One of the biggest advantages that Facebook offers to advertisers is the ability to conduct precise interest targeting. Brands have the ability to target their Facebook updates directly to precise niche audiences based on people’s interests that they have shared with Facebook.
There are many benefits to advertisers from precise interest targeting — finding new fans, engaging with a wider pool of Facebook users, recruiting brand evangelists and increasing conversion rates — but one of the biggest benefits that is still being discovered by many advertisers is how precise interest targeting can complement brands’ native advertising strategies.
One of the biggest changes to Facebook’s advertising platform is that the social network is encouraging brands to rely more heavily on paid engagement, instead of relying on organic reach. Facebook recently made some changes to its rules and News Feed algorithm so that a much smaller percentage of people who like brands’ pages will actually see each new post.
As Facebook Vice President of Ads Product Marketing and Atlas Solutions Brian Boland explained in a recent blog post, the changes to organic reach are happening as part of the company’s effort to maintain a strong user experience with relevant content that people want to see — the average Facebook user could potentially see 1,500 stories at once on their News Feed, of which Facebook’s algorithm only shows them 300 that are deemed to be most relevant to the user’s interests. Facebook is offering brands less organic reach, but it is hopefully instead presenting an even more targeted opportunity to reach exactly the audience that is most relevant for the brands.
What do these Facebook changes mean for native advertising? It’s actually a perfect fit. The advantage of native advertising is that it gives brands the ability to build relationships on a deeper level with audiences that are most likely to be interested in the content.
While banner ads were about scale — “buying eyeballs” by putting a message in front of as many people as possible, in the hope that some small percentage would convert — native ads are about depth. Native advertising encourages brands to develop engaging content that consumers want to interact with and share. Instead of putting native ads in front of as many people as possible, the best results from native ads often come from going deeper and building credibility with niche interest-based audiences.
Facebook provides the capability to run advertising in-feed and/or in the mobile News Feed, which is a great alignment to native advertising that appears more as sponsored content within the overall News Feed.
Many advertisers complained when Facebook changed its organic reach percentages. But this is a positive thing for native advertising. Instead of trying to reach their Facebook audience via organic content (which only a small percentage of their audience will see), brands are now encouraged by Facebook to promote native ads/sponsored content and reach a highly targeted segment of their target audience based on their stated interests.
One example of how to use native advertising to pursue a niche audience/interest-driven Facebook marketing strategy is Mountain Dew. This caffeinated beverage is known for being affiliated with extreme sports (like skateboarding), high-energy music and youth culture and lifestyle trends. Mountain Dew created an online magazine called Green Label that publishes content related to skateboarding, music and video games that might be of interest to Mountain Dew drinkers.
In this Facebook post, Mountain Dew promoted an interview with professional skateboarder Paul Rodriguez that was published on its Green Label platform. This is a great example of how brands can create native advertising content that is relevant to their customers’ broader interests (not just “about your product or service”). Facebook makes it possible to boost each individual Facebook post and pay to reach a wider audience based on people’s interests — for example, Mountain Dew could promote the Paul Rodriguez interview to people who have an interest in skateboarding. Or the company could promote other music-related posts to reach fans of a particular band or style of music.
There are lots of possible combinations for almost any brand — create content that will be interesting and valuable to their audience’s niche interests, and then promote that content on Facebook by using “boosted posts” and other highly targeted Facebook advertising.
Advertisers need to think more in terms of niche audiences and develop strategies for how to reach people based on their other interests — not only their interests that are directly related to their products. Not every single person on Facebook is going to see their posts, nor do they all want to see those posts — the key is to create content that speaks more immediately to a highly focused audience, and then pay to reach that audience.
The decline of organic reach is nothing to fear. Instead, Facebook is presenting a new challenge: The social network is requiring a much more efficient and accurate advertising experience. Now brands have to adapt their thinking and adjust their strategies to realize this opportunity.
Steve Wick is the founder and president of San Francisco-based MobSoc Media and a former Accenture partner with 21 years of experience in technology and strategy practice areas. He has served a range of clients including Cisco Systems, Intel, HP, Agilent, Boeing, FedEx, Dow Chemical, Visa, Boise Cascade and Microsoft. He has been an entrepreneur since 2008 with the founding of FanNewscast, a software-as-a-service company that enables custom content marketing applications for brands, and the recent formation of MobSoc Media.