2014: The Year of Native Content


The evolution of content that drives social media engagement is clearly moving to a level that will test the skills and commitment of online business marketers.

One reason for this is that we are no longer just working with, but also living in a world that expects content that perfectly suits their every need and desire.

In other words, online content is becoming universally accepted for educating, entertaining, inspiring, and informing. Therefore, it’s time to raise your game to meet the new expectations that people have for the media they prefer to consume.

The Community Determines What is Native

Native content is what works best within the context of a particular social media platform. It’s native or familiar to it.

For example, personal content that entertains or celebrates relationships with friends is native to Facebook – business advertising is not.

In my former career as a landscape architect, we occasionally designed landscapes that incorporated native plants – those that are indigenous to our region. These landscapes were typically the exception, because the generally accepted and desired plantings in the neighborhood communities we served were not technically native to the area.

Thus, the community determines what is native – not the marketer.

This is one reason native advertising is controversial. The term native advertising refers to paid or sponsored content that is designed to be native to the platform, having a look and feel that signals its value, while also subtly mentioning the brand or business that is sponsoring it. Pulling this off is with a discerning audience is no small accomplishment.

Native advertising is not going away. In fact, The New York Times just announced plans for native ads. However, for native advertising to work it will have to add significant value to the user experience.

Understanding your Customers is Now Paramount

It is indeed possible to develop advertising that respects the context and favorably contributes to the media experience, with Super Bowl advertising being a noteworthy example.

Nevertheless, despite the significant investment in those Super Bowl ads, many have been known to fall short expectations that are rising to new levels or every platform.

Native content by definition meets or exceeds these community expectations.

Therefore, the challenge  for every business that practices content and social media marketing is to recognize that these forms of social marketing are multidisciplinary, requiring business, social, and technical skills, and usually in that order.

Native content cannot be neatly defined. You simply know it when you see it.

Thus, to create true native content necessarily requires being sufficiently engaged with the communities your business serves. Only then can you know what the community would ask for if it knew how you can help them.

Get ready to better understand your customers in 2014. That immersion into the process of delivering exceptional customers experiences will help any business navigate the changes ahead.

I’ll see you there.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world.  Connect with  Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Photo Credit

Native Advertising: Content Marketing goes Mainstream

Just when you thought social media was going to rule the digital world, it is now clear that content is not only king – it is going mainstream with a new twist.

With more people sharing online content, and especially as more regular Joes and Janes are able to now call themselves publishers, content is now moving to center stage in new ways.

As new media challenged traditional media, banner and video ads were employed by traditional media outlets to monetize their content.

The realization has now dawned that their system is completely broken – people are not clicking on banner ads.

And why should they, you can get all of the free content you want by taking advantage of Google news. Consumers are not only ignoring banner ads, they despise their interruptive qualities.

Get ready for a new (sort of) kind of advertising that is designed to draw you in and hold your attention – it’s called native advertising.

Content Marketing vs Native Advertising

Content marketing is designed to build a relationship with your audience – by giving them valuable content that is designed especially for them. Content informs, it solves problems, and ideally also entertains whenever possible too.

Content marketing builds an audience to earn the opportunity to occasionally make offers to buy your products and services. Obviously, both the content and the offers are designed for a specific audience.

Native advertising is paid content marketing that most likely (but not always) includes a call-to-action for selling products and services. Promoted posts on Twitter are one form of native advertising – another are old-fashioned “advertorials” in newspapers and magazines (like the one in the image above).

The Truth About Native Advertising

You have already experienced native advertising. The only thing new is the name – and the fact that is sure to take marketing with content to a higher level, maybe even an art that fully uses all of the capabilities of digital media.

Native advertising in the form of long copy ads in newspapers or magazines at first glance look a lot like the regular content that the publication is known for. However, because the FTC does have oversight to protect consumers, there has to be at least a small disclaimer to indicate that the content being shared is indeed a promotional ad.

The look and feel of the content is what makes the ad native, something that is local or native to the publication, so to speak, and therefore, presumably just as readily consumed.

How This Makes for Better Online Marketing

One expectation is that disclosure and disclaimers will soon become nearly impossible to detect, as they can be disguised with images, overshadowed by well written headlines, or lead to amazing offers that people are eager to take advantage of  – think Groupon, that nothing else really matters.

When the native advertising trend goes mainstream, it will be necessary for you to be a better marketer to hold your audience – truly understanding how to attract, build, and maintain a platform that honors the audience.  This is the future of blogging, email newsletters, and all forms of social marketing.

When the playing field gets bigger it attracts more talent, and there is plenty of it out there. So, the winners are going to be those that are honing their practice and taking risks to differentiate their online digital assets for a defined audience.

Tell great stories, use quality images that capture attention and inspire, and above all, seek to create powerful headlines that earn attention – that’s what the native advertisers will be doing.

There is a fine line between native advertising and content marketing. Both attempt to earn the attention of an audience to sell them something. Only the methods differ.

It’s going to be fun. When there is a shift in marketing trends, being among the first to adapt provides invaluable advantages.

Are you ready?

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.