Marketers are becoming increasingly aware that consumers are no longer responding to traditional adverts, finding them intrusive and overwhelming. As consumer habits evolve, methods of advertising need to keep up. Recently, the concept of native advertising has been generating a lot of buzz – and with good reason – as studies suggest that 70% of consumers prefer to learn about products through content as opposed to traditional advertising methods.
This is native advertising: exclusive content which visually matches the design of the platform it’s displayed on, and that functions exactly like the platform’s usual media content. That might be an in-feed Instagram post, or a journalistic piece in an online newspaper. In fact, native advertising can be anything from a blog post to a viral quiz.
Consumers are open to native advertising
Business Insider’s recent report suggests that consumers are generally positive to good native advertising, this is no doubt due to the fact that it doesn’t disrupt their experience of the media they are consuming – unlike a traditional display or banner ad.
According to Sharethrough, native ads registered 9% higher lift for brand affinity responses than banner ads, and can be a great way to engage with consumers by offering them content that is useful or entertaining, all while generating leads for your business. MDG’s study shows that people who click on native ads have higher brand loyalty (32%) than those who click on banners (23%).
Good native advertising content creates better user experiences and can create trust in the brand behind the content.
We know that native advertising is effective
Using neuroscience and eye-tracking technology, Sharethrough studied how consumers visually process mobile ads. According to their study, consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than banner ads, and 25% more consumers looked at in-feed native ad placements than display ad units.
Another study showed native ads draw higher click-through rates (CTR) than banner ads, particularly on mobile devices. And when consumers do click on native ads, they are more likely to follow through; purchase intent of those who click on native ads is 18% higher than those who click on banner ads.
As social media continues to grow, each platform is embracing native ads. Business Insider notes that for many of the fastest-growing social media applications, like Twitter and Instagram, native advertising is the only way to reach their audience. They predict that spending on native ads will reach $21 billion in 2018, of which $11.9 billion will be on social-native.
In addition, social-native lends itself to consumer engagement, for example through likes, shares or retweets, which then can expand the reach of your content and create more awareness. Sharethrough states that 32% of respondents said they would share a native ad with a friend or family member.
Use all available tools
As well as sponsored content and other manually implemented native ads, there are many other native ad formats which can be automated such as in-feed, search, content recommendation, and promoted listings. Tools like Facebook Business Manager can amplify your content on social media, and retarget your audience. Similarly, Outbrain is another source which can magnify your content through well-known media publishers, and target your particular audience.
Who can benefit from native advertising?
So, which type of company can use native advertising to engage with their consumers and attract followers for their brand? The answer is all of them! Pretty much any business will be able to create a native marketing strategy– whether a new start-up, an industry giant like Microsoft or PayPal or even a small business like a family-run bakery. In short, any industry can use aspects of native advertising to create awareness and brand engagement.
Native advertising can be used to promote a new product or service, boost awareness about an event, or anchor a brand’s identity. Sharethrough’s report states 97% of mobile media buyers deem native ads as very or somewhat effective at achieving branding goals.
Is sponsored content the future of (native) advertising?
Sponsored content is probably the most well known facet of native advertising, and can be a brilliant method to attract an audience. A study by Sharethrough showed that visual attention to native ads was nearly equivalent to the visual engagement of original editorial content, with consumers reading the articles for practically the same amount of time.
A recent example of good sponsored content in an effective native advertising campaign is Netflix’s 2014 collaboration with ‘The New York Times’ to promote an upcoming series of the TV series ‘Orange is the New Black,’ which consisted of an in-depth article examining women’s prisons. The content was high quality and matched the usual editorial content of the publication, thus appealing to its readers.
In 2015 Netflix partnered with ‘The Wall Street Journal’ on an interactive article concerning the Medellin drug cartels, which was part of its promotion of its TV series ‘Narcos’. Again it offered readers deeper engagement with Netflix’s products.
Let’s not forget too that native ads are an effective way to market a product in spite of the prevalence of ad blocking software. We know that consumers are not keen on adverts, and the phenomenon of ‘banner blindness’ means that they actively ignore them. Native advertising seeks to counteract that with integrated adverts that offer high quality content but that more importantly is under the radar of ad blockers.
So, how best to harness native advertising?
Word of mouth also impacts on our buying habits. According to McKinsey, “Marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” Influencer marketing recreates our tendency to follow the advice of people we trust, by matching products and brands to influential people whose opinions will guide their audience.
The best return on investment combines sponsored content with influencer marketing.
The way this works is as follows: the first step involves identifying the right influencer for your brand; that’s to say, someone who has the right following (your target audience) and publishes interesting and relevant content at regular intervals. Another important factor is the number of hits they receive each month and the size of their social communities. Most important is the engagement that their posts generate (likes, shares, comments). Do they start conversations?
Then you need to start telling your story. Collaborate with the influencer to create something new. Their followers will expect content that fits their editorial line, so you may need to accept that your message will be reformulated in order to fit with the audience’s expectations; after all the audience comes to the influencer because they like their style and what they have to say.
Along with strategic storytelling, visuals can be vital calls-to-action, for example use of infographics, videos and data visualization.
The next step is to amplify your content– a good way of doing this is through native ads on Facebook or other social media platforms, which will address a new or larger audience and generate more engagement.
Sponsored content can clearly offer real value to its audience, but how can you measure its impact on your brand? Firstly, the amount of engagement the post creates: is it being shared, commented upon? We can monitor and track these positive online conversations.
And finally, of course, clicks. Measurably high click-through rates are a direct way to see the impact of your strategy.
These days, consumers are highly aware and technologically savvy. In order to reach them marketers need to consider the principles of marketing 3.0 and recognise that consumers are human, and as such will intrinsically prefer brands that reflect their lifestyles and offer them a deeper connection. Influencer marketing (along with sponsored content) is a way to engage with an audience and reveal your brand to consumers in a way which is authentic.