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+.

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