I’m halfway through Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest book, Jab Jab Jab Right Hook (thanks again @garyvee for the signed first edition!) and a recurring concept throughout the book is native advertising. Although the words are never spoken, it’s a term the savviest digital marketer’s are familiar with.
Before we go further, what is native advertising? In my own words, native advertising is a practice by which a writer’s message accomplishes two goals: First, it fits in with the design of the platform it’s being displayed on. Second, it aligns with the experience of the user and looks like natural content rather than an ad. This means the writer can still message with the intent of getting the user to complete their desired action, but this typically occurs without “sales-y” verbiage or verbiage that uses big, bold calls to action. If you currently advertise your business through a social network and aren’t adopting these native concepts, now’s a good time to start experimenting. Here’s why:
1. Users don’t go to social networks to see ads
They just don’t. For example, Facebook walks a fine line because they rely heavily on repeat visitors to their site. If advertising clutters the user experience and it becomes sub-optimal for their users, their proportion of traffic from repeat visitors will decrease. Native advertising “fits in” with the user experience by providing them with messaging they expect to see, even if you want them to complete an action like download an eBook or register for a webinar.
2. In my testing, they’re more effective at generating leads than non-native messages
Using Twitter’s advertising platform, I was able to generate engagement rates 5 times higher using a native message over a non-native message, solely based on one example. By adopting a similar strategy for Facebook, you’ll be able to rely on each platform’s targeting capabilities to reach new user’s with messages you may already be using.
3. Facebook doesn’t care if your ads generate sales. They care if their audience finds them engaging.
Native messages do just that. Due to the fact that they don’t look spammy, contain buzzwords, or promote big calls to action, they don’t interrupt the user experience as much and therefore, Facebook users find them more engaging as a result. This is what Facebook cares about. These engagement metrics (likes, shares, comments) are social signals Facebook uses to measure engagement. If you publish a social post to those that “like” your page, your promoted message is initially only ever display ed to 3-5% of those people. To generate more impression share, your ads better have high engagement metrics. This algorithm was formerly called EdgeRank. Although the term has disappeared, the underlying concept still exists.
4. The value is in the targeting, nothing else
“If it’s not an ad, why should I pay to promote it?” Is a common question I’ve heard from those that haven’t adopted the practice. The clear answer here is that when you’re paying to promote a message that looks like your natural content, your taking advantage of the targeting options of the platform. That’s where the value is. When you can extend your reach to new users that fit the profile of your existing audience, you’re able to get your brand, product, or service in front of users that in theory, are interested. From here, you’ll be able to monitor engagement rates and further refine your targeting.
5. It’s cheap, for now
To be honest, there aren’t many paid channels left that haven’t faced rising costs due to competition. Facebook and Twitter are two of them. While Facebook’s costs have in fact increased over the past year, it’s still priced fairly relative to similar targeting through other channels. I’d recommend getting in now while you can, so you can test and refine before prices continue to increase.
I haven’t yet tested native advertising concepts on Linkedin, but I suspect success can be had with minor tweaks. As one takeaway, I strongly recommend that advertiser’s don’t copy/paste their ads across networks. Consider your audience and the platform each time you publish an ad. One format and message that may work on Twitter may not (and most likely won’t) work just as well on Twitter. If you’re interested in other ways you can advertise natively, refer to ShareThrough’s Native AdScape below. If you’ve already experimented with native ads, whether it be on a social network or elsewhere. I’d love your feedback. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat.