Native Advertising Excellence: Top 10 Tips from Our Expert Panel

Native advertising is in its early days, but there’s no denying its impact — and allure — as the practice that blends owned, earned and paid media.

On Thursday, June 19, Bateman Group hosted a panel discussion about navigating this new frontier. Moderated by tech media industry analyst Sam Whitmore, the panel featured content marketing experts Eric Lai, director of content marketing at Blackberry; Stephanie Losee, managing editor at Dell; and Jason Miller, lead global content marketing solutions for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

Native advertising is an evolving concept, so how should we define it? Stephanie described native advertising as “content sponsored by a brand, published in-line.” Another way to think about it is “content in context:” Branded content, placed or syndicated to appear alongside the content that an audience is organically consuming.

According to the panelists, successful native advertising requires a combination of excellent content and reaching the right audience. Easier said than done, yes, but the discussion provided some great advice for brands looking to achieve this holy grail:

    1. Help, don’t sell. A big part of creating quality content is providing value to your audience. Think about building a relationship instead of selling something. An audience member from esurance gave the example of their company’s best-performing video: a tutorial on how to park on a hill. Not only is it helpful and non-promotional, but it answers a very specific, relevant question.


    1. Follow the 80/20 rule. On a related note, 80% of your content should be informative or offer a point of view, and no more than 20% should be about your brand. If you are presenting information about yourself, it should be specific, helpful information.


    1. Think critically about promoting. It’s not enough to have good content; you also have to promote it well. Select channels that will best reach your target audience, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, amplification services like Outbrain, or likely, a mix. Make sure you’re reaching people beyond your inner circle; while inbound leads are great, you should be extending your content further to make the most impact.


    1. Create a steady cadence. A one-off campaign can be splashy, but success is often built over time. Consider syndicating your content through a sponsored blog, which will drive traffic and create a drumbeat of content.


    1. Gate your content based on its value. Before you ask someone to provide their email address in exchange for a piece of content, consider whether it’s worth the inconvenience. If it’s a valuable resource, like a very educational white paper, you can expect your audience to provide you with some information in exchange.


    1. Use video, but use it wisely. Videos are engaging, but they can be resource-intensive. Consider behind-the-scenes or how-to videos that will drive clicks without burning through your budget.


    1. Don’t forget about your blog. According to Jason, the company blog is “the rug that ties the social media room together.” External channels are part of the integrated campaign, but your strategy is missing a crucial element if you don’t have a hub for your content.


    1. Pay attention to the metrics that matter. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different things one can measure in the digital marketing world. The metrics on which you decide will depend on your business goals, but if you are a B2B company, consider looking at referral traffic, engagement and lead quality.


    1. Integration > fragmentation. There’s a reason native advertising works: It brings together different channels, practices and types of media. Similarly, your content marketing, social and PR teams should be working together to achieve a common goal.


  1. Observe your own behavior. How do you like to interact with brands? Where do you like to get news and entertaining updates? You’re a consumer– examine the content that appeals to you and use that insight to be a better native advertiser.

It’s an exciting time for native advertising as branded stories are being distributed with unprecedented reach and measurement. With the right approach, any brand — content marketing novices and experts alike — can capitalize on the opportunity. Thanks to our expert panel for sharing their insights into native advertising excellence.