We’re obsessed with native advertising.
Every publisher is hooked. From Forbes, The New York Times and Washington Post to BuzzFeed, Mashable, StumbleUpon, Twitter and Facebook.
And every brand is jumping onboard. From RedBull, Porsche and Oreo to AT&T, Intel and Target.
A few weeks ago we answered one of your biggest qs about this trend – will native advertising work for my business? Now we’re going one step further.
With more than $4.6 billion being invested in the latest marketing craze, how are you going to maximize the impact of your native advertising campaigns to get customers?
These 5 steps will guide you.
p.s. Need a quick refresher on native advertising?
It’s advertising designed specifically for a digital channel (like Facebook or Twitter) that doesn’t interrupt the user experience (aka we enjoy consuming it). This infographic from Mashable will tell you everything you need to know.
1. Find Your Customer + Speak Their Language
As a small business owner, you want to stretch your dollars as far as possible. Especially your advertising and marketing budget. So, how do you decide what native advertising channels to invest in to get the greatest impact?
Go where your customers are.
This sounds obvious, yet it’s crucial for native advertising and often overlooked. Native ads must be relevant to the readers of the platform you choose. If you’re targeting a more mature audience, Forbes or The New York Times is ideal compared to a publication like The Onion, which is a gift if you’re trying to connect with Millennials.
More importantly, your native advertising campaign must match the style and type of content readers expect to consume there. This is what social media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk calls “the native tongue of the platform.”
It’s about respecting how different the social media communities are from each other – we act differently on different platforms, even though we’re the same person. So, while you may be reaching the same customer on Facebook and Forbes, your tone of voice, content and the conversations you have with them on each platform will be different.
This is why 15 Reasons Why Cats Are the Most Fearless Creatures works.
It’s a series of humorous video clips targeting cat lovers and pet owners. It fits with the audience and content that’s being shared on BuzzFeed. And while it looks like a BuzzFeed original, at the top you’ll see it’s sponsored by Target.
The post had more than 2,000 social media impressions in 60 days. This campaign worked for Target to engage the BuzzFeed audience and get customers – if Target was doing native advertising on a more mature website, they’d need a different angle.
Customizing your approach for different platforms doesn’t mean you’re being inauthentic (a cardinal sin for inbound marketing). We’d have a different conversation if we met at a networking event than if we met on the tennis courts. Customizing your message means you understand how to tell your story in context.
And we all know context is king.
p.s. Need a quick overview of your native advertising options?
Check out The Native Adscape Reference Tool – it gives you a visual representation of the landscape, and will help you make a more informed decision about what platforms will maximize the impact of your native campaigns. Forbes also does a more indepth overview of several native channels that’s worth a peak.
2. Leverage Platforms That Evoke Trust
Trust is crucial to winning customers from content marketing – and since native advertising is simply paid content marketing, trust is crucial to native advertising too.
In November 2012, MediaBrix did a survey to discover which native ads we find the most misleading.
As you can see, only 45% of us found Promoted Tweets misleading, whereas 86% of us were turned off by Sponsored Video Ads. So, focusing on platforms where customers are naturally more trusting is an easy way to maximize your returns from native advertising.
One more thing.
Don’t pretend native advertising isn’t advertising. While you want to blend with the medium, it’s important to show you’re sponsoring the content.
BuzzFeed does a good job of this. If you look at the cat post, you’ll see they have a sentence at the top showing the post is sponsored, and a Target logo linking to a page showcasing the partnership. Some sites aren’t as obvious.
The only thing we find odd about Mashable’s sponsored content arrangement is that the advertiser only sponsors the content for a week. After that, the only trace is their name in the tag at the bottom of the post.– SayDaily.com, 2013
When organizing native advertising opportunities, try to ensure the “sponsored by” message is permanent. It gives your brand another chance to be seen (and clicked on), plus it shows readers you’re not hiding the fact you’re sponsoring the post.
Be proud of what you share – if you don’t want your name associated with the content, chances are it’s not on brand.
3. Understand The Growth Challenges
Native ads don’t scale like digital banner ads.
Each piece of native content is curated for a specific channel.
This is why what you say in a LinkedIn Sponsored Post will be different than a Promoted Tweet – because of the layout restrictions and the reality that people talk differently in different places. This makes it difficult to repeat native ads across multiple placements, as they need to be curated.
