The term 'Native Advertising' seems to be the latest buzz term with marketers at the moment. It's quite a young concept and one that people are still getting their heads around but, in some form or another, it has actually been around for some time. Some businesses know they need to jump on top of it but aren't really sure how, or even why.
Traditional display advertising has been dying quite a slow and brutal death over the last 13 years. In 2000, the average click through rate for banner ads was 8% – now it's only 0.2%.
Native advertising makes sense in our content, value-driven world - and what's more it works in synergy with user experience. Everyone can win now.
Today we're going to teach you what exactly native advertising is, the most successful methods of using it (so far) and finally where call tracking fits in with all of this.
What IS native advertising anyway?
Native advertising is basically the organic integration of high quality content into a given website or platform. It doesn't interrupt the flow of the content and sits in synergy with the user experience.
Basically — it is contextualised content delivered within a website's stream. Take BuzzFeed for example:
You can clearly see which of these posts are sponsored stories, but they're not intrusive — nor do they derive from the overall experience of the site. They look just like part of BuzzFeed's content, like they’re "part of the furniture” – much like our call tracking system.
Although the above is a good example, native advertising can come in many formats, shapes and sizes across all kinds of platforms. They can be found as sponsored posts, photos, web films, long form video or even interactive graphics.
In truth, native advertising has been around for quite awhile; Facebook have been using sponsored stories and Twitter have their promoted tweets — all of which are forms of native advertising. Even StumbleUpon have been on the ball with their 'Paid Discovery' feature for years.
It's in the last two quarters or so that people have really been waking up to the benefits of native advertising. It's becoming harder and harder to use digital display advertising because not as many people read it anymore. The term "content is king" is often over-used, but it is an accurate and relevant one.
This is why many people are starting to use the methods mentioned above (as well as others that are beginning to adopt a 'native advertising' platform into their content streams and overall user experience) to align themselves with the New Economy's ways, that being 'value first, selling last'.
Although best practices have yet to be established, there are definitely some 'do's and dont's' when it comes down to using native advertising. Let's take a look at some ways that you can successfully use it to your advantage:
How to use native advertising
There have been some notably bland uses of native advertising, namely from an effectiveness point of view, but the content has still been quite high quality. It's the end game in mind that has let many advertisers down.
Let's take an example straight from BuzzFeed, and see what it is they're currently doing. I've taken the Sony Entertainment Network in this case:
Check out these images – what do you notice? To me, it seems like this is all a branding play. With the second screenshot above, which shows what can be found at the bottom of a particular article, there’s no call to action but a video and the implied feeling of "what next?"
What many of these advertisers may not know is that native advertising can act as a means to an end, but most are treating it as the end — that being getting someone to read your content and to 'build the brand'. Native advertising can actually power your inbound marketing if you use basic inbound elements in your native content.
- Firstly, get your content created (either in house or by the publisher). It should be educational and informative, and above all value-driven.
- Then create a landing page that offers something relevant to the content that's being given and place it within the story somewhere, whether that be within the content, at the end of it or both. You may need to agree on this with the publisher.
- Try and get the publisher to agree to sharing the landing page link in other relevant areas throughout the site, such as links in other articles, those now-wasted banner ads as well as email newsletters and in social media.
- From there you would enter the leads you generate through your usual nurturing funnel.
Just by adding simple inbound elements we've turned a simple piece of brand building content into a vessel for lead generation. Native advertising should be a method of driving traffic and providing value at the same time. Brand building is a dead-play.
Where does call tracking fit into this?
Like any and all marketing efforts, you need to be tracking and measuring the performance of your native advertising to see if it's actually working. I personally see a bright future for this method of inbound marketing, but like all things we need to test, track, measure and optimise.
Be sure to test on a small scale first with a publisher that is relevant to what you offer, and track it using technology like Google Analytics and call tracking in order to see if it brings in the right quantity (and type) of leads.
If all looks well, then go ahead and start rolling out on a larger scale, always optimising along the way. As this platform starts to scale we hope to see A/B testing functionality as well as other features that would help advertisers get the most out of their efforts, but until then dip your feet in the water, keep an open mind and see what happens.