If you’re the owner of a small business or part of a smaller marketing team, the term “native advertising” is probably nothing new to you. The ad game has been influx for years now with a shift to organic, or native, advertising. This just means fewer gimmicky ad banners and pop-ups and more high-quality content that gets “suggested” to you while online.
For most marketing teams, native advertising yields desirable results; though most teams still use a blend of paid and organic advertising (which is still a smart move). But the age-old struggle of small businesses getting their high-quality content in front of their target audience still exists.
Today, the goal isn’t to just make it to the top of Google search, but rather to the publications and social media channels where your audience spends most of their time. Big companies tend to have more resources and money, sure, but the good news is that in organic advertising, it’s not necessarily about how much money you have but rather how you play the game.
What not to Do
Before we get into how to optimize your website and content for native advertising campaigns, here are a few big business uh-ohs to learn from. These are important to know about because the FTC and NAD are taking a more active interest and role in native advertising. Small businesses want to avoid getting tangled up in things like this:
- This July of 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement against Warner Bros. that it paid online influencers to post encouraging gameplay videos for its video game, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Modor.
- Last Spring, Lord, and Taylor got in hot water with the FTC for not requiring fashion bloggers posting pictures of themselves in a specific dress to disclose that they were paid for their Instagram posts.
- Joyous (seller of a popular wrinkle relaxing cream) got into trouble with the National Advertising Division (NAD) that found the company featuring their product in videos on the “Stuff We Love” section of People Magazine online as if chosen by the editorial staff of the magazine rather than as advertising for their product.
Lessons to take away from these mishaps include making it 100 percent clear any connection between your brand and any influencer. If you have a product or service you hire people to review/use and spread the word, that needs to be disclosed (whether on social media or otherwise.) Another tip offered in an article by Lexology advice; “Brands and ad agencies need to monitor what’s going on, including reviewing native advertising content before it’s posted and taking down any problematic content.” Even though you’re a small business, monitoring is still very important to maintain the integrity of your brand.
Sponsored Content is King
“The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) estimates that U.S. spending on native advertising will grow to $13.9 billion in 2016 and $21 billion by 2018.” Marketing dollars should rightfully so go into native ad campaigns, and sponsored content is one growing trend not to vanish soon.
The problem with smaller businesses is that other sponsored content can push out their content. One way to help content stay afloat amongst the big boys is to use Content Discovery Platforms (CDPs). CDPs (Outbrain and Taboola for example), recommend specific content to highly sought after publications where your specific target audience would naturally be. For example, say you’re a law firm with great blog section on your website. CDPs can promote articles from your website’s blog to publications like Forbes where your content is “suggested” alongside articles on topics related to law.
Most CDPs allow you to set a daily budget and cost-per-click so you’ll only pay for visits you receive until the budget is hit. This makes them fairly cost-effective; ideal for small businesses.
Overall, CDPs are a way to sort of level the playing field if you have high-quality content and a target audience in mind. As part of a dynamic marketing campaign that includes social media campaigns, etc., CDPs can help small businesses grow in the native advertising space by increasing web traffic and upping engagement, among many other benefits.
When assessing your small business’ native marketing campaign, it’s not just about the quality of your content that matters. A significant focus should be on engaging your target audience, on a regular basis.
Beyond sponsored content, there are other ways to get in front of your target audience through a native ad campaign. Different ways to boost engagement with your brand should center on creative uses of social media channels. Use them all, but use them all in similar ways to maintain the voice and goal of your brand. One idea is to engage consumers in a contest or giveaway that requires that they add their own two cents (have them make a comment, share, etc.). This might not be anything new as we see contests using hashtags and shares all day long, but it’s a way to get in front of consumers by offering an incentive.
One note on Facebook: When using Facebook, it might actually be smarter to focus on engagement versus content distribution since the most recent update to the rules on native advertising on Facebook work against advertisers. As a small business, native advertising can cost up to 3 times more than ad banners so save your marketing money here and just use Facebook for engagement and visibility purposes.
Other ideas for social media usage that’s free are to humanize your brand through author bios and to use individuals on your marketing team to specifically reach out to individual consumers. Commenting on social media feeds, responding to comments, etc. all can put a face to your brand. Today, consumers want to feel heard, so capitalize on this.
A few words about your website, because it matters….a lot.
A small business’ website has to compete with huge players in the content marketing arena, so the last thing you want is a crappy website. You can easily get lost in the static too if you don’t make yourself more visible. Visibility and engagement go hand in hand.
A site built for lead generation will have a few qualities that include: a profession design with an easy to find navigation bar, a blog with relevant and updated content (that’s also optimized with keywords, etc.), social media icons that are present and easy to see, and an analytics tracking system that should be looked at on a weekly basis. There are free analytic tools (like Google Analytics) you can use, and there are other paid options, but looking at the health of your overall website. is going to let you know if your native ad campaign is working, or not. Free tools like speed tests and website graders can also help you to check the overall efficiency and functionality of your website.