If you're a brand on social media you have to walk a fine line. You need to get your message out there — and your brand has to be attached to that message somehow, or what's the point? But today's savvy social users neither trust you, nor want your branded content, and they can spot inauthentic marketing a mile away.

Which means some changes to your approach may be in order.

And She Told Two Friends, and She Told Two Friends …

Branded content and promoted content do their jobs, but they're pretty obvious about it. And consumers have learned to tune out obvious advertising noise on social. They want the content that appears before them to land there due to its, well, content — because it's so fabulous that all their friends couldn't help but share it.

The idea is exactly what those Faberge Organics shampoo commercials in the 80s talked about. Heather Locklear loved her hair so much she told two friends, "and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on." That's still how consumers (especially millennials) would rather hear about products, via ringing endorsements from people they know and trust.

But if you want content marketing that feels as organic as your shampoo, you need to do the work. Create content that appeals to your audience on a human level, and building up relationships to attract brand advocates on social.

This process starts with the content itself — and recognizing what resonates with consumers. It's never a sales pitch, FYI. (But if you're working pics of kitties into the mix somehow, you are moving in the right direction. Cats rule the Internet.)

But the next step matters too. Because even with a cute pic of a kitten wearing your brand's sunglasses (you're welcome, eyewear retailers everywhere), the word "sponsored" marking your post can still be a turn-off.

Making Sponsored Seem Organic

So does that mean you need to go old school and deal with social posts manually? No, of course not. Your content distribution just needs to SEEM organic. There are a few ways to accomplish that — all with a little help:

Use brand advocates

Word of mouth is your friend, but waiting for it to happen naturally isn't an option. Tapping the consumers who love your brand most (offering a little incentive never hurts) will get your message out, with that crucial human touch you need.

Reach out to influencers

Every "space" has bloggers and reporters who write about it regularly. If you're smart, you've been building relationships with the ones that make sense for your brand, and won't have trouble getting a feature or mention when you need one.

Use a distribution service

Both of the options above can be time consuming, and rely on the whims of your advocates and influencers, who likely have multiple requests coming at them at all times. Distribution services — especially those which focus on organic distribution — can be the best of all worlds when you need results and time is short (in other words, always). Their network of influencers exists purely to help brands amplify their social messaging, without coming across as pushy.

Distribution services can be part of your arsenal at any stage of business growth — or can be combined for maximum effect, to help with all three strategies above. For example, you could use apps like Buffer or Hootsuite to distribute owned media, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) or Storify for earned media, and services like Buzzstarter or Outbrain for paid media.

What matters is that your content and delivery appeals to consumers. Because even though they expect a certain amount of branded content to come their way, the less "salesy" it seems, the more effective it will be (desperation is unattractive, no matter the venue). If it makes them feel things — even better. So keep your branding subtle, and your distribution approach feeling organic. If you can do that, you'll stand out in the right way, and consumers will love you for it.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Zooey_