Duking it out for dollars: Content marketing vs. native advertising and how to decide which is right for you

By June 10, 2015 July 28th, 2016 Industry Perspective

Magic vs. Bird. Tyson vs. Holyfield. Brady vs. Manning. These battles between heavyweights are as divisive as they are decisive. Fans of each side are set with their arguments and prepared to go 10 rounds to defend their position, no matter how much hurt they take.

A similar, impassioned fight is brewing in the world of marketing, as content marketing and native advertising are set to go head-to-head for brand budget dollars. As companies are looking to achieve the best results while still running lean and mean, the industry awaits to see if one strategy will deliver a knockout punch. Meanwhile, brands must wade through a plethora of information to decide what is best for them. To help cut through the clutter, we put together a list of questions to ask before deciding whether content marketing or native advertising is the right choice for you.

What is my goal and how will I measure success? Brand awareness vs. sales/conversions (or both)? Each are achieved by different modes of planning and execution, and knowing which you are striving for before deploying any tactics will save you a lot of time and hand-wringing. There are a lot of metrics available to measure – impressions, click-through-rate, direct and assisted conversions, likes, shares, comments – the list goes on. By determining what you want to measure, you will have a clearer picture for yourself and your stakeholders of what success looks like for any campaign you launch.

For content marketing, many social platforms have relatively good back-end insights that give you quality metrics and demographics. This, coupled with analytics software of your choice, should give you a decent picture of campaign’s success . In the case of native advertising, the content you are pushing out is placed on a third-party site, so make sure to have a clear understanding of what metrics the site can give you, in addition to any tracking platforms you have, before launching any efforts to ensure you have the data you need.

What is my budget? Native advertising can be quite pricey if you are looking to work with top websites (which usually, in turn, have the largest audiences). A study put together by Moz, they found that sites like Time, BuzzFeed and Real Simple all have minimums required for native advertising, and the numbers have at least five figures. While this might be workable for larger brands, small businesses likely don’t have $30,000+ to invest in a spot on Time.com – no matter how good the content or placement is.

In contrast, those exploring content marketing have more options at more affordable prices. Contributed thought leadership pieces are a great way to reach potential customers by appearing in influential media outlets (arranged via relationships that your marketing department/agency has in place). Social media channels can also help spread the word about your content, and the only cost associated is usually that to pay the staff and/or agency you are working with to create and distribute. And if you would like to put some dollars behind promoting a really great piece of content, most social media platforms have options for “sponsored” posts that are fairly affordable and offer great targeting.

How can I reach the most members of my ideal audience? Reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message – a mantra most of us probably had tattooed on us in some marketing initiation ritual. (No? Just me?) Being able to deliver this trifecta of influence is done via good targeting.

For content marketing campaigns, you will likely have more control over who sees your content and when. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow you to schedule out content and target it very specifically based on the interests and behaviors of your fans, friends of fans and potential customers. By utilizing these platforms, you can extend the life of your content over several channels. In addition, brands are seeing success utilizing influencer campaigns to capitalize on word of mouth to reach their ideal audiences.

For native advertising, targeting may be a bit trickier. Different sites offer different modes and levels of targeting for your content, so ensuring that you can reach people beyond top-level measurements like age, gender and marital status (if that is what you want), is crucial before investing too much time or money. In addition, most native advertising campaigns are stand alone, meaning they appear on one site only, and at no specific time. To reach those beyond the site you placed the content on, you must either execute a second campaign or promote the content via your own channels.

How strong is my online presence? Much of the success of content marketing is dependent on the strength of your online presence. Do you have social channels with highly engaged followers? Do the blogs you create on your website get comments and shares? Has your content been shared by influential, trusted third parties? If so, content marketing will work well to help get your message out, as you have several avenues to let the value of your content to build over time.

In contrast, a native advertising campaign often occurs as a singular campaign, independent of other efforts. If you are looking to build brand awareness while gearing up your owned channels or looking to promote a very niche part of your brand, a native advertising campaign could be a great way to go.

Ideally, content marketing and native advertising would be lovers, not fighters, and work together to get you the most quality eyeballs on your content. If Real Simple’s audience is perfect for you, it is worth checking out their native advertising options – but not at the expense of promoting that same or similar content via your own channels.

Interested in executing content marketing and/or native advertising campaign but don’t know where to start? Contact Lindsey Groepper for more information.

About Alyshia Kisor-Madlem

As a vice president at BLASTmedia, Alyshia uses her digital marketing expertise to provide results for both B2B and B2C brands.

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