A Quick Guide To Native Advertising On Social Media Platforms

It’s me again, back with yet another piece on native advertising.

Before you yawn and click the “next” button, allow me to explain my relentless effort in writing about this topic. In the recent SES conference in Hong Kong, I spoke about native advertising and how we did it on Education Post. The session was one of the three concurrent sessions that afternoon. It occurred to me that my session was probably the least attended one and those who did sit through the session seemed more lost than enlightened.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I spoke again on native advertising. This time at the Hong Kong University Alumni Association (HKUAA) to an intimate (read: small) group of alumni interested in the subject. This time I asked if any of them have heard of the term before. Answer: none.

Then again just two weeks ago, I presented the subject to my colleagues at South China Morning Post. Out of the sixty odd attendees of the offsite event, less than ten are aware of native advertising.

Why the less-than-stellar trend in Hong Kong? From marketers, to businesses, to media folks, native advertising is as foreign as dipping your fries into sundae (by the way, it’s delicious, trust me and try it). Those whom actually know what I am talking about tend to be the digital heroes – the agency folks and venture capitalists.

I keep referring to the rising trend of native ads in the west. Social giants and publishers have embraced native advertising with gusto, with different approaches and varying degree of success. I have written about guidelines on how digital publishers can do native advertising well, so let me give you a quick guide on your options on running native advertising on social media platforms:

Suggested Post on Facebook


You would have probably seen it before – a post from a brand which was “liked” by your friend. Because of this social signal, the brand’s suggested post – usually an offer, a link to content, a promotion etc seems to be recommended by the friend. It’s a great way to work on that “word of mouth” vibe. To use Suggested Post on Facebook successfully, make sure your content is something that the target audience is incentivized to take action on.

Promoted Tweet on Twitter


Promoted tweets run at the top of the twitter feed of your current and targeted followers, which you can specify by geography, gender, device and interests. Usually, this works well when you have a piece of content to promote; just like how you would normally tweet out a link to your most recent blog post to your followers. Because of your “promoted tweet” status, your tweet will be prioritized and appear higher in the feed of Twitter users, resulting in higher clickthroughs and engagement.

Sponsored Images on Instagram


Instagram has been cautious in rolling out their native advertising program, with some campaigns launched to select group of users to somewhat mixed reviews. Nevertheless, this darling of social media, which has higher engagement compared to Facebook in some audience segments, will definitely offer brands an incredible way to engage with their consumers in a visual-driven way to increase brand awareness.

Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn


Working similarly to Facebook’s “Promoted Post”, Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn appear in the content stream of targeted users which are filtered based on criteria set by advertisers. However unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, as a more formal platform, works better with business content, such as white papers and case studies.

Sponsored Playlist on Pandora


Music works in a way that resonate with an audience in a way text or images never could, and the Sponsored Playlist option on Pandora offers advertiser a way to tap into opportunity with their one-click-play music branded playlist. The playlist is curated based on certain themes which suit the message from the advertisers, and this experience is delivered on mobile-first – some 79 percent of Pandora users listen to music on the go. However, Pandora is not available to Hong Kong users at the moment due to licensing issues.

There you have it, my quick guide to five social media giants and their native advertising options. If you’re new to the concept like the majority of the audiences I have spoken to recently, I hope this guide will bring you up to speed.

Of course, if you like to talk native ads, drop me a note.

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