Most people don’t want to be sold to, especially when they’re on social media. 

Web users tend to ignore ads or any content that looks like one, a behavior known as banner blindness

Thankfully, there’s a way for businesses to reach a broader audience on social media without being too salesy or promotional: native content.

Native Content: Low-Key But Effective Advertising

Native advertising is a paid marketing strategy that uses content that looks like a site’s non-ad media. Native ads are served to a targeted audience and are more focused on providing useful information or entertaining content. In addition, they blend in with a platform’s natural design and content location. 

The non-disruptive presentation, combined with relevant, useful, or enjoyable content, allows native ads to avoid banner blindness and get customers to engage with a sponsored or promoted article or video.

3 Core Native Ad Formats

The IAB Native Advertising Playbook 2.0 released in 2019 has reduced the number of core native ad types from six to three: 

In-Feed/In-Content Ads

In-feed or in-content native ads share the aesthetics of its surroundings, thus flowing with the rest of the platform’s non-ad content. 

There are three main types of in-feed/in-content native ads:

  • Content Feeds, which are videos, articles, and other native ads that appear in content or news sites;
  • Product Feeds, which are shown in retail websites and app listings;
  • Social Feeds, which are native posts (articles, photos, videos, or stories) on social media and messaging platforms.

Content Recommendation Ads

Also called a content discovery or sponsored content ads, these native ad types are placed below or next to other publisher content. Similar to in-feed/in-content ads, customers who click on content recommendations are led either to the publisher’s other pages or to an external site.

Branded/Native Content

Also called brand/sponsored/custom content, these paid content appear as a full editorial on the publisher’s site. The branded content may either be created by the publisher for a company or crafted by another content marketing team or blogger.

To increase the content’s reach, these branded content are promoted through in-feed/in-content ads or as content recommendations.

Native Ad Statistics Marketers Must Know in 2020

Below are some key statistics on native content performance, trends, and spending to help inform companies’ marketing strategies for 2020. 

  • Most (85 percent) apps on the Facebook Audience Network get better native cost per mille (CPM) than banner CPMs.
  • Compared to traditional display ads, native ads get 53 percent more views.
  • US native digital display ad spend is expected to climb up to $52.75 billion in 2020, or almost two-thirds of the digital display ad spend.
  • A 2019 study of 50 content-focused Alexa sites with display ads found that less than half (42 percent) were using native advertising.
  • The US native display ad market is expected to become more mobile (in terms of device), more programmatic (in terms of buying method), and less social (in terms of ad medium).

5 Advantages of Combining Native Content & Social Shares

Aside from providing relevant, non-disruptive content, native ads also offer businesses another advantage: social shares

Likes, Views, and Shares provide Social Proof

Many web users skip promotional media but are more likely to view it if people in their circle have liked or shared the post.

And even if none of their connections recommended it, web users see post engagements as signals that a sponsored content is worth checking. 

Social Shares broaden your Audience Reach 

Native content makes it easy for your audience to share your article, image, or video via social media, email, or a messaging platform.

As such, your reach is no longer limited within your followers or people who see your native ads. You can deliver your message to their contacts as well, helping generate more unique views and bringing in new leads.

Social Shares encourage Engagement

With native ads, your potential clients are not limited to viewing your content and taking a conversion step.

They can leave a comment, tag their friends, share their opinion, or post your content on their page or group. This encourages people to talk about your business and gives you more opportunities to build and nurture your relationship with your current and new audience.

A high social media engagement can also boost a company’s SEO. It can help them build links, increase their E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), improve branded search results.

Social Shares and Native Content Boost your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Native advertising enables companies to be discovered by the right audience at the right time. Native ads also enable companies to leverage the trust the audience has on a specific platform.

For instance, web users who trust and enjoy National Geographic content are served both non-ad and native content. 

The partner content below from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism looks exactly like other content recommendations and editorial articles, except for texts that indicate that this is a partner post.

This paid content is placed under the National Geographic’s travel section, where people who are interested in the topic are already browsing relevant articles. Readers who liked the article may decide to follow Visit Abu Dhabi on social media, download the app, or book a trip, providing the promoter with new subscribers and potential clients.

Shares, help Brands breakthrough Social Media Silos

As social networks prioritize content produced within their own platforms, posts with external links–i.e., those that encourage readers to leave the social site–are getting less views.

As such, brands are going omnichannel but are prioritizing platforms and content formats that help them reach more of their target clients and strengthen loyalty among existing customers. They then maximize native content and social shares to spread brand awareness within each priority platform.

Aside from going omnichannel, brands can also pick up a social media silo workaround suggested by Brian Dean. The Backlinko founder has been including valuable content on his social media post instead of simply sharing a link to their website.

5 Social Native Content Examples for Brand Promotion

To help you brainstorm native advertising ideas, below are examples of platforms and brands that nailed their campaigns.

Facebook Sponsored Post

Even if your business page has numerous followers and likes, there’s no guarantee that your followers will see your content. 

With sponsored posts, you increase the chances that they will see your post the next time they are online.

Oreo’s 50-second video Game of Thrones Title Sequence above has 3.4 million views, 45,000 reactions, 20,000 comments, and 62,000 shares on Facebook. 

Brands on Twitter can increase content engagement by promoting new or existing tweets both to their followers and to new audiences.

Sponsored Instagram videos and posts leverage data on both Instagram and Facebook user activity to target those who are most likely to be interested in your native ads. 

Other brands also partner with influencers to create content that matters to their target audience.

Pinterest Promoted Posts

Since Pinterest is a visual platform, advertisers use attention-grabbing static images or videos, and partner this with copy that gets their viewers hooked.

MasakTV, a cooking tutorial company, used organic video pins to increase traffic from 18-24-year olds and triple their total video views.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

Using LinkedIn’s information on users’ location, jobs, titles, education, interests, and affiliations, you can put your native content in front of a highly qualified audience.

Using sponsored content, Lenovo saw a 17-percent increase in brand favorability as well as higher engagement rates.

Final Words

Even users who steer clear of promotions and use ad blockers will consume promoted or sponsored content if these are in line with their interests. 

So make sure to incorporate native advertising in your social media strategy as well as your SEO proposal or plan. Plan them well, make them stand out, and prioritize engagement and value delivery instead of going straight into selling.

Has your business used native advertising to spread brand awareness? What worked or did not work for you? Share your native content best practices and other tips below.


Aaron Chichioco is the chief content officer (CCO) and one of the web designers of Design Doxa. His expertise includes not only limited to Web/mobile design and development, but digital marketing, branding, eCommerce strategy and business management tactics as well. For more information about Aaron, visit