Many companies today rely on content marketing and native advertising to gain visibility for their brand — after all, 70% of people say they’d rather learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising. But is either content marketing or native advertising a surefire way to boost brand awareness? And which one offers more bang for the buck?
To answer this question, we at Fractl, a content marketing firm, collaborated with Moz to survey over 30 agencies specializing in content marketing about content formats and the metrics they use to track ROI. And I’ll get to what we found, below. But first, let’s remind ourselves how each approach is different, and what each approach aims to do.
Content marketing agencies produce campaigns for brands (this is an example) and then pitch these to multiple top-tier publishers for coverage. Each time a publisher writes about a campaign, it will usually link back to the company as the source. These links increase a company’s organic search rankings, direct traffic to the company’s website, and drive user engagement for the brand via social media.
Whereas content marketing usually tries to secure dozens of media pickups, native advertising promotes content by paying to partner with a single publisher. (This is an example of a native advertising partnership between BuzzFeed and all Laundry Detergent.) Native advertising (also known as sponsored content) offers a guaranteed placement with a top-tier publisher that might have monthly unique visitors in the multi-millions.
We took a data-driven approach to compare the efficacy of native advertising versus content marketing. Here’s what we learned about how the two strategies stack up.
First, we looked at content marketing services. On average, 65% of agencies produce between one and 10 campaigns per month for each of their clients. The process for a single campaign includes idea generation, concept research, asset design, and – the final step – promotion. Once a team has completed production, they pass the campaign to a media relations associate who secures press coverage for the campaign. The goal: getting staff writers at a high-authority websites to produce a story about the campaign for their publishers.
In the early days of content marketing, widgets, and “listicles” dominated the landscape. As Google began penalizing brands for thin content pages and low-value link schemes, the industry scrambled to produce higher-quality content. Thus, like some publishers, content marketing agencies started to produce more articles and infographics than other content formats.
Almost half of clients measure content marketing success by the number of leads (i.e., customer conversions based on campaigns), high-quality links (i.e., links from high-authority publishers), and total social media shares generated by each campaign. Excluding outliers, the average content marketing campaign earns 27 links from publisher stories (media pickups), whereas the average for each agency’s “most successful campaign” is 422 links and the median is 150 links.
How much does this cost? We found that 70% of content marketing agencies offer monthly retainers, and these fall into five buckets: Less than $1,000, $1,000–$5,000, $5,000–$10,000, $10,000–$50,000, and $50,000–$100,000. Content marketing costs largely relate to the scope of the projects being produced (e.g., press releases versus interactive graphics) and their reach (e.g., influencer marketing versus no outreach). We found that a price tag of between $5,000-$50,000 correlated with campaigns that generated the most links, which suggests that agencies were able to produce innovative, larger-scope campaigns, influencer marketing, and content amplification, rather than just issuing press releases. At the lower end, we did not see as much activity, and we speculate that those firms did not have the resources to generate compelling campaigns. But interestingly, at the higher end, we did not see considerably more value being created once companies went over $50,000.
Next, we wanted to see how native advertising compares. We gathered native advertising cost data from a report by Relevance, another content marketing agency, to which we added 100 additional data points to see what nearly 600 publishers charge for native advertising. We included general news publishers that tend to dominate search engine results and have a collective social following of more than 100,000 people.
At first glance, we saw that the minimum investment to partner on a native advertising is exorbitant for most brands. For example, to team up with TIME on a native advertising campaign, a client can pay up to $200,000. On average, the cost of a native advertising campaign for top-tier news publishers was $54,014.29. (For lower-tier publishers, which we categorized as having a domain authority of less than 80, the cost drops to an average between $70 and $8,000.)
Clearly, native advertising is expensive. But what’s the return? We reviewed 38 native advertising campaigns published on BuzzFeed, a leader for sponsored content, alongside 58 Fractl content marketing campaigns, to evaluate the reach (in terms of links) and engagement (social shares) of each. (Full disclosure again that my company Fractal is a content marketing agency.) Overall, Fractl’s content marketing campaigns were republished and shared more than BuzzFeed’s native advertising. For example, just comparing the top performing campaigns for each, we found that Fractl’s 11 campaigns for client Movoto resulted in, on average, 146 pickups and 17,934 social shares. BuzzFeed’s 13 campaigns for Intel resulted in one pickup on average and 12,481 social shares.
And in line with these findings, a report by eMarketer found that the most common issue cited by executives who use native advertising was of scale. Of course, you’re paying to publish content solely on the site you’re partnering with, which limits potential reach. One additional stumbling block: Google considers native advertising to be paid links, which prevents campaigns from improving the company’s search engine rankings.
With its smaller reach, is native advertising ever worth the cost? For some firms with large budgets, the expense is worth it if it means aligning their brand with a high-authority publisher and the right niche audience. Ultimately, native advertising has been proven effective in drawing higher click rates than traditional banner ads and other outbound marketing methods, so as a replacement for those, it could make sense.
While I may be biased, these data-driven findings suggest how companies might get a better bang for their buck with content marketing — especially if they’re looking for a wide reach with different publishers and audiences. However, for those mainly interested in guaranteed placement with a big-name publisher, native advertising might be the way to go.
Predictions? Humbug. Never done ‘em, never will. As a research analyst, predictions are antithetical to my methodology, which is research followed by analysis. My job is to work with data, information, and pattern recognition to draw informed conclusions — not gaze into a crystal ball.
The scene thus set, let’s look ahead to the new year and what it will bring insofar as content marketing is concerned. Based on my research in the field, I’m seeing seven overall trends in the field that will develop and strengthen in the coming year.
The next big thing in content marketing technology, the content marketing stack, will develop significantly in 2015. Content stacks are necessary to consolidate the eight content marketing use cases identified in research we published on the content software landscape. No use case is an island. As organizations mature and become more strategic in their content marketing initiatives, it becomes imperative to seamlessly link execution to analytics, or optimization, or TARGETING, for example. We’ll soon see end-to-end offerings from the big enterprise players: Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce.com. All are scrambling to integrate multiple content point solutions into seamless “stacks,” similar to the ad stack. In fact, content stacks will talk to the ad stacks, helping to integrate paid, owned and earned media. A couple years out, these two stacks will comprise what we refer to today as the marketing cloud.
Content is bigger than just the marketing department. It’s rapidly becoming nearly everyone’s job — and with good reason. Not everyone in marketing is a subject matter expert. Or understands customer service or sales concerns. Or is charged with recruiting new employees. Or develops new products or product features. That expertise and knowledge is embedded deep within the enterprise. Organizations that foster a culture of content by educating and training employees to PARTICIPATE in the content ecosystem can better ideate and create useful, meaningful content at scale that addresses numerous goals and serves a wide variety of internal, and well as external, constituencies. Watch for many more organization to follow the lead of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, and Nestlé. They will train and empower employees, partners, and stakeholders to create, ideate, and leverage content.
Time is a luxury, and will only become more so as brands face the challenges of remaining relevant and topical. Moreover, research indicates real-time campaigns can raise literally all desirable marketing metrics. Success in real-time is grounded in content strategy and often isn’t real-time at ALL IN the literal sense. Instead, it’s meticulous preparation and advance creation of relevant content assets that can be deployed at the appropriate time or moment. Starbucks, for example, has content for warming beverages locked and loaded, so when the snow falls in your town, you’re tempted by that pumpkin latte. Training, assets, preparation, workflow — all these and more are elements of “real-time” marketing.
Social media will fade into the background. It’s not that social media is going away. But it’s fading into the background, which is a good thing, because it denotes normalization. “Social” will become just another channel, like search or email (the bright, shiny objects of earlier eras). Social media SOFTWARE vendors will reposition as content marketing purveyors. Their offerings will essentially remain the same, but this new positioning is more topical, and more broadly relevant.
We define native advertising as a form of converged media that’s comprised of content plus a media buy. Native is surging in popularity, much more quickly than best practices are being established to govern it. This growth will fuel more disclosure, transparency, and policies in 2015 as native becomes much more closely scrutinized by regulators, industry associations, consumers, publishers, and brands.
For most of digital marketing’s relatively short history, personalization has been the ne plus ultra of sophisticated marketing. Addressing the customer by name, knowing their age, gender, date of birth, purchase history — all these data points help marketers deliver messages that are more meaningful and more relevant — and that, by extension, result in higher conversations and deeper loyalty.
Personalization is now being supplanted by technologies that can drive even deeper marketing and experiential relevance. Context’s untapped opportunity is to get an extremely granular understanding of customers, then to anticipate their needs, wants, affinities, and expectations, and develop unique insights to power better marketing across all devices, channels, localities, and brand experiences. Context, in other words, takes not only the “who” into account, but also the when, where, why, and how. Simply put — it’s deeper TARGETING, and more on-point messaging.
This post originally published on iMedia
By Dan Hodges
The dominant theme for 2015 will be the effect of mobile on the customer journey. Here are five predictions for 2015.
1. Smartphones will be the dominant platform to affect the customer journey: On a global basis, smartphone penetration is projected by the GSMA to grow to 45 percent in 2015 from 38 percent in 2014.
In the United States, smartphone penetration is projected to grow to 69 percent from 64.2 percent in 2014, per the GSMA. The rise of smartphones in the United States is on the ascension and is projected to grow to 73 percent by 2020.
2. The power of proximity: Proximity-powered applications and operating systems such as Samsung’s Proximity have the power to create a direct relationship between brands and consumers.
The power of mobile is in the relevancy of the message delivered to the consumer. Marketers who use this power will succeed in 2015.
3. The consumer behavior shift: The use of service apps has fundamentally changed consumer behavior and expectations.
Consumers use smartphones apps to get what they want, when they want it, forming a new behavior.
A shopper who goes into a department store with a certain product in mind to buy and finds it is not there quickly becomes enraged.
Smart retailers have invested in-store associate training and inventory systems to help ensure the customer need is met. Apps such as Uber, Open Table, Waze, Tripit raise the bar for every category in customer service and convenience, sooner or later.
4. More disruption: The emergence of Xiaomi from China in 2010, which has now become the fourth largest smartphone maker in the world, is another sign of a disruption at work. Xiaomi has replaced Samsung in China as the market leader.
5. Mobile payments gain traction: Walmart reported that 70 percent of sales for Cyber Monday were on smartphones. Starbucks pick-up-and-place-your-order is just the beginning the shift to how consumers use smartphones.
Brands that provide superior customer service, reduced purchase friction will be winners in the $142 billion mobile payment marketplace, according to Forrester Research.
Dan Hodges is managing director of Consumers in Motion Group, a New York-based strategic consultancy offering business, marketing, and technology services.
Twitter announced Monday that advertisers can now customize ads to Twitter users based on their actions within mobile apps.
Twitter is calling the system tailored audiences, as it tips advertisers off to a user’s history of app usage, such as installs, in-app purchases or sign-ups. Advertisers can use that data to find the users most likely to respond to their marketing content as they push through their campaigns.
For instance, Twitter said in a blog post that the program helps advertisers ensure that app sign-up ads are not displayed to users who already have the app installed. It can also help them spot high-value users most similar to those who are actively using an app.
The move comes just weeks after Twitter told users that it planned to begin collecting the datain order to make the content they see more individualized and interesting. It also comes at a time when Twitter is hungry for more ad revenue and looking for ways to give advertisers more access to its users.
Of course, not all Twitter users will want to app activity tracked and sold to advertisers, so the San Francisco-based company pointed out ways to boost privacy and opt out of the program. Twitter users can prevent their app lists from being collected by choosing the “Limit Ad Tracking” or “Opt out of interest-based ads” features on their mobile devices.
Arena Media Native (Groupe Havas Media) a imaginé pour la marque New Balance une opération de viralisation de contenu, orchestrée par Socialyse, l’entité social media du Groupe Havas. Un film de 55 secondes met en scène deux e-influenceurs, l’actrice Victoria Monfort et le sportif et danseur Cyril Paglino, relevant un défi de running contre leur double numérique projeté dans les rues de Paris. Ce film, utilisant le procédé du «motion street-mapping», a été réalisé en collaboration avec le studio créatif Le3 et The Boat.
Il se propage actuellement sur les réseaux sociaux et communautés connectées des deux personnalités, et est soutenu par un making-of du film et par la diffusion de formats courts en tant que sponsoring de la série «NCIS» sur M6 à partir du 13 décembre.