Social Media Marketing - Paid, Owned, Earned Media

Social media marketing is useful in many ways to help grow your business. Among other things, you can use social media to research customers and competitors, tailor messaging and drive demand for your products and services. You can increase visibility for your company, promote your workplace culture and reach new audiences. There are lots of ways social media marketing can be useful to your business.

But to use social media marketing well, you need to use the “right” social media marketing techniques for the right reasons. A good place to start is to learn how social media fits into your overall digital media plan.

Most likely, you already reach out to potential customers in many ways, such as with your website and email. You may also have a blog, belong to online groups or forums, and perhaps you have a YouTube channel. It’s a lot to think about – and most businesses are overwhelmed by all the online marketing choices and decisions now available to them.

How do you know you’re using the right “media” for the right purpose? And how does it all work together?

An easy way to figure out how social media “fits” your overall marketing plan is to use the “Paid-Owned-Earned” marketing framework. The Paid-Owned-Earned marketing framework is the foundation of every good marketing plan and strategy.

Social media marketing is implemented in several ways:

    1. Paid Media – this is content where fees are paid to promote or boost content, increasing the probability that a target audience will see that content.
      Paid media can be in the form of display ads, promoted or boosted social posts and ads, and paid and social search.
    2. Owned Media – this is the content that is owned by a brand and published to channels it owns or manages. This includes organic content or posts are displayed on people’s news feeds based on the platform’s algorithms and the person’s preferences. Owned media includes social network accounts, profiles and pages, websites, email and other locations where content is displayed.
    3. Earned Media – this is content that has been “earned” as a result of the efforts of publishing paid and owned content.

Once you understand how Paid, Owned and Earned Media work together, you can develop a solid marketing strategy that incorporates all three.  

Paid, Owned and, Earned Media

Let’s take a look at the differences between Paid, Owned and Earned Media in more detail: 

Social Media Marketing: Paid Media

Paid media, also known as “paid ads,” is content that has an advertising budget assigned to the content to help increase the reach and/or visibility of posts, status updates or other types of information.

Each social network has its own guidelines for paid advertising setup, implementation, ad attributes, audience targeting and metrics.

Paid media can be in the form of text, images, videos, carousel ads, pins, or other formats.

Planned paid media is a paid media campaign that is planned ahead of time, with assets and timing aligned with specific business goals. Opportunistic paid media is the amplification or boosting of specific pieces of organic content that are performing well, to take advantage of a real-time trend or other time-based opportunity. Both types of paid media require an ad budget.

Use paid media to increase reach and awareness, to drive additional traffic to the website, and/or to generate leads.

The first step is to determine a paid media budget and the social media channels where ads will be run. To begin, plan to boost and/or promote 2-4 posts per month to specific, targeted audiences.

Social Media Marketing: Owned Media

Owned media consists of the content developed by your company and published on channels it controls, owns or manages. Owned media does not use a budget to help amplify the reach of that content to target audiences. Owned media can be on various channels, including the company website, email and social networks.

On social media, organic content is the content shown by social networks to users based on each platform’s algorithms. Organic content also does not use advertising to increase the reach of posts, status updates, tweets or other content. The likelihood that someone will see a post in their news feed is based on many factors, including the “resonance” and “relevance of that post. These factors are calculated differently by each social network, and are influenced by the number of likes, shares, comments, reactions and other “social signals” that indicate whether that piece of content is important or interesting to its audience.

Due to the nature of most social networks’ algorithms, most organic content posted on social networks is seen by far fewer people than paid content. Unless a business profile has a significant following (number of people who’ve indicated they want to see content from that profile), it’s unlikely that a lot of people will see the post.

The exception to this is if a piece of content generates enough engagement. In this case, the social network’s algorithms will “notice” that the content is “trending” and will be more likely to display that content to other users who may like similar content or who are connected to people who have already engaged with that content.

The goal, therefore, of organic content, must be to be as relevant and resonant as possible with the target audience, to generate as much engagement as possible.

Certain types of content tend to be more relevant and resonant that others, including entertaining, informative and interesting content – that is, not simply re-hashed content or content that’s displayed in an uninteresting way. Most people are highly visual, so content that has a visual element tends to be more engaging and is more likely to be shared.

Social Media Marketing - Paid, Owned, Earned Media

Social Media Marketing: Earned Media

Earned media is the media that you neither pay for nor own. It’s considered “earned” because it’s mentions of your company that you didn’t have control over – you didn’t publish it or manage it, yet it drives visibility for your company and your brand. Earned media includes social shares, mentions, likes, comments, ratings and reviews, pins and conversations. Earned media can happen on social networks, in forums, groups or communities.

  1. Earned media results in many more impressions and views of content than that of the content that was originally managed or published by a brand, and can be extremely valuable as an extension of the original content. Content goes “viral” as a result of earned media – the power of 2nd, 3rd and other degrees of connection pushing content out from the original source.

Social Media Marketing: Next Steps

Now that you know the difference between owned, paid and earned media, take a look at your current marketing efforts and owned assets. Which social media platforms do you utilize? Does your website link to your social channels? (If you need a fresh start, check out Five Ways to Spring Clean Your Social Media Presence in an Hour)

Do you have email campaigns or templates? Make a comprehensive list of everything you’ve created. After noting all of your owned media, think about which content resonates most with your audience/ideal customer. Consider putting some budget toward promoting that content and converting it to paid. This will trigger earned media in the form of social shares, mentions, likes, comments, and reviews, which can be enormously beneficial when it comes to amplifying the company message and earning a trusted, highly valued brand reputation.