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Paid Media for Beginners: How Do I Use Native Advertising & Sponsored Content?

No matter how many times you email that editor, and no matter how well written the pitch, it’s tougher than ever to get your brand’s name and content in front of a new audience.

To compete with the gargantuan amount of content online, brands must include paid media as part of their overall strategy.

[Read more: The Inevitable Rise of Paid Media in PR]

Last year, digital ad expenditures even surpassed TV for the first time, and eMarketer predicts the gap will widen by about $10 billion this year.

However, paid media needs a strategy. It’s not as simple as throwing a bunch of dollars at an ad, sitting back, and watching the number of clicks grow.

The best approach is with a multichannel strategy that covers “PESO,” which stands for Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media.

Many of these channels overlap. For example, your brand needs to create owned content to publish to your blog, and then share on your social networks. Or, use that owned content and buy a slot with Taboola, a native advertising platform.

We’ll show you a few of these paid media tactics and why you need to include them in your content strategy.

Native advertising defined

Native advertising is a media placement that fits the form and function of the surrounding editorial content on a webpage (it should look “native” to the page). The ad links to either owned or earned media — really, anything the brand wants people to read.

There are six types of native ad formats as defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Two of the biggest players are in-feed units like social media platforms, and recommendation widgets, or “discovery platforms,” which are controlled by platforms such as Outbrain, Taboola and StackAdapt.

Your ad will appear with other brands’ ads so it looks like an extension of the website’s “read more” column, though none of the recommendation widget articles will necessarily relate to the content. One drawback of these widgets is that you have no control over who your neighbors are — a tacky ad could deter a user from clicking on ALL of the ads.

But overall, native ads are an effective paid media tool. According to Business Insider, native ads (typically sold on a pay-per-click basis) will account for 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021.

Sponsored content defined

Securing earned media coverage is one part writing a stellar pitch, one part developing a relationship with an editor and one part crossing your fingers.

Sponsored content provides more security that your content will be seen. You’ll still need to work with an editor, but instead of hoping you’ll be selected for coverage, you’ll pay to publish an article on a publisher’s website. Coverage is guaranteed.

Sponsored content is often used interchangeably with “native advertising” because its format still looks like its surroundings, but sponsored content specifically refers to an article that’s posted on a publisher’s page.

It’s usually difficult to tell a sponsored article from an editorial one. Sometimes the only indicator is a brief statement like “Sponsored post” or “Presented by brand partner X.” Learn more about the difference between native advertising and sponsored content here.

By paying for a sponsored content post, your marketing team can focus more on developing quality content over worrying about the minutiae of working to get earned coverage.

Bonus tip: No time to write the article for your sponsored content or native ad? Pass on the work to Brandpoint’s expert team of writers. Our unique and exclusive network strategy can get your article on more than 1,100 publisher sites. Learn more about working with us.

Why use native advertising and sponsored content in your paid media strategy?

1. Engage readers

Readers spend as much time viewing native ads as they do editorial content, and the same study by Sharethrough also shows that 25 percent more consumers look at in-feed, native ad placements as compared to standard banners. That’s because enticing headlines and images provide useful and entertaining information to readers. The most effective types of native ads and sponsored content are those that, although slightly branded, provide real and actionable value for the reader.

2. Expand your audience

When you publish a sponsored content post, you have the opportunity to reach that publication’s audience. That’s why it’s important to partner with publications that cater to your core target.

On social platforms, you can choose detailed demographics to promote your posts to a specific audience. Facebook has especially granular demographics so you can promote to a very narrow audience. Targeting choices include geography, interests, job titles, keywords and demographics such as age and gender.

Once your post has reached new people, they may like your content and your brand enough to follow you. This helps your brand grow an organic audience that will then see your future posts in their feed.

3. Enjoy relatively low costs

Compared to other marketing costs, native ads are typically measured on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. This works well for teams who have either a strict or flexible budget. You can put money behind a daily social post, or just pay for one week of Taboola to display an article describing a special campaign.

A sponsored post, on the other hand, could cost you big bucks, especially when published in prominent publications (a handful of sponsored posts on Buzzfeed will run you about $100,000). But as you calculate the ROI, take into consideration the amount of time you may put into your earned media efforts.

You’ll also have more control over the content in a sponsored post, whereas if you pitch a magazine about your new product, the editors may only include a brief mention about it. A sponsored post builds your brand’s authority as a thought leader while providing useful information to readers.

4. It’s easy to A/B test (native ads)

You don’t want to post two similar ads at the same time on your social media feeds as a test. Your followers will catch on. But when using a discovery platform or promoted social posts, you have the option to run multiple ads to test which one gets the most clicks or engagements. Change just one variable at a time, such as the target audience, or for a recommendation widget, test a new headline each day to see what gets the best result. Then, promote that article all next week.

5. There are so many choices!

Sometimes choice can be overwhelming. Which discovery platform is the most effective? Which publication would return the best results for a sponsored post? On what social media platforms is your audience active and which ones should you promote on? This could require some testing if your first choice isn’t meeting your goals. However, the beauty of so many choices is that you can find the one that works best for your brand and meets the needs of your unique audience.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Though paying for a sponsored post guarantees placements, you must still maintain a relationship with an editor and manage the process. And it also takes time to manage native ads and discovery platforms to make sure you’re running the strongest campaigns. If your marketing department or agency just doesn’t have the time, don’t be afraid to recruit some help.

At Brandpoint, we take the hassle out of native advertising thanks to our strong relationships with vendors including StackAdapt and Taboola. If print and online media coverage is what you need, we average more than 1,000 placements for MAT releases and other sponsored content formats. You don’t have to put in the extra legwork — we’ll do that for you — and you can tell your client or stakeholder that you’ve secured coverage in national publications. We’ll also compile the reports for you.

Seventy percent of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising (CMO). So start your native advertising and/or sponsored content campaigns with Brandpoint today.

July 13, 2017

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