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Social Media Advertising Goes Native

Written by Rachel | 04-Apr-2014 16:13:00

Facebook provides advertisers with a way to target their ads to users with specific connections, interests, or within specific age ranges. We have been running successful campaigns for our clients since Facebook advertising became possible, and when RSPB launched their Give Nature a Home campaign last year we felt it was the perfect platform to reach the audience we were looking for.

Traditionally we have booked ASUs (ad space units appearing in the right hand column next to a user’s newsfeed) but while setting up Give Nature a Home we decided to test Page Post ads which actually appear within a user’s newsfeed as a post from RSPB.

What did we see?

The Page Post ads drove 178% more clicks and a conversion rate that was 134% higher than the standard ASUs.

Why such an increase? 

Page post ads which appear in the user’s newsfeed achieve a more natural feel; most users will know that in the right hand column there are ads but how many notice them in their newsfeeds?

40% of users’ time on Facebook is spent within their newsfeed according to a report by comScore, with attention rarely focused elsewhere; therefore placing ads where a user is spending the majority of their time is highly effective.

Is native advertising the future?

“Native ads can broadly be described as sponsored content that is relevant to consumers and fits well in the wider editorial experience,” reported Arif Durrani,  on campaignliveco.uk late last year.


Twitter is probably one of the most well-known platforms using native advertising. When Promoted Tweets were first launched in 2011 they appeared only in search results, but their success led to them appearing in users’ timelines on desktop and subsequently also on their mobile devices.

Following on from this, at the end of last year Twitter announced ‘Tailored Audiences’, allowing advertisers to identify their existing customers or Basket abandoners and enabling them to deliver a follow up message or retarget in the form of a Tweet.

Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram last October announced the introduction of advertising to its photo and video sharing app but with the intention of making them feel ‘natural’ and similar to the content that is being enjoyed and viewed from the brands users are currently following. We have since seen a handful of carefully selected brands such as Ben and Jerry’s, Levi’s and Michael Kors testing the format.

In a similar move Pinterest announced just a couple of weeks earlier that it was to launch ‘tasteful’ ads by “promoting certain ‘pins’ from a ‘select group of businesses’" and it wasn’t long before they started to test and we began to see how they would look in category and search feeds.  

This move came because, like Instagram, they are looking for ways to monetise the service being offered. 

Google and Facebook Partnership  

In January Google launched their partnership with Facebook to offer FBX (Facebook Exchange) inventory through their Doubleclick Bid Manager platform, but why is this significant? 

Google beat Facebook to the top spot in terms of their share of display revenue last year and it’s expected that their share will continue to grow. However the partnership between the two means Facebook stands to gain as by offering easier access to its inventory it is likely to increase its use across advertisers potentially driving higher CPCs. Google will also gain, becoming a platform that can offer multiple solutions to advertisers.  

This isn’t the only enhancement Facebook has introduced over the last few months to improve its native advertising offering. Their Custom Audiences tool is similar to the Twitter Tailored Audiences, allowing advertisers to not only find their existing customers and deliver a follow up message but also enabling them to exclude their known customers to ensure they’re reaching new prospects only through the social network.     

It’s hard to give a definitive yes or no as to whether native advertising is the future but with social platforms becoming more conscious about minimising disruptions to the user, sponsored content is increasing in popularity and this is only set to grow.