Paid vs Owned vs Social Media (Earned Media)

A recent survey revealed that advertising and marketing executives ranked “Social Media” as the most annoying industry buzzword. I believe that this is probably caused by a lack of understanding of how Social Media fit in the company and in its media efforts towards customers. So let’s look at paid vs owned vs social media.

In fact, I believe that many organizations (including those specialized in communications) have lost track of what media look like nowadays. Examples include company websites and Twitter accounts as students today already learn during their studies towards a rewarding career.

It’s time to zoom out

Although there is still a lot to be learned about Social Media and its implications for users like consumers and businesses, it seems that Social Media are starting to mature.

More and more businesses are joining the party and chose this sort of exposure, but the results of their efforts vary a lot.

Of course, the fact that media is changing is not new, but modern communication technologies seem to speed up the process. So maybe it’s time to zoom out a bit, take a step back, and look at the communication landscape as it is nowadays. It’s not only about your marketing activities, but also perhaps to get investors interested, to get “Investor-Ready” for the time you may want to take your endeavors to the next level.

On one side there are companies trying to sell their products and services. On the other side, there is the target market. In order to have communication between them, we need a way of transporting messages and that is what media do.

This may seem obvious, but it is striking to see how often this is overlooked. Media often isn’t looked at as a way of communicating, but purely as marketing. The following video will, just like the infographic, later on, explain a lot about what it’s all about:

Owned, Paid, and Earned media

So how should we look at the media? Forrester wrote about three types of media that incorporate the entire spectrum of communication between organizations and consumers as is often also used by angel investors and venture capitalists.

It distinguishes between:

  • Owned Media. Incorporates all channels an organization controls. Examples include, as said before, company websites and their Twitter accounts.
  • Paid Media. Incorporates all media efforts that the organization must pay for such as advertising. Examples include display ads and paid search.
  • Earned Media. This is when consumers start talking about the company. As consumers start their own channel they control the media effort. Examples include viral marketing and buzz marketing. This plays an important role when your company wants to expand and needs new ways of funding those ambitions.

Organizations should not focus on a single media effort, but combine a well-balanced mix of owned and paid media to leverage earned media. Social Media is easily mistaken to be an equivalent of earned media, but it is not. By focussing solely on Social Media as a way to get people talking about the organization, traditional media are not getting enough priority.

As a result, consumers are handed all the means to talk about the organization, but they have nothing to talk about. Owned media and paid media are necessary to stimulate awareness about the organizations and their current products or services. Then your customers will have something to talk about and you’ll have something to talk about with them.