Native content is set to grow phenomenally in the next few years. Estimates predict that as much as $3bn will be invested in native advertising formats by 2016. But there are many definitions about what native content actually is.
Some simply view native content as a form of media that’s built into the actual visual design of a web page, where the ‘ads’ are part of the content or the content itself.
Some view native content as a rehash of print advertorials for a digital age. Meanwhile, others see them as the future for platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and more to monetise their offerings without resorting to intrusive banner display advertising. Facebook’s sponsored news stories and Twitter’s promoted tweets are forms of native content promotion. Sponsored posts on key blogs and niche publishers, as well as promoted videos, are also forms of native content.
Content marketing, native content – whatever term you like to use, it essentially comes down to one simple rule: if you want to engage with your customers online, and be rewarded with brand appeal, you have to give them something they really want. It’s that easy – or difficult.
In a media landscape where consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages each day, there is a lot of competition for time and ‘eyeballs’. In order to succeed, brands have to have something worthwhile to offer. Interruptions to the user experience are seldom rewarded. At best they are ignored and are therefore irrelevant; at worst they can really damage your brand.
Put content at the heart of your brand
To succeed, brands have to start thinking like publishers – offering their customers interesting and worthwhile content that they want to consume and share. This is native content. It is a subtle but significant change for some marketers in how they view the medium in which they operate.
Rather than be rewarded for ‘shouting the loudest and longest’, which is the traditional reward for spending a lot of money on marketing, for success nowadays you have to use creative techniques to earn that reward. It’s what those fond of buzzwords also often refer to as earned media.
Content marketing, native content, earned media – they more or less amount to the same thing as far as marketers need be concerned. In short, it is about invention, not intrusion; captivation not confinement; collaboration not control. Let me explain in more detail.
Invention not intrusion
There is no longer such a thing as a captive audience, online or off. There are too many other options. We all know this. So you need to be inventive for success. Whether this involves creating an in-depth piece of content offering advice; a humorous viral video; a competition; a social media campaign or otherwise, will depend on your business, but you need to offer some spark of invention – and content of some sort – to succeed.
Captivation not confinement
You can no longer confine your customers and hold them captive to your single advertising message. But you can captivate them. The definition of captivate is ‘to attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence’. The definition of captive is ‘forcibly confined, subjugated, or enslaved’. Similar words, different meanings. So look to publish interesting content; turn your brand into one that is known for publishing worthwhile information. Technology is on your side and you will be rewarded.
Collaboration not control
You cannot control everything that is being said about your brand. Collaborate with key opinion-formers – bloggers, publishers and social media personas – to boost engagement and, ideally, influence what is being said. Brands that do are rewarded for collaborating with key opinion-formers and engage with their customers in ways their competitors can only dream about.
There are a number of things to bear in mind when looking to succeed with native content. These include:
Pay attention to content strategy
In the past, many brands paid lip service to the creation of content, perhaps relying on their search engine optimisation (SEO) teams to churn out poor-quality content stuffed with links. This is not a native content strategy, it is a naive content strategy. Think about your content strategy carefully. It is the blueprint of who you are and what you do. Put your content strategy at the heart of what you do.
When it comes to native content strategy it’s not about pigeon-holing what you do into search, social, PR and display anymore. The size of the digital landscape has blurred these boundaries. SEO now relies heavily on great content; social media has always needed great content; PR and display increasingly need great content too. Native content can work independently and in conjunction across these marketing disciplines.
With so many possibilities for engagement and so many distribution points, brands can really be part of their customers’ lives like never before. Look to collaborate with quality independent publishers and bloggers – the places where your customers congregate online – to develop deep content partnerships that can amplify your brand message to highly engaged audiences.
Brands can also benefit from the expertise of native content networks. These distribution networks already have existing relationships with key influencers and can work with you to formulate content-led campaigns that reach your customer base.
Native content in summary
The phenomenal rise of social media as a distribution platform and meeting house for consumers means that the right content, created for the right people, distributed to the right audience, can now offer rewards to brands that far outweigh anything that can be achieved with more traditional forms of captive advertising.
Consumers are turned off by intrusive advertising formats and are looking to have a conversation with brands online. Native content in its myriad different guises allows brands to market to their customer bases in a way that fits in with online behaviour, while still allowing them to achieve their marketing goals.
It is relationship building, brand building marketing that is proven to reward those who practise it. And it’s here to stay.
Download a free guide to content marketing and native content at www.contentamp.com
Queen Annes Court
T 0845 200 1445