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Native advertising gives brands a chance to connect with audiences in a comfortable and accessible way.
Rather than using in-your-face tactics, these subtle advertisements deliver value-driven content that matches the form of specific platforms. However, the world of native advertising can be confusing, even to those who consider themselves veterans of internet marketing.
Use this as a guide to get started with and make the most of your native advertising campaign.
What is Native Advertising, and why is It Important?
First, a primer: native ads are essentially marketing promotions that are disguised as editorials. Thanks to this format, many people find them convincing. For example, Forbes essentially became the gathering place for presidential advertisements last summer, but this would be unbeknownst to the average user.
By masking these political advertisements as political debates or opinion pieces, the native advertising blended naturally with the host site’s pieces.
Companies of all sizes are leveraging native advertising to drive conversions. In fact, if you’re not already, you risk falling behind the curve. According to a recent port by Business Insider, native ads will make up nearly three quarters of all ad revenue by 2021. By the same year, they estimate that native advertising will be a $21 billion dollar industry.
The largest segment of native advertising spending is in social media, but other sectors are growing. In fact, native style display is expected to grow 200% in the next two years.
Why the Switch to Native Advertising?
There’s a simple reason why native advertising is reaching its heyday: people cannot stand pop-up advertising. In fact, recent research suggests that 86 million Americans will use ad blockers in 2017, a 34% increase from last year.
Advertisers have been trying to make commercial marketing messages more attractive. There are a couple of other notions driving the trend:
• The rise of mobile
Mobile devices have officially surpassed desktop computers when it comes to people spending time online. Native advertising will soon replace traditional marketing models, because pop-ups have never translated well to mobile. This platform allows the opportunity for interaction, which other models couldn’t muster.
• Virtual reality
It is finally reaching mass market adoption rates, thanks in part to lower prices and augmented reality experiences like Pokemon Go. When virtual reality meshes with native advertising, marketers can make campaigns even more natural and immersive.
• Advertising as a story
Instead of simply selling, ads are more interested in telling a story. This honest brand promotion will attract more users than more traditional models.
Types of Native Advertising
There are several types of native advertising, which include:
• Social native ads
These might be sponsored Facebook news feed posts or promotional tweets that appear alongside typical social media outlet content, so that it appears like a “normal” post. Authors publish sponsored content ads in their own style and voice, but it’s paid for by the brand. According to a survey by Native Advertising Institute and FIPP, global native advertising will increase to 58 billion by 2018.
• Native advertising videos
It’s interesting to note that video forms of native advertising come a close second to written content. Snapchat recently surpassed Twitter, boasting over 150 million daily active users. Now, it seems that Facebook and Snapchat are battling for the largest piece of the lucrative video content pie.
• Display ads appear alongside a host site’s original content
You might see them at the end of an article or on a sidebar. On a news website, they may mimic “actual” news, but link to another website.
How to Use Native Advertising
As of now, not many small businesses use native advertising. This presents a unique opportunity for business owners to get in the ground floor and gain a significant advantage over their competition. Here’s how to do it:
• Determine Your Target Audience
As with most marketing campaigns, your native advertising campaign will begin with a little research and introspection. Where does your target audience hang out? If your ideal customer is a Baby Boomer, native display ads on news websites might be a good option. If you cater to Millenials or Gen Z’ers, consider ramping up your efforts on Facebook or Snapchat.
Use demographic clues to figure out who your audience is and where they engage with your brand the most.
Once you choose an advertising channel, spend some time learning its ins and outs. Find out what your target customer wants to read, what they like about your business, and how you can solve their problems. Look through sponsored content on your chosen platform and identify what sticks out to you.
The more research you do, the more effective you can be.
• Leverage Your Existing Content
If you want to woo your ideal customer without spending too much extra cash, look to your evergreen content. This can be a wealth of material for promoted posts. These tend to reach much further than regular posts, and since they are already written, you can start right in on native advertising without overwhelming yourself.
• Make Your Motives Known
Consumers can resent feeling tricked, so they might be upset if they click on an interesting post and discover it’s actually advertising. State plainly that a consumer is clicking on sponsored content, which gives customers a conscious opportunity to interact with your brand.
The people who ultimately click on your advertising are already interested in your brand despite it being sponsored, so chances are they’re interested in what you have to offer.
• Take Your Time
It likely took a long time for you to build a website full of engaging content. Your native advertising campaign will function in much the same way. Don’t expect to build a comprehensive native advertising platform overnight, and don’t expect an immediate payoff.
Start with your evergreen content and use analytics to track your results. From there, you can make tweaks or add more forms of content.
When you decide it’s time to expand, consider sponsoring other forms of content, like infographics or videos. If you have a smaller business, consider outsourcing these tasks to a content marketing firm.
Here’s why: most businesses don’t have the money, resources, or expertise to complete a professional looking video. You pay good money to sponsor your content, so you want it to reflect a professional tone. It’s hard to accomplish that with a video you shot with substandard equipment or personnel. As an added bonus, a content marketing firm may provide additional methods of gathering data and analytics.
• Tap into Your Local Networks
In order to connect with your target audience, consider having a local influencer or recognized source author a piece for you. Sponsored authorship is a prominent marketing tool.
Sites like Refinery 20 post content about the latest collections from Target or Ikea, for example. This can be a simple, yet powerful way to make your sponsored content more authoritative and expand its reach.
Native advertising will continue to be the dominant form of marketing in 2017 and beyond. If you haven’t already, it’s time to put some of your advertising dollars into this highly effective method of marketing.
Whether you’re using evergreen content or outsourcing content creation to another agency, sponsored content will be the way to win and keep users in the coming years.