THE BLOG
07/28/2015 09:41 pm ET | Updated Jul 28, 2016

Selecting Between Native Advertising and Content Marketing in 3 Steps

Co-authored by Lindsey Groepper, President, BLASTmedia

A fight is brewing in the world of marketing when it comes to brand budget dollars; how do you choose between native advertising and content marketing?

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It's not an easy question to answer, brands must wade through a plethora of information to decide what is best for them. With spending on native ads predicted to reach $7.9 billion in 2015 and grow to $21 billion in 2018, it appears brands are growing warmer to sponsored content.

To help cut through the clutter and achieve the best results while still running lean and mean, we've put together a list of tips to review before deciding which is right for you.

1. Define a goal and how you will measure success
Ask yourself -- are you aiming for brand awareness and impressions, or audience engagement? Each requires different modes of planning and execution, and knowing which you are striving for before deploying any tactics can save you time and money. Metrics are abundant -- impressions, Likes, shares, comments, etc., so determine what you want to measure and you will have a clearer picture of what success looks like for any campaign you launch.

Native advertising gives you widespread brand awareness and millions of "potential" impressions and possible click backs to your website, if it's served up to the right audience. Native advertising is placed on a third-party site, so make sure you know what targeting and metrics the site can provide before launching a campaign.

If you are looking for engagement, content marketing allows you to hyper-target specific types of people most likely to engage and, if you couple it with analytics software or social platform analytics, you can see who is engaging with each type of content.

2. Make a budget
If you are looking to place content with big names such as Time, Buzzfeed, Real Simple (who usually have the largest audience), you better have a thick wallet because they can be quite pricey. This can be great for larger brands that are willing to spend $30,000-plus for a single article with massive impressions, but for smaller businesses, this price is usually out of the question no matter how great the coverage or content is.

On a cheaper note, content marketing has more options at more affordable prices. Contributing thought leadership pieces is a cost-effective way to reach potential customers by appearing in influential media outlets.

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Though editorial content placement is never guaranteed (unlike native advertising, where you pay to play), the rewards can be significant. If you need an extra boost in promoting a really great piece of content via social media, many social media platforms have a sponsored or boosted post option for a few extra bucks.

3. Determine how important it is to reach your target audience
A large audience can be reached through native advertising, but different sites offer various modes and levels of targeting your content and it's crucial to determine before hand if you can segment audiences beyond top-level measurements like age and gender. Most native advertising campaigns are standalone, meaning they appear on one site only and for a specific duration of time. In order to reach those beyond the site on which you placed content, you must either implement a second campaign or promote the content on your own channels.

Content marketing campaigns can give you more control over who sees your content and when. Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to schedule and target content very specifically based on the interests and behaviors of your fans, friends of fans and your potential customers. Using these platforms extends the life of your content over several channels. Brands are also seeing a lot of success utilizing hyper-targeting abilities like influencer campaigns to capitalize on word of mouth to reach their ideal audience.

The options to find the ideal mix for a marketing campaign are abundant. In a perfect world, native advertising and content marketing would be lovers, not fighters, working together to get the most quality eyeballs on your content. Whichever marketing mix you choose, make sure they are all intact with your organization's goals. Remember, your content is only as good as the people who see it.