Let me tell you a story about native content.
A business owner was telling me about a post they’d recently put up on Facebook. “I couldn’t believe it. It was just a picture of us working in the office and we got better results from that than anything we’ve posted in a long time.”
I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t believe it.
Of course a quick photo of real people would perform better than quote memes or links to articles or graphics they’d designed in Canva.
They’d discovered the power of native content.
What is Native Content?
I suppose this is a good place to start. Let’s define what I mean when I’m talking about native content.
Native content is marketing content that matches the form and style of the non-marketing content that surrounds it. It doesn’t disrupt the audience’s experience because it looks just like the other content they’re consuming.
This is a little different than native ads, because they’re, well … ads. Native ads combat “banner blindness” because they’re not as immediately perceived (and thus, dismissed) as being advertisements because they blend in with the content. Examples are sponsored pins on Pinterest, timeline ads on Facebook, paid search results in Google, etc. These ads look just like the content surrounding them, making them much more effective than display ads.
My experience gives me good reason to suggest that all social content should be native content. I’d also suggest social ads should probably be native ads.
But definitely, definitely, definitely, social content should not look like display ads. And yet we see it often…
How Do I Make Native Content on Social Media?
To get great results from your social content, it’s really important to have a good understanding of user behavior. How does your audience use the platform?
For the most part, all of us that personally use these social platforms are there to follow our friends, our family, some acquaintances (and exes?), to see what they’re up to — follow what’s happening in their life.
We’re not there to follow businesses (exceptions are those that create great native content) and see the promotional posts and ads. And as a digitally savvy society, we have developed a really good eye for promotional media.
We’re able to instantly recognize it and scroll right past, because it looks different than what our friends post. It’s not what we’re there for. We want to get back to the photo album of your drunk aunt at your cousin’s wedding.
So that’s really what your business’s content needs to look like. It needs to look like the content that’s coming from personal users.
That’s not to say you should post a photo of Jenny from accounting with a punch bowl on her head, playing air guitar on the boardroom table (or maybe you should, who are we to define your brand?).
But you should post photos of your team, of a fun project you’re working on, of the funny moment from the office, of the charity run your employees did on the weekend, of a regular customer that brightens your day (with permission, of course).
I don’t think very many people struggle with knowing what to post from a personal account. They sign in. They show what’s new in their life, what’s happening, what they care about, what they value. We’re all able to post things without having to think too much about what to post.
But for some reason, when folks switch from their personal profile over to a business page, they become little robots. They lose all of that personality and charisma and authenticity and humanness that is in their personal profile’s content.
That stuff needs to be what your business content is made up of, because then your audience’s radar doesn’t start pinging that this is promotional content. They’ll actually look at the post.
Shouldn’t My Posts Look More Professional?
I mean, they can. But it’s a huge misconception that they need to.
Social media really changes the game because it’s a platform of user-generated content, very different than print, TV, radio, outdoor display, etc. In those spaces, you need to hold a certain standard because that’s what the audience expects. The social audience does not expect that. They expect selfies and lunches and cats and travel photos.
The best-performing content will be that which looks like the user-generated content. And that means that it isn’t professionally designed/edited/produced.
This should be good news to you, because you don’t need the graphic designer or the high-priced photographer or the amazing videographer. Those skills are amazing and so useful for many types of media, but your organic social is not one.
Save your money. Make it look native.
What’s the most recent viral post you can think of? Was it a Toyota ad that was made with a 30-person crew and a $100,000 budget? No. It was probably something someone shot on their phone and it’s shaky and the audio is poor.
Actually, as I’m writing this, the current viral thing is a Facebook event jokingly calling for people to storm Area 51 to find out what’s inside, because “they can’t stop all of us.” Almost 2 million people have marked themselves as going and another 1.5 million have said they’re interested.
Make content the way users make content.