Native advertising has been around for quite some time. And now it’s found a new home in the digital world. The Internet offers marketers new ways of using this tactic effectively. As such, the basic definition of native advertising has changed quite a lot and has broadened its scope.
What Is Native Advertising?
Strictly speaking, native advertising is any piece of sponsored content that matches the layout of the platform it’s published on. In other words, native advertising blends in with the other pieces of content, to the point where it doesn’t look like sponsored content at all.
It first started in print media, as advertorials. These articles that looked and read just like regular editorials, but they were designed to advertise a certain service or range of products.
On the internet, marketers have many more options when it comes to native advertising. They can sponsor results in Google Search. They appear above organic results, with a small box marked ‘ad’ next to it. Similarly, on Facebook, you can pay for sponsored ads to appear in news feeds, just like regular Facebook content. And the field of native advertising will keep on growing.
It’s often confused with sponsored content. Sponsored content is indeed one of the options of native advertising. Native ads, however, refer to any and all media used to promote a business.
Because native advertising is made to blend in with non-sponsored content, many find it controversial. Some believe its purpose is to trick users. This is why most online platforms, be it Google Search or Twitter, place a visible marker next to the paid content to notify users that it’s a sponsored ad.
More than that, it’s unclear how exactly paid content tricks users into anything. If they find the content useful, they will follow up on it. If they don’t, they just move on, much like they would with any type of advertisement. In a 2012 poll, over 60% of the respondents claimed paid videos that looked like regular content was misleading. Yet, three years later, video content was showing signs that it was slowly going to outpace the more popular and perhaps less misleading banner ads.
Native advertising, however, is not as disruptive as banner ads, for example. It doesn’t interrupt the users flow when browsing through online content and it doesn’t ruin their experience. This is why native advertising can be a very powerful tool if used wisely.
How to Use It Effectively
Much like any form of content promotion, there’s a good way and a bad way to use native advertising. Obviously, the worst thing you can do is exactly what everyone thinks native ads do, and that’s trying to deceive your readers. The reason why these ads are vilified is because they stand out in a negative way. Good native ads blend seamlessly within the pages of a site, such that readers don’t even know it’s there.
Provide Quality Content
No matter what the underlying purpose of your content is, you should always make it good, first and foremost. Focusing on the quality of your content, and the enjoyment readers get out of it is going to help you bring in more potential customers than if you just inform them that your business exists. After all, if you’re not going to make an effort to create quality content, you could just as well use banner ads.
Bring Them to Your Website
If you want to use native advertising effectively, the content ultimately has to bring your readers back to your website. Say, for example, you want to encourage users to take a customer feedback survey. Often times, users simply don’t think it’s worth their time to take it or they aren’t even aware of it. Simply prompting them to complete the survey rarely works. So, give them a detailed account of the purpose of the survey and how the process will unfold, with a link back to it on your website. Users are more likely to go back to it if they see an impartial mediator vouching for it. The same applies to products and services.
Make It Shareable
Users are much more likely to share native advertising than other types of ads. Especially if the content provides more value beyond its marketing purpose. If users are encouraged to share your content, you are bound to reach a much broader audience with little to no effort. Creating shareable content for native advertising is no different than creating any other type of content.
Don’t Attempt to Deceive Your Users
At worst, native advertising is not going to hit its mark, and you won’t be able to attract new customers with it. It’s wasted effort and money, but at least your brand image remains intact. However, if you try to force your native advertising, this can actually damage your brand in the future. And it’s much harder to fix it once users become aware of your tactics. This is why you should never attempt to deceive your readers. Web-savvy users are already quite good at spotting this sort of deception, so don’t think you can get away with it.
Play to Your Host’s Strengths
Each social media platform has a well-defined audience and a clear layout that works. And the same goes for websites. You should take a very close look at where you want to promote your content and see how you can use their format to your advantage. Facebook and Twitter, for example, work very well for personal content. You can promote specific products or services on websites that favor analysis and case studies through other types of content.
As websites continue to diversify and new media emerges, we’re likely going to see an explosion of native ads that become more and more creative. Native advertising is certainly going to become a staple of online marketing, and specialists will have to find new and innovative ways to create content to stay ahead of their competition.
Over to you
What has been your experience with native advertising in your marketing mix? Tell us your story in the comments below.