When you think of digital marketing, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Perhaps you’d think of the brand ads that usually pop up when you open Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter? Display ads on sites and search engine result pages still prove to be an important channel for reaching out to consumers, but this is certainly no longer the only game in town (like it was 10 years ago). The social media world is gradually pushing things in another direction.

Native advertising, the buying of sponsored content on social networking platforms and websites, is a phenomenon that has dominated digital marketing conversations during the last year. According to predictions made by industry analysts firm BI Intelligence, native ad spend is set to skyrocket to $21 billion in 2018 (more than quadrupling what it was just five years earlier). Moving forwards, companies in all industry sectors will clearly need to find an effective way to incorporate native advertising into their marketing strategies.

Native advertising reaches out to mobile users

It is within the mobile area (driven by our increasing use of portable devices to access social media sites) that native advertising is really going to make its mark. Check out some statistics presented by Yahoo representatives at a recent interactive advertising conference held in Phoenix:

  • Research indicates that 60% of US consumers express positive feelings towards native advertising
  • In-stream native ads that have been integrated effectively attract more than 3x the attention of mobile users than standard display ads
  • Adding logos of companies or rather changing ad copy to reflect the involvement of a brand will drive up purchasing intention and improve overall brand perception

What steps can SMEs take to react to the changing advertising landscape?

Many organizations are currently wondering how to go about adjusting their strategy – looking to shift away from conventional display ads and adopting a native advertising approach instead. For many though this is something that is well outside their comfort zone. Here are some simple steps that should be considered when initially exploring native advertising:

  • Try to tell a story: Everyone loves compelling narrative, whether it’s an HBO series or a well-written blog post. How you tell the story will entirely depend on the chosen medium. If you’re using Snapchat, for example, you should look to stream together photos or video clips as a part of your storyline.
  • Seek out a formula that works: Variety is definitely good but consistency is even better. If you discover something that chimes with your audience (case studies, Top 10 lists, 5-point plans, etc.) run it as soon as possible. Invest time into video material and develop a content strategy that offers a strong foundation of your company’s vision.
  • Balancing promotional/informative content: Businesses are different from one another. While some might like to include lots of calls-to-action in their posts, others might take a more measured approach to this. You might lament how perfect your business is but it is only when you can give real evidence to support this that your post will have actual value. You can do this very effectively through infographics, animations or videos.

With everyone spending an ever larger proportion of their time viewing smaller screens, native advertising seems to have a very bright future ahead. By taking on board new ideas you will be able to make the most out of it.