This summer, I interned at SocialToaster, a social media marketing agency that turns a company’s existing social media following into a team of organized brand ambassadors. Part of my job was to create blog posts and other marketing materials that reinforced SocialToaster’s core business concept, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned regarding native advertising and social media marketing.
Native Advertising: You’ve probably heard this term if you’ve kept up to date on the latest digital marketing trends. In short, native advertising is a form of communication that smoothly integrates with a user’s experience on a website or application. For instance, if you see a sponsored Facebook post that tells a story about a company’s new product, this is a native advertisement because it is part of the user’s core experience (i.e., not a banner ad). Online brand ambassador programs are also forms of native advertising: for instance, Maker’s Mark offers incentives for its ambassadors to share content about its brand.
Social Media Marketing, though, is the use of social media platforms to market a company to consumers or businesses. Examples of social media marketing are banner ads on Facebook, a company’s Twitter posts, or Instagram pictures with links directed towards purchasing or other landing pages. Social media marketing encompasses the development of marketing programs targeted at a company’s existing and intended social media audience.
Can Native and Social Intersect? Yes. For example, SocialToaster’s Super Fans (brand ambassadors) can earn prizes for posting a company’s message as a status update or sharing its content on Twitter. Native advertising can be seamlessly integrated into social media marketing because people use social media all the time. Therefore, native advertising and social media marketing are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two effective forms of marketing that work incredibly well together.
The Numbers: Consider some facts from a recent Gallup poll:
- 94% of social media users do so to connect with friends and family
- 62% of social media users do not believe social media influences their purchasing decisions
- 29% of social media users use these platforms to keep up on product reviews and trends
That 94% is important, because it means that over 9/10 people who use social media connect with people they (hopefully) trust. Now, if you’re part of the nearly 30% who use, say, Facebook for product recommendations, what are you more likely to look to as a source: a friend’s recommendation, or a banner advertisement? If your friend is a Maker’s Mark brand ambassador and posts a picture of delicious bourbon on Facebook, you’re statistically more likely to click on this post than you are to entertain a traditional advertisement.
But do you even realize your friend’s recommendation for Maker’s Mark is an advertisement? According to the study, 62% of the time, you will not.
And that’s why native advertisements on social media work. Companies can employ people you trust to recommend their products, meaning you might not even realize when you’re being advertised to. But you might find some great products in the process!