Could the Future of Native Advertising be the Shift to Social Influence?

In the ever-changing and unpredictable world of digital marketing, there is only one thing for certain: As marketers and brands rejoice for every new emerging technology increasing accessibility to consumers, somewhere in the world, the antithesis is catering to the demands of consumers—creating technologies that bring us one step backward for every two steps forward we make in our efforts to engage consumers. The recent “hot topic” in regard to this notion is Apple’s approval of ad blocking technology in iOS9, presenting marketers with quite the conundrum as it drastically affects accessibility, visibility, effectiveness of outbound tracking, and what marketers thrive on most—measurable data.

It’s not a matter of playing a cat-and-mouse game of marketers versus consumers; it’s about finding compromise. Whether we realize it or not, that compromise is called native advertising. We, as marketers, utilize our creativity and ability to strategically incite mass appeal to ensure the success of our partners, which is our success. The focus has shifted from “any means necessary” to doing so through the unobtrusive path of least resistance, or voluntary engagement. Facebook is at the forefront of this idea with their wildly successful newsfeed ads. It’s come time to reevaluate digital advertising’s oldest form—display—in favor of an approach that’s already proven to be three times more engaging than other methods of online advertising.

Now that the effects of ad blocking have crossed over into native advertising, we need to think about alternative means of reaching consumers by providing them with something of value and quality. What that looks like will differ from industry to industry and brand to brand, though I am willing to bet we begin to see native advertisements shift to be aligned with more of a social influence-based approach.

Leveraging social influencers for native advertising has a laundry list of extensive benefits, but let’s delve into the factors that will make 2016 the year of social influence.

1. Ad Blocking is Less Effective Within Native Apps… For Now

This is a particularly notable since last year marked a monumental breakthrough in the way we access the web, officially reaching over 51% on mobile devices. Not to mention over 80% of Facebook and Twitter’s daily users are mobile. Unfortunately, this may not be a long-lived perk as new apps like Been Choice are equipped with the ability to block in-app ads on all native social applications except for Twitter—a functionality new to ad blocking. Although users can adjust whether or not in-app ads are blocked, only time will tell how far Apple lets them go, considering it’s already become self-detrimental, even blocking the company’s own ad-supported Apple News.

UPDATE 10/9/15: Apple pulled Been Choice along with various other apps from the App Store, “amidst concerns they can view encrypted traffic.”

2. Manipulating the Sales Funnel: Know, Like & Trust

The most successful approach is the one that effectively gets a brand in a place where they can be visible to consumers (know), create positive emotional connections (like), and position themselves to be seen as an authoritative source (trust). The issue arises when you can’t effectively connect or speak to a relevant subject matter or demographic. By working with a social influencer in your industry, their audience has already been conditioned to know, like, and trust them, thereby relaying your message in their preferred fashion and eliminating forced efforts on your end.

3. User-Generated Content = Organic Amplification

UGC, or user-generated content, has been a buzzword in the marketing world and for good reason. Think about it: what’s the most compelling way to overcome a sea of skeptical consumers? Using relatable, trusted influencers to advocate your product or service. Relatability is a key factor in determining what resonates with consumers, which also ties directly into trust and thought leadership. Posts containing real images and personal experiences are shared 15x more than staged, inauthentic imagery. If your brand relies on a “seeing is believing” approach, working with influencers on image-heavy channels such as Instagram and Snapchat can spark the sense of virality your brand is missing.

4. Consistent Messaging

One of the fundamental issues with conveying brand messaging through ambassador programs or omnichannel content campaigns is the lack of control. No one knows your brand better than you, just as a social influencer knows their audience best. When working with an influencer, you combine your carefully crafted messaging with a voice that has already successfully permeated thousands—if not millions—of potential buyers.

5. Exponential Reach

If you have a Facebook business page, I am sure you’ve already tenaciously fought with Facebook about the organic reach (or lack thereof) of your posts. Instead of paying Facebook for additional eyeballs, you can use an influencer to drive the awareness and engagement your page fails to capture. TIP: Try promoting influencer posts through Facebook’s Custom Audiences. It’s likely to lower your CPA versus advertising directly from your page—if done properly.

6. Cost Effective – The Mutually Beneficial Value Proposition

In many instances, individuals become social influencers because of a desire to heighten their own popularity within a certain field. Take the fitness industry, for example: there are tens of thousands of bodybuilders and models hoping to get noticed through their social media accounts. You scratch their back, they scratch yours. Offering a means to help them heighten their visibility could be enough on it’s own to convince an influencer to work with you. Instead of paying cold, hard cash, it’s possible that an influencer is interested in a trade-out conducive to helping them work toward their end result, such as sharing their page (if you have a large following) or offering them free product. It’s important to note that this will only work on smaller or mid-level influencers. Those who do this as a living will generally want monetary compensation.

 7. Valuable Consumer Insights

Think about how consumers come to be engrossed with social influencers. More often than not, it’s because they aspire to be like them or already believe they are like-minded. Fostering a direct relationship with an influencer provides phenomenal insight into the mind of your consumer. If a social influencer is the epitome of your target market, why wouldn’t you learn everything you can from them? Partnering with an influencer holds more value than shared content and escalated reach; build a relationship with them and you may be able to pick up treasured feedback into your ideal consumer’s purchasing behavior, online habits, and triggers.

Interested in learning more about the benefits and possibilities of social influence? Be sure to check back for my next article about how you can make social influence work for your business, which will include influencer acquisition and outreach techniques, how to build a successful ambassador program, and ways to gauge the success of your efforts.

To rounding out a successful Q4,

Blake Rittenberg
Partnership Development & Distribution

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