What Is Third-Party Content Whitelisting & How Does It Work?
In the post-iOS 14 world, growth marketers now have to put even more consideration into how they’re interacting with customers, how they’re shaping the customer journey, and how they educate them on the products their brands are offering to turn them into long-lasting customers. Third-party whitelisting has been a silver lining, proving resilient as one of the most compelling ways to educate consumers about new products and acquire customers at a lower cost.
Third-party content whitelisting is the practice on paid social platforms of using a third-party voice (for example, a handle on FB/IG) to drive traffic to a piece of authentic, performance-focused editorial content on a third-party publishing site. From here, consumers click through to your brand site. The strategy seamlessly ingrains reputable social proof across all touchpoints in the flow.
Leading DTC brands like MIRROR, Care/of, Athena Club, Prose, and more are investing heavily into the strategy and are cutting their CPAs by 30-40%.
Here’s an example of the flow:
Third-party content whitelisting is an effective strategy because it has fundamental interest alignment. People use social media to be entertained, learn interesting things, and have fun with their friends. People don’t always go on social media to buy products or shop, even though that’s the motivation most marketers use to design their strategies and campaigns. Additionally, successfully adding in a third-party voice to talk about your brand can create a halo effect, the feeling that “everyone’s talking about you,” helping to build social proof and drive conversions.
Instead of running ads that are hyper-focused on conversion, editorial whitelisting encourages brands to run ads that educate consumers, tell an entertaining story, or share unique value props behind their products in an entertainment-first way. Even though the ads may not initially be conversion-focused, because they engage & educate the consumer, they actually end up having much stronger conversion rates versus branded assets.
Because of how algorithm-friendly highly engaged content is on FB/IG, established publishers and creators have a significant advantage over standard business pages, helping to drive down delivery and performance costs right off the bat.
Here’s a flow comparing the performance of a leading feminine care brand whitelisting with MSA vs. their internal paid social campaigns:
The four main performance improvements can be found in CPM, CTR, CVR, and CPA:
- CPM: publishers typically have cheaper delivery costs, due to a more engaged audience and high domain authorities
- CTR: consumers tend to click more frequently on publisher ads, especially when they look and feel native to the publisher’s brand
- CvR: consumers are much more likely to make a purchase after landing on the brand’s site, having engaged with and learned from the content
- CPA: Although there are fewer consumers that land on the brand’s site, the higher CvR results in much lower CPAs (typically, 30-40% lower)
Finding The Right Partner For Your Brand
To get the best performance from an editorial whitelisting campaign, having alignment across your entire journey is crucial. This includes selecting the writers or publishers to engage with – the best partnerships start with having shared demographics and interests. A reader of the publisher or follower of the creator should be interested in being a customer of the partner brand. Having this aligned allows the authority of the publisher to have an impact and maximizes the social proof.
The content also needs to align with the publisher’s brand, not the partner’s brand. It’s a third-party review, so naturally, the content should be crafted in that third-party’s tone and voice. The same is true with the creative.
Most importantly and alongside authenticity, ensuring your content is rooted in entertainment and relatability, not necessarily salesmanship is critical for success. The best whitelisted editorials entertain and educate customers each step along the way, asking them to take action where appropriate. To be able to execute with editorial whitelisting, marketers have to be able to blend content marketing practices into their direct response practices.