A divisive battle between content marketing and native advertising is brewing in the world of marketing. Those two forces are set to duke it out for brand budget money as companies look to run lean and mean by achieving the best results for their dollars.
Though the industry might like to wait to discover which strategy decisively delivers the most results for the least spend, digital marketing is constantly changing. Marketers need to make informed decisions between these two strategies right now.
Before we delve into the strengths and weaknesses of the two strategies, we should first look at their definitions.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as "the process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
Corporate blog entries, byline articles, social media posts, and more are all included within this definition. Content marketing can be distributed through channels such as digital ads, social promotion, and media pitching.
Native advertising appears on an online news outlet or blog as if it were written and sourced by the publisher's own editorial staff, but it is a piece of paid content.
Because native ads look so similar in style and tone to original content, their appearance can be controversial and even deceiving.
To help sift through the wealth of information, we've pointed out three key factors that digital marketers need to consider when deciding whether to approach content marketing or native advertising.
You can use various metrics to measure campaign success, including (but not limited to) click-through-rates, likes, comments, and impressions. Each metric measures distinct outcomes of your campaign. Deciding what your campaign's goals are beforehand will give you a clearer layout for measuring success.
For example, if broad brand awareness is your goal, then native advertising can give you up to millions of potential impressions and even clicks to your site—if you've targeted the right audience.
Furthermore, because third-party sites host native advertising content, you should make sure you know what analytics the site provides beforehand.
In contrast, if engagement is your goal, then content marketing might be the better option. Social content can be targeted to very precise audiences.
Moreover, social platforms have decent analytics that give you a variety of metrics and demographics, which allows you to see who is engaging with your brand. Combining that data with analytics software can develop a high-resolution photo of your campaign's success.
Compared side by side to traditional advertising, native advertising seems ridiculously cheap. Compared to digital advertising, however, it can be a big expense to swallow.
A recent study conducted by Moz showed that the most popular sites for native advertising have minimums that reach well into the budget stratospheres. Though this would be hardly any problem for large brands, small businesses likely aren't ready to shell out $30,000 to invest in content on time. Even if they could afford it, such a pricey spot may not be the best use of limited funds.
On the other hand, thought leadership pieces are a cost-effective way to approach potential customers. Your marketing department or outside agency can arrange contributed pieces to prominent media outlets. To extend the effect of your dollar, social media content coupled with a small digital ad spend can help your brand reach targeted potential customers.
An effective campaign doesn't just reach millions of eyeballs, it reaches millions of the right eyeballs with the right message. This ever-so-elusive combination can be achieved with a clear picture of your audience and how to target them.
You'll be able to have the most control over who comes into contact with your content through content marketing.
Social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to home in your content to a precisely targeted audience at a specific time. For instance, you can even target to interests and behaviors of your potential customers, extending the reach of your content each time those potential customers engage. Combined with digital advertising's hyper-targeting abilities, you can make sure that your content reaches the right eyeballs.
Native advertising can bring you a large audience, but ensuring that the audience is a quality audience can be trickier. The modes and levels of targeting will depend on the site hosting the content, so make sure that you can target your ad beyond simple demographics. Integration is also limited with native advertising; campaigns are often stand-alone and appear on just one site.
If you want to extend your content's reach, you need to either come up with a new campaign or promote the content on your own.
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In the ever-changing marketing landscape, it can be difficult to find the magical formula. Content marketing and native advertising should be able to work together to help put your brand in contact with the most potential customers. Whichever side you choose, keep in mind to ensure that all strategies should integrate back to your organization's vision—not operating separately.