Dear brands, native advertising from a digital native’s point of view

Imagine you’re the average university student. You wake up in the morning and first thing you do is check your messages, check your social media. There are all these companies advertising buy this or buy that. Brands suggest you follow them for freebies, when all you really want is to see pictures of your friend’s new puppy. So what can brands do to stand out in this abundance of content?

Be a curator

Just because you produce a lot of content, doesn’t mean it’s good content. As so often quality trumps quantity. This is also where smart data can help a lot to curate your content tailored to individuals.

Make people curious

Don’t rely on people following you for freebies, like a carrot you’re dangling in front of them. Give them a good reason to follow you, something that interests them. This means writing a lot of articles, being informative about your industry, without annoying people by constantly mentioning your product and how awesome it is.

Engage your followers

Ask your followers for their opinions, to share their own recipes, pictures, experiences, whatever you can think of. Almost more important than that, reward their engagement with attention. Make them understand that you value their participation. You can even take it a step further and get them involved in creating new products or services, using baked-in marketing.

Be a patron of the arts

Carmilla, a web series about a college student trying to solve the mystery of her vampire flatmate, was sponsored by U by Kotex. As one of the few web series with a cast of strong female characters and a lesbian relationship between protagonists, the series has achieved a lot of rapport with young women online – exactly the target group Kotex was struggling to reach before.

Don’t be obvious

In a nutshell, don’t be obnoxiously obvious about the fact that you’re trying to sell your audience something. Build a relationship first, give them something in return (whether that is informative content or a web series), and then once you have built that rapport, your audience may even go through your online shop without you ever having to ask, simply because you engaged them and made them curious.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, follow me and I’ll keep you updated on the dissertation I’m writing about audience engagement and participation for transmedia narratives, like those of brands.


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