Here's a question I'm getting more often from business owners and start-ups: What's the difference between "paid, owned and earned" media for marketing? And how do I use them together?
The whole “owned-earned-paid” thing is familiar to advertising and PR pros, but rather mysterious to millions of small business owners. Yet understanding the digital-world differences — and how to deploy owned, earned and paid media to grow sales — is critical. This five-step "cheat sheet" for small and local businesses should help
Owned Media Basics
Perhaps the simplest examples of “owned” pieces of online media real estate are your business website and Facebook page. You built ‘em. You operate ‘em. You own ‘em. Done well, they’ll be nicely designed, easy to navigate and chock full of helpful information, articles, photos, videos and other content that customers and prospects will find compelling. Other “owned” media would include blogs, newsletters or social media accounts your business has.
The basic idea with owned media is to fill them with useful and engaging content that helps potential customers discover your business when they search for something online, or use their own social channels. This is the realm of what’s called “content marketing,” which uses helpful, high-value information to draw people into your products and services.
Paid Media Basics
No surprise here. Paid media are the online ads and promotions you pay for with your marketing dollars. This includes search and other pay-per-click type ads, banners and paid promotions on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
Using paid media is the more traditional approach that most businesses are familiar with. You set a budget, pick your channels and spend as you see fit, while tracking results as best you can.
Earned Media Basics
PR fits here. Issuing a press release that gets mentioned somewhere (either online or offline) “earns” you exposure that you didn’t have to pay for (at least not directly). But it gets trickier. The “earned media” piece is huge, and difficult to execute — yet it’s a critical leg of the marketing/media triumvirate.
Earned media can produce really good stuff; the attention and engagement you “earn” from customers but that can’t be (legitimately) bought. For example, great comments, recommendations, reviews, mentions, likes and shares are all valuable types of customer-generated media coverage that you earn. This includes word-of-mouth, but amplified through the digital megaphone.
Making Them Work Together
Owned, earned and paid media don’t exist in isolation. They overlap. In fact, your goal is to make them overlap and work together. For example, paid ads might attract people to your website or Facebook page where they see some interesting content they want to “like” or share. In turn, that engagement earns you more notice among the media. Thanks to the nature of social sharing, the interaction possibilities are almost endless as information passes from one person’s network to others. This is sometimes called “converged media” — the place where owned, earned and paid intersect.
To have an inkling of what’s going on here, business owners must first recognize that the way buyers research purchases and find businesses has changed radically, and rapidly. These things once occurred via isolated channels. But no more. It now happens 24/7 through thousands of fragmented media channels, often simultaneously as people occupy several digital platforms at once.
Big companies recognize this and now engage is what’s called “Brand Streaming” where they attempt to be absolutely everywhere, 24/7, monitoring what’s being done and said, and reacting quickly to any engagement by a customer or prospect.
What To Do Now
First, don’t despair. It should already be abundantly clear that since consumer behavior has changed, marketing a product or service will never be the same. You will need to embrace new digital tools and tactics (including some from all of the above categories), and deploy them in as many places as possible.
Start with a firm foundation. Look for small wins that you can reasonably achieve in each category (owned, earned, paid) and build from there. Take it one step at a time. Don’t try to concoct some huge strategy that takes months to deploy. Test small things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s easier, less stressful and more effective.
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