Native Advertising – should you be using it?

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According to a recent State of Native Advertising report from Hexagram and Spada, native advertising accounts for nearly 20% of total publisher revenues, with that number expected to climb to as much as 30% with a year. Blog posts, articles, and Facebook are the most popular forms of native advertising, while tags such as ‘sponsored’, ‘brought to you by’, and ‘featured’ are increasingly being used to identify native content. So what is “native advertising”, and should you be using it for your marketing efforts?

Native advertising is defined by Wikipedia as “a web advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.” In old-school marketing, we called this an “advertorial” and it has been a huge part of any direct marketing tool kit since the 1960s. By making it feel “real”, the advertiser is able to increase interest which leads to improved response rates.

The challenge in today’s digital age comes from the blurred lines between authenticity and paid content. Almost everything we see online these days is presented from a point of view, and sometimes it’s hard to judge whether it’s been paid for or is real. Take my own blog as an example. There are posts where I talk glowingly about a product, service or a client – is it because of a pre-existing relationship or because I am honestly that passionate about it? Sometimes, I go out of my way NOT to praise a client just to avoid any notion of impropriety.

But, when done right, there is no doubting native advertising is effective. So think about how you can integrate blog posts, social media and online referrals into your own marketing efforts. Always do so honestly, letting readers know that it’s marketing. But, if you can provide them with value you should get a return on your efforts. A running store should promote new routes to run, shoe models that may be of benefit, and share experiences that may relate to an upcoming event. This is all great content that provides value. And if it comes from an outside blogger, even better. Just make sure to disclose if they received any product considerations – or if they didn’t. Being honest with your readers just serves to increase the value of the content – and hopefully (in this case) drives traffic to your store.

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