Harvard Business Review discusses this challenge in a February 2013 issue.
If advertisers are going to have to create unique formats mixed with unique content for each and every different channel and platform, it’s going to massively affect not only budgets and timelines, but also a brand’s ability to get their message out to a larger audience in the same way that they used to.– Harvard Business Review, 2013
If you’re looking for easy reach across multiple networks, native advertising isn’t it. However, knowing banner ad click through rates have declined by 4,500% over the last 12 years (from 9% to 0.2%), and that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than click on a banner ad, maybe scaling digital displays isn’t your primary concern.
That’s what will make your native advertising effective. Instead of maximizing your reach, adjust how you measure success and focus on engagement. Your goal is to find and convert customers, a more targeted approach is often better.
#1 Challenge: No Benchmark
This brings us to one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when getting customers with native advertising – there are no industry standards or benchmarks to measure the success of your campaigns. This makes it harder to determine how you’re doing (compared to how you should or could be doing), as you have little to compare your results to other than your goals and previous campaigns.
The best advice from digital experts to overcome this challenge is something you (hopefully) already do – track campaigns across multiple platforms in detail, test minor and major content changes, and continually adapt your goals based on results.
Basically, keep track of what’s driving customers.
p.s. It’s unlikely you’ll get the results you want from one video, editorial or sponsored tweet, so don’t be afraid to repeat your content. This is why Target is doing a series of editorials for pet owners. Just like with digital media, your customers benefit from multiple touch points.
4. Stay On Brand, Quietly
It’s tempting to be more adventurous with native advertising than other forms of communication.
This is part of what makes native advertising fun! The only danger is that you’ll get swept away in the hype and create a campaign that strays too far from your brand, making it difficult to attract potential customers.
If your native content feels off, chances are it is. We can’t all be RedBull and break the sound barrier.
At the same time, you don’t want to be too overly promotional about your company or you’ll scare people away.
How do you find the balance?
It all comes down to how you say what you say.
As inbound marketing leader HubSpot says, “This is the one thing most companies get wrong.” A native advertising writeup, or advertorial, is not a press release – while you want to showcase your brand, it’s not all about you. Win customers over by finding something in your story that they can relate to.
Charmin did a good job of this sponsoring 14 Things We’d Only Read In The Bathroom, as did Oreo with their pride campaign on Facebook (which had over 295,000 shares and 90,000 comments), and Porsche with their home design contest on Fast Company (shown above).
When customers find your angle interesting, they’re more likely to share your native content. If not, they won’t. Take time to find something that’s on brand and worth sharing.
Find the heart of your story, and be present in it, quietly.
5. Be Aggressive With Mobile
I’m also convinced that there is perhaps no medium that showcases native advertising’s potential better than mobile.
If you can only choose one native advertising platform, make sure it has mobile distribution. This is where native advertising will really take off and give you a chance to attract customers when they’re on the go.
How do you know if a native platform has mobile distribution?
The Native Adscape Reference Tool is a good place to start.
And while it’s early days for mobile specific native advertising solutions, some networks are already becoming the “go to favourite.”
The Atlantic’s digital publication, Quartz, is getting rave reviews (despite their Scientology hiccup) for allowing you to deliver content primarily designed for mobile devices. So is the mobile news app Pulse, which has a goal of making news fun and engaging on tablets, and Foursquare’s Promoted Updates, which allows you to engage with people searching for local businesses on their phone when they’re near you.
Conclusion: Get Customers With Native Advertising
Native advertising must fit with your overall content strategy – a piecemeal approach won’t work.
As more of us are becoming content marketers, it will be harder to rise about the noise and create content people love. Native or not.
You’ll succeed if you remember the goal of content marketing. It isn’t to sell your products or services, it’s to inform or entertain people so you can build relationships with them and convert them into customers over time. This is why it’s critical to build an inbound marketing funnel that attracts and converts the right customers.
Finally, while creating content can be expensive, especially if you’re new to native advertising, it doesn’t have to be. Many companies have built successful content campaigns with little to no budget. Don’t be afraid to start small and expand. Native advertising won’t disappear anytime soon, and as long as your content is consistent and reflects the native tongue of the platform, neither will you.
So, what are some challenges you face with getting customers from native advertising?