Native ads are now king

How to use content style promotions on social media

'Blend in to the environment’: it sounds like a military command and certainly not a concept you would associate with the execution of an advertising campaign. Surely the aim is to stand out from the crowd?

Well, when it comes to promoting your information online on social media, it is exactly the best way to get the optimal response.

This is the changing face of advertising today. The shift to online advertising from traditional media has largely taken place, varying in degree, sector by sector. In 2018, one of the main challenges facing anyone trying to promote their book or information, is deciding which one of the bewildering types of online advert to invest in.

If you are trying to communicate to a professional audience, then let's take an example of the kind of digital options you have within social networks.

Say, for example you are promoting a new book. As well as traditional direct mail and emails you want to invite anyone interested in our topic to look at a review of it on online or via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

So what are your choices? In short there are three main ones:

- Display

- Messaging apps

- Native adverts

In this piece we are going to focus on native advertising but it is worth explaining the other two options.

Messaging is a very new channel, and is mainly the preserve of the youth market. Tools like WhatsApp and Instagram enable users to send pictures or quite simple text messages to each other. The apps are free but are funded by taking adverts in various setting in the messages. This offers opportunities for a certain demographic but is not core to our example here.

Display advertising

These are also more commonly known as banner ads.

They have probably been around for the longest time in terms of online advertising.
You can place them in a variety of locations. The most traditional use is on a relevant site to your work. For example, publisher’s sites, or bookstores, perhaps those that feature your book’s topic.

Studies show that though they offer an attractive reach, because they are cheap in the main, their effectiveness is waning.  Often it is common for publishers to offer them for free or do a banner 'swap' with another site, where you link to each other’s sites via an online advert.

The problem with this type of promotion is that it so easily ‘skimmed past’ by the human eye. Banner ads often get a click rate of no more than 0.5%. This is a because we are so used to, as readers on the web, mentally discarding promotional 'noise ' like pop ups, or to a lesser extent, big feature header banners themselves.

Banner ads on both social media and Google display networks (a way of placing promotion on many other websites that Google has spots in) are also an option. However they expect you to 'bid’ for good position and traffic. That can prove costly as you pay for every click and if there is competition for the subject area, you may be forced to bid as much as $3 or $4 for every click!

Also there is a wider threat. Many web browsers have software that eliminates promotional messages straight away such as 'ad blocker', meaning there is an initial barrier to get round.

When trying to attract reader attention, is it any wonder that native content is becoming so many web marketers’ main focus?

So what about native advertising?

The recognised definition (Google) is that it is ‘a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed’.

The obvious direct print equivalent is the advertorial. Although these have also grown in popularity, due perhaps the rise in free newspapers, the digital equivalent has become a phenomenon.

LinkedIn: Native Content Ads

Let's look at perhaps the best home for this for business authors, LinkedIn.

Because Linkedin is a business network, it is a great way for professional writers to target browsers with a very close personal interest in the topic of the item they have published.
LinkedIn offers several ways to do that. In keeping with the sentiment of this article, it is widely acknowledged that the banners don't get a good response for the money on the platform.

For virtually everyone, it is the timeline/feed posts that we look at, because they contain a mix of updates from our friends and colleagues past and present, business tips and inspirational quotes and memes.

A native advert goes into this well viewed timeline, meaning it is mixing our paid for message with the welcome 'free' content.

Native sponsored adverts cost more but fulfil our ambition, because purely and simply they are going to get more of the right kind of attention.

Although the adverts are served with the necessary disclaimer (The phrase ‘promoted content’ or similar will appear at the top), they appear in the same format, mostly pictorial and can start working for you.

There is a full technical guide on how to do it from LinkedIn here.

But here are some strategic points to help before you start, covering LinkedIn and other platforms:

- Keep it visual. Heavy text adverts don't work nearly as well. Facebook has a rule to this extent, a quite low minimum % of the advert that features words

- Try and make it engaging and interesting. Here's some really good case studies from award winning adverts on LinkedIn. Here we can see that virtually all of them encourage interaction via asking a question or imparting business information as the very nature of the concept of the ad, making them more like ‘infomercials’.

- Try different things. Testing two types of post promoting the same thing and seeing which gets the most response is a common and easy thing to do.

- Link your ad to a highly relevant and interesting page on your website. With a clear 'call to action' that is guiding the reader to what you would like them to do, say buy or download a free article and make it quick and easy.

Do this well and it's likely you will be able to move your spend into this type of activity. It is very likely to pay off. The figures back it up:

According to a study by Sharethrough, consumers looked at native ads 53% more often than display ads. Consumers were also 32% more likely to share a native ad than a display ad.

At the same time it is also worth exploring free avenues of native content promotion, such as writing blogs for guest sites and using PR and media to get mentions in relevant trade articles or maybe even a whole feature, with links to your site.

There is no doubt this is where online promotion is going, so dive in and…go native.

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