Native and social media advertising have both been around for quite some time; however, it’s still worth examining their similarities and differences to see how they can complement each other and help drive results. While there’s a bit of overlap when it comes to their functionality, both ad formats are useful in their own way.
What are native ads?
Native ads are typically displayed alongside news articles and are designed to fit in with the content of a website. These ads normally include an image (aka a “creative”) and a title that’s written in the style of an article headline. The idea is not to trick users into clicking the ads, but instead to offer interesting or useful information that aligns with visitors’ reading habits.
Ideally, the content you provide through native ads will be compelling enough to pique visitors’ curiosity and garner a click. Many native ads — especially those for lead-gen campaigns — direct users to a landing page with an advertorial article and a strong call to action urging them to sign up or add to cart.
What are social media ads?
Social media ads are displayed on social networks such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Traditionally, these ads used a static image in keeping with the design philosophy of web-based banner ads, but nowadays many social networks support video or interactive advertisements.
Social ads are normally displayed in a user’s feed alongside organic content — which makes them similar to native ads. Like native ads, they are always clearly marked as “sponsored” or “ad.” And also like native ads, social ads attempt to blend into their environment just enough so that they feel like they “fit in.”
What’s the difference?
At first glance, native ads and social media ads seem very similar on a conceptual level. Both of them aim to fit in with their surroundings to create an unobtrusive experience for users. However, there are some important differences between the two.
The first big difference is the publisher. Native ads tend to be published on content websites such as online newspapers, magazines and news aggregator sites. Secondly, they will often link to advertorials or sales pages with a lot of text, structured just like a news story. While this isn’t the case for all native ads, it works as a general rule of thumb.
Social media ads, on the other hand, are published on social media platforms and tend to link to e-commerce websites or to a company’s social media page. They tend not to focus on building out a longer narrative; instead, social media ads are more geared toward nudging the user to take an immediate action, such as a like or a follow.
This brings us to one of the most important and consequential differences between native ads and social media ads: their goals.
As mentioned above, social media ads are focused on near-term or immediate goals, such as driving likes, followers and clicks to e-commerce websites. These goals are relevant for advertisers looking to build an audience around a company or product, or for generating direct sales. While native ads are also measured based on clicks, they are the preferred format for lead-gen advertisers who have a longer marketing funnel. Lead-gen advertisers typically sell pricier products that require more consideration from consumers before buying — which is a perfect match for the expository article-like format of native ads.
How can native ads and social media ads complement each other?
Native ads and social media ads serve different, but complementary purposes. Native ads can act as both a branding and lead-gen tool, whereas social media ads can help grow your brand and boost your product’s word of mouth.
Depending on the social media platform you choose, you may be able to collect detailed demographic information about the type of people who are interested in your product. But perhaps the most powerful use of social media is to garner testimonials. If you successfully kick off an organic, positive discussion about your product, the resulting word of mouth can do wonders for your brand. Social media ads, however, lack room to expand on your narrative. This is where native advertising comes into play.
Native ads offer you the flexibility to tell a story about your product or service. Through your ad’s title and landing page, you have the opportunity to clearly show people how your product fits into their lives. Native ads offer an unobtrusive way to reinforce your company’s unique voice and brand. Further, due to the narrative format of native ads, they command more of your customers’ attention and focus than social media ads. Focus is directly correlated with memory retention — which means that native advertorials have significant lasting power in people’s minds.
For a multichannel marketing campaign, we recommend leveraging both native ads and social media ads. On the social side, your goal can be to directly interact with your customers and garner positive word of mouth. Simultaneously you can run lead-gen native ad campaigns with the incidental (but positive) side effect of reinforcing your brand. Be sure to run multiple creatives across both channels for a set period of time, and then make adjustments based on the results. However, keep in mind that your goals for native ads and social media ads should be complementary, not identical.
We hope you found this intro to native and social media ads helpful. Please remember to check back in on the MediaGo blog for more digital advertising strategy advice.