“Native Advertising” is the most effective interactive marketing strategy currently being practiced. Done well, it’s a great way to tempt customers into opening their hearts, minds, and wallets to your brand–often in ways that years of PR can’t accomplish.
Done poorly, it can tank your brand in a single afternoon.
What is Native Advertising, where does it figure into your interactive marketing strategy, and how can you use it well?
What is Native Advertising, and Why You Should “Go Native”
Native advertising refers to sponsored ads or (more frequently) content that mimics the look, feel, and attitude of the site on which it appears. It isn’t necessarily an ad in the traditional sense of advertising (although it can be). In fact, native ads often much more effective than other types of ads, because your audience finds them more engaging.
Users of Facebook’s Sponsored Posts feature, for example, report that these posts have a higher response rate than traditional Facebook sidebar ads. As an added bonus, most of these advertisers have found that sponsored posts work synergistically to increase sidebar ad effectiveness as well!
Examples of native ads include:
- Facebook’s “Sponsored Posts” that appear in user news feeds (these are highly successful when done properly).
- Twitter’s Sponsored Tweets.
- Google’s Sponsored Results that appear the top of most search engine results pages.
- Buzzfeed’s Sponsored Stories that often get shared as much as more “organic,” non-marketing content.
Facebook sponsored posts get a better response than the sidebar ads generally, plus many advertisers report that their sidebar ads became more effective after they utilized sponsored posts. While part of this effectiveness may come from overcoming ad blindness, “going native” is ultimately works because it engages customers on a level that other ads simply do not.
Avoid this Crippling Danger of Native Advertising
Native advertising can skyrocket your sales and/or brand recognition in a very short period of time. It can also tank your brand’s reputation in less than a week! The main danger is the following single mistake.
The biggest mistake any brand can make with native advertising is to post content that is somehow insulting to its readers. Understand that you don’t have to out-and-out bash your readers for them to feel insulted; simply giving them content that doesn’t resonate with them personally, or that doesn’t match up with the site on which you’re advertising, is enough to make your customers feel like you’re trying to get one over on them.
If you don’t belong, you’ll be found out.
This is a rule of thumb of course; The Onion‘s native marketing videos, for example, often feature brand placement throughout the video.
And speaking of The Onion, this advertorial parody shows just what readers will think of you if you’re content isn’t relevant and interesting to them.
The 3 Biggest Elements of Successful Native Advertising
1. Your native ad should appear natural to the site. What you want is content that interests your audience and appears perfectly natural to the site you’re advertising on. Your sponsored content should be:
- The kind of substance your audience expects (tech-related articles on TechCrunch.com, or posts targeted towards specific reader interests on Facebook).
- The type or format of content your readers expect (videos on YouTube, very short stories or links on Twitter, long-but-not-too-long stories on Facebook, or images on Tumblr).
- Content that is interesting, engaging, and quite simply better than average. Don’t skimp on content creation. And make sure it hits some emotional hot-buttons!
Don’t Forget to Promote Your Brand
Now that you’ve put in all the creative marketing energy it takes to grab your audience and keep them hooked, it’s easy to forget one essential factor: promoting your brand!
One of the best things about native advertising is that if you’ve done everything else right, your brand will practically promote itself. This kind of creative marketing stands or falls based on the quality of your content. Typically, all you need to do is mention your name as a sponsor at the beginning of the content, and then once again, possibly with a short sales pitch at the end.
Brad C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.
Artisan Talent is a Digital, Marketing and Creative Staffing Firm placing talent in jobs perfectly matched with their skills all over the US.