is Sponsored Content the Right Way to Build an Audience?

A lot has changed in the past decade when it comes to sponsored, or native content. Once viewed as nothing more than obtrusive advertisements that brought very little value to the reader, sponsored content has evolved into a meaningful way to connect with loyal readers of popular content distributors. If you’re not currently leveraging this type of content as part of your overall strategy, you’re missing out. Here’s why.

Tap Into the Audience You Crave

Whether you’re new to content or have been doing it since the beginning, there’s likely another content distributor out there that has built up the massive following you covet. Using native content gives you the ability to share your stories in a format that is familiar and feels like it belongs to that site’s readers.

In turn, this generates awareness and lures in those who might not otherwise find your content. The key here is being very specific about where you are running these ads. Paying close attention to the readers’ target interests and demographics will help make sure the dollars you spend are worth it.

Connect & Build Relationships

A recent study from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that 43 percent of readers in the United States “have felt disappointed or deceived” after reading native ad content that they later found out was sponsored. But the fact is that the click-through rate of native ads can be 40 times higher than other forms of advertising as long as the shared content is relevant and interesting.

The takeaway here is that there’s an insatiable appetite for great content, and as long as you’re providing the type of stories your audience wants, they are likely to take a look, allowing you to connect with them and start to build a relationship.

Sponsored Content Isn’t Going Anywhere

Brands will spend an estimated $7.9 billion on this form of content in 2015, up from just $4.7 billion in 2013. By 2018, brands will spend an estimated $21 billion. With numbers like this, it’s clear that native advertising is here to stay.

And since it’s not going anywhere, it’s reasonable to expect readers to grow more comfortable with this form of communication. Top-tier publishers are also embracing native advertising: Meredith Corp recently acquired Selectable Media, and The New York Times sold $18 million worth of ads in early 2015.

Another Tool in Your Arsenal

At the end of the day, sponsored content should be viewed as a powerful way to build an audience. When executing your strategy, make sure to target thoughtfully, measure your results, and experiment. Most importantly, keep in mind that you need to provide stories that add real value to an audience. The future of this type of content is bright and should absolutely be used to build an audience.

This article originally appeared on The Content Standard.