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July 25, 2017
Advertising  |  9 min read

Native Advertising: How and Why to Use It

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John Rampton

Advertising is a staple of marketing that has provided companies and brands with a way to sell to their audience for centuries. However, today's savvy audiences are more informed and connected, and they are not interested in being sold to.

This has led marketers to go back to the drawing board and find a different way to sell that feels less like selling. Instead, consumers and businesses are both looking for companies to provide them with valuable advice and solutions.

Marketers have tried many things with native advertising as one of the latest attempts to win over their targets. Despite some controversy, this advertising, which is actually paid content under the guise of what appears to be organic content, may actually be working. But, this content still has to give a value. It can’t just be all about advertising the business.

Here are some reasons why you should consider native advertising followed by some suggested tactics for incorporating it into your marketing strategy.

Why use native advertising

Here are some of the compelling reasons why I've added native advertising to my own marketing strategy:

  • It's accessible to businesses of all sizes rather than requiring a large buy-in, which leads small businesses and startups out in the cold.

    Even the smallest of companies can take advantage of this advertising. As a startup business, I could create my own custom content and generate the ads myself that fit within my limited budget.

  • Engagement levels are much higher than other types of advertising because the ads are not intrusive and don't interfere with the user experience like pop-ups and they deliver valuable information that the audience members may already be seeking.

    IPG reported that consumers engaged with native ads 53 percent more than traditional display ads. Nearly 32 percent were also compelled to share a native ad with their social circles.

  • Customized targeting enabled by native advertising provides a better return on investment than other types of traditional digital advertising tactics. It's one of the few advertising mediums where I can feel confident that those seeing my native ad are actually within my target audience of freelancers and business owners.

    The prime customer is interested in the informative content I'm creating about how to handle invoicing and payments in an efficient way.

  • Native ads are transparent because they are labeled as ads so that users know what they are, maintaining an honest relationship with your audience.

    There's no point in trying to fool an audience that is highly aware of online marketing tactics. At the same time, these ads blend in more to the overall online experience.

  • Because the ad is focused on valuable content, when the user actually clicks on it, you have a better chance of converting that lead since they are more interested in what you are offering compared to other ad formats.

    Shareaholic discovered that 70 percent of those surveyed want to learn about products through content rather than ad copy.

  • There are numerous formats now available, offering more ways to engage with your audience. These native ad formats include in-feed ads, paid search ads, recommendation widgets, promoted listings, IAB standard ads with native element units, and custom ad units.

Establishing native ad goals and purpose

Now that you are convinced why you should try it, the next step is figuring out how to get started on your very first native campaign that integrates into your other marketing tactics.

You will want to list all of your marketing tactics. It is important to first establish goals and align these with your existing initiatives and messaging to create a consistent look and feel across all channels.

These goals may involve deciding where you want your audience to consume the content and what they want to get from it as a call to action on their part.

Determine if you are trying to generate leads or develop your thought leadership capabilities with these native ads.

Once you know the purpose of these native ads, you need to decide what you are going to say in them based on the audience segment you are targeting.

You can customize the content to this particular segment by discovering what they are most interested in or have been searching for so that you can make those areas your topics for the native ads.

This is one reason why so many native ads appear on social media sites because there is a wealth of available demographic information that can facilitate targeting more so than other channels.

Native ad platforms and content creation

Consider the various social media platforms that deliver native ads, including those from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. Each has a different purpose and audience focus.

Some even offer you a range of native advertising formats like LinkedIn, which has sponsored content, sponsored InMail, and dynamic ads. You'll just need to do some work in regards to understanding the audience you are targeting to see which platforms they use the most.

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When you are ready to create your content, you can't focus on the idea that you are making an ad because the same creative processes and approach don't go into native ads.

Instead, go with the idea that is now being used for this type of marketing tactic: earned media. You are creating information and news for an audience, but it is being run because you are paying to put it out there.

In this way, think of the type of approaches that are used for writing a blog or article where you tell a story and provide more details to hold the audience's attention.

Test and revise

You may not hit the target on your first native ad campaign. To understand how your native campaign is performing, use tools that measure the impact it is having or where there are issues.  

Metrics should include page views, conversions, the amount of time spent on the page, the number of conversions and referrals you get, impressions and links out, and any overall responses related to engagement and audience feedback.

The use of A/B tests can also help you refine the technical elements of your native ad down to the headlines, images, copy size and format, and specific offer within your native ad.

The results you gather by watching these metrics at many levels will provide the blueprint you need to make your information serve you. Then you can change the information that doesn’t bring about your desired results.

You will know where to retarget, how to better engage your audience, and create a clear native ad for them. You will know and be comfortable in the way you are interacting with your client or customer in a way that gets them to follow that call-to-action—and share it with others.

There's a definite learning curve with native ads, but it is one that allows you to test and revise without losing your audience in the process.

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John Rampton Bio Photo Small.jpeg

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru, and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the payments company Due.com.


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