“Great content is the best sales tool in the world.” — Marcus Sheridan
If you are a marketer, the three most buzzing words would be paid, earned and owned media. Obvious, each of them plays an important role and come together to complete the content marketing process. Balancing these three buzzwords — paid, earned and owned media — should be the strategy of any business to enhance its online exposure and authority. You need to follow a smart mix of three platforms which revolves around different touch points in a customer journey.
What are owned, earned and paid media?
Owned media: Include web properties owned by the business
- Mobile site
- Social media channels
Paid media: Include advertising
- Display Ads
- Paid influencers
- Paid content promotion
- Social media ads
- Sponsored initiatives
Earned media: Include social sharing and other activities
Paid, earned and owned media support different elements of a sales funnel and gap in one area can damage the integrity of your entire content marketing exercise. Marketers usually focus on creating good content but tend to ignore the importance of promoting it. As a content marketer, you need to work hard to make that one piece of good content gets enough eyeballs. Also, ensure that you build a consistent storyline across these channels.
Strategizing promotion across channels?
Even before you create your masterpiece content, you need to sit down and answer few questions for yourself, like, what is your target audience? what are your goals? what is your promotional strategy and budget? etc.
To form a perfect blend of ‘marketing mix’ you take into consideration the following (or more for your typical business model):
- Identify the influencers in your niche — Which LinkedIn groups or Twitter handles are influencing your target market? Who has more influencers on LinkedIn, or high Klout score or an active Google+ page?
- Identify customer problems — