Anatomy of a Great Sponsored Review Post: A Guide for Influencers
About the Author
Digital Marketing Manager here at Dealspotr! Email me with your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org :)
In This Guide
- Make your review authentic
- Start with a product or service you believe in
- Make sure the product fits your blog’s niche
- Create content that creates value and tells an effective story
- Use the product yourself and share your personal experiences and opinions
- Use lots of images and video
- Compare the product to alternatives
- Consider doing a roundup
- Get inside information from the company to share
- Come up with a compelling title
- Create a clear call to action
- Pay attention to FTC disclosure laws
- FTC disclosure best practices
- Don’t do one-offs. Promote over time.
- Create a calendar to promote your review over time
- Analyze your metrics and optimize your message over time
If you're a blogger, YouTuber, or social media influencer and are new to the game of brand collaborations, you've probably realized how hard it is to write great sponsored content.
Sponsors approach you because you have an audience they want to reach. And, at the end of the day, these brands are looking to drive additional sales. To be a great partner, your job is to create content that gets your readers excited about the brands you post about. To be a great partner, you should be an expert in creating content that actually motivates your fans to try out and buy the products and services you recommend.
There are four main components of a great sponsored review that drive sales:
The review is authentic
The review provides real value and tells an effective story
There’s a clear call to action
The recommendation extends over time
In this guide, we’ll show you how to write compelling sponsored posts that your readers will love and will make you a great brand ambassador and partner.
Make your review authentic
Start with a product or service you believe in
Here’s a scenario:
You’re an all-natural beauty blogger. You frequently post about makeup and skincare brands that are all-organic and chemical free. One day, you get an email from a face lotion brand that wants to work with you on a sponsored post. And they’re paying a flat fee!
After further research, you realize that this brand is not all-natural, and in fact has multiple chemicals in its formula. What do you do?
At first, the cash compensation might make you think twice. Plus, they're only asking for a short post. But chemical-laden products are not what you’re all about. What’s a poor blogger to do?
While it might be tempting to take these sponsorship offers from brands promising a larger cash payout, the better thing to do is pass on this opportunity. The most successful bloggers are the ones whose readership knows they can count on their advice and input, and trust that what they’re reading sticks by the blogger’s brand.
Starting with a product or service that you actually enjoy (or one that you haven’t tried yet but it aligns with your blog’s focus) is the first step towards creating an authentic, personal review that not only your readers will love, but the brand will, too. Don’t be afraid to turn down products that don’t contribute to your overall influencer narrative.
Make sure the product fits your blog’s niche
As much as you believe in a product, however, it might not have a space on your blog. If our beauty blogger starts posting about her favorite taco sauce brand, for example, the readers would be a bit confused.
If you’re like most bloggers, your whole influencer persona is focused around one specific thing: your niche. This can be as broad as travel and as specific as weddings for women over 50, but you most likely have a niche that you’ve developed over time.
As a blogger, everything you do should reflect this niche or interest. Your blog content, YouTube uploads, social posts -- everything should tie in, at least a little bit, to your overall influencer focus.
So, when working with brands, one of the first things you’ll need to figure out is this:
Does this brand fit in with my overall blog niche?
If not, skip this one. If it does, then you’re on your way to the next phase of your sponsored review:
Create content that creates value and tells an effective story
Set a clear and specific topic for your post that aligns to people's questions
So, you’ve got your product at the ready. Now what the heck are you going to write about?
Content ideation can be some of the hardest work a blogger has to do. There are a ton of tools to help you come up with blog ideas, but you need one focused around the product or service you’re reviewing.
One way to approach the blog’s main topic is to ask yourself:
What do people want to know about this brand?
Sure, you’ll be able to list the product’s features, no problem. The brand will probably send you the main talking points on this right off the bat. But the real meat and potatoes comes when you think about how the reader could relate to your content.
For example, take popular crafting blogger Amy Anderson from Mod Podge Rocks. She collaborated with Imperial Sugar brand Dixie Crystals on a sponsored post. But instead of just reviewing the sugar itself (imagine the sugar high she’d be on after that taste test), she created a post topic that she knew her readers would be interested in: handmade Christmas ornaments.
By creating a topic focused less on the product, and more about how people use that product, Amy was able to naturally incorporate Dixie Crystals into a blog post that would naturally fit into her blog. And to top it all off, she related it back to her overall niche of crafting with Mod Podge:
Another way of finding a good post topic is simply by Googling. If you’re trying to come up with a sponsored post for a new sock brand, take a look at what people are already asking:
If your product fits, try to focus on addressing one of these queries in your post.
Use the product yourself and share your personal experiences and opinions
You’ll never be able to give a fair and honest review of a product if you don’t use it yourself. End of story. If it’s a leather jacket you’re reviewing, put that sucker on and wear it for a day! You’ll be able to see the product in action, look for any potential problems, and have time to address any issues and questions with the brand for clarification.
Which brings up another point: not all reviews are 100% positive. There’s value to providing some cons in your post - it makes your pros look even more real and sincere. The reader can see that you’ve actually tried the product out, and are willing to share your true thoughts and feelings with them.
Use lots of images and video
Regular articles online without pictures are just plain boring. But a product review without pictures? It’s practically a crime.
Look, your readers are looking to you to find out every single detail of the item or service you’re reviewing. They don’t want to have to buy the product to see what it looks like or how it functions. They’re looking for your advice on whether or not they should buy the product themselves. So give them the visuals.
Smartphone cameras are so great now, there’s no need to invest in fancy camera equipment or software. Just snap a few photos of you wearing, using, testing, and interacting with the product, edit them right in Instagram (or use a free app like VSCO Cam), and include those photos in your post.
Beauty and fashion influencer Jonna Scott-Blakes of Naturally Glam worked with men’s basics company Basic Man to create a post about how to “keep your guy fresh.” Not only did she review the product with her hubby, she also made sure include images of not only the product, but of her man actually interacting with the product as well.
Photos make your blog posts stand out to a scrolling reader. Plus, you’ll need photos to share on social media (especially Instagram and Pinterest) later.
Even better than images? Video content. Multimedia reviews are becoming more and more common, and should be -- especially since the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video.
I know, creating video content can seem daunting at first. But all you really need is your phone, a cheap lighting kit, and the patience for editing to take your blog posts from mediocre to impressive. And videos don’t have to be very long, since videos under 2 minutes get the highest engagement.
Compare the product to alternatives
Yes, this might seem like a big no-no. Including a product with its competitors in the same blog post? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
Well, actually, there are a few benefits for both you and the brand in adding a comparison to your post. First, up-and-coming brands will usually appreciate the side-by-side comparison to a more well known brand. It gives the reader, who might not have known the brand’s name before this post, a sense of what their product might do or help solve.
On the flip side, a larger brand might like the comparison idea if they are confident that they’re better than the competition.
A popular place to see comparison posts is when beauty bloggers try to find cheaper “dupes” for higher-end make-up, and then compare the two brands. Blogger Miranda Mendoza of Slashed Beauty did this when she compared Make Up For Ever and NYX foundations together in one post.
Of course, you should always check with the brand you’re working with first to make sure they’re okay with a comparison-style post.
Consider doing a roundup
You’ve definitely seen a roundup post in action, although you may not have known it. You know all of those holiday gift guides? Posts that share something like “10 products you NEED for a trip to Italy?” They’re everywhere.
A roundup is a bit different than a product comparison since it’s usually more of a list of products all related to a certain thing. The reader in this example is definitely looking for a subscription box that gives back to charity, so giving them options is always a good idea. Plus, if you’re enrolled in any affiliate programs, roundup posts are a great way to add links in a natural way.
Again, always check with the brand you’re promoting to see if they’d like a dedicated post, or if you’re able to include them in a roundup.
Get inside information from the company to share
Chances are, the company you’re working with has worked with other bloggers before you, and will continue to work with bloggers long after you’ve written and published your post. And you know that product info they shared with you? It was sent to everyone else, too.
One way to make your review even more compelling is to dig deeper into the company itself. Is it a female-led company, which might align with your blog’s focus? Or is there an interesting history behind the product that might be worth sharing? Try to make your post as unique as possible.
Including a quote from your company contact or a company rep is a great way to add insider knowledge to your post, and make yourself seem even more of an authority on the topic.
Including quotes is a tactic that all journalists use in every article they write, and one that can really impress even your most skeptical readers.
Come up with a compelling title
Why is this the final step, you ask? Well, because it’s the most important. A title is what draws the reader in, and what people will see if your blog post shows up in a Google search.
A blog’s title will be something that draws a reader in, and makes them want to click on the full article when shared on social. You should start with a basic title, that somewhat explains what the article is about. Then, make it interesting.
BuzzSumo has a great guide to writing viral headlines. They’ve studied around 100 million articles, and analyzed what makes a post go viral. What they found were the 5 most common elements of headlines that get shared like crazy:
Try using a process like this for formulating your titles.
Create a clear call to action
By now, you probably have a pretty solid article drafted up. You’ve done your research, taken photos with the product, edited a little video, and reached out to a company rep for comment.
Now, you need to convince your readers to actually buy.
It can sometimes be hard, as a blogger, to see things from the brand’s point of view. While you’re benefiting from the deal with free product and monetary compensation, you have to keep in mind what the brand is looking for in return.
Overall, the goal of working with influencers for many brands is heightened brand awareness. But their main focus is really to drive traffic, and ultimately sign ups or sales, to their website.
As an influencer, you’ll want to send as many readers as possible to the brand’s website. This gives you the greatest chance of sending over a customer who actually completes a sale, which is great news for you (the brand will love you).
Brands will usually let you know upfront what they want you to use to drive your traffic their way. A lot of times, it will be a promo code for you to share with your readers -- sometimes you’ll even be given a personalized promo code that will make you seem even more legit.
Promo codes incentivize readers to shop somewhere they’ve never shopped before, and buy a product they wouldn’t normally buy. You should try to include your discount code in your blog post as many times as possible, and also on your social media channels.
In this example, Instagram influencer Brittenelle shares her code while promoting watch company Daniel Wellington:
Other times, a brand might send you a unique link to the product your reviewing, which you can anchor directly into your post and share on social media. Again, you should try to include this link as many times as you can, where appropriate -- try not to make it look spammy.
In the Dealspotr Marketplace, we actually provide you with both a unique tracking link, and a promo code to share with your readers. It’s beneficial to use both in your post, especially because the clicks and conversions you drive through them can increase your Influence Score on Dealspotr (which in turn, increases your payout).
Pay attention to FTC disclosure laws
When it comes to sponsored content, the FTC isn't messing around. Since you're writing a post on behalf of the brand that you're working with, you'll need to disclose this material relationship (meaning you've received some type of compensation from the brand) to your readers and followers. Not disclosing this relationship could result in hefty fines.
FTC disclosure best practices
On Your blog
On your blog, you should already have a heading set up at the beginning of every sponsored post that says something along the lines of, "This is a sponsored post on behalf of X Brand. I have received some form of compensation for this post." Here's a great example from Kami, of Life with Kami:
At the top of her post, you can see her disclosures for two things: she's using affiliate links, and this post has been sponsored by Morning Pep. What she also includes is a link to a specialized page on her blog reserved solely for disclosures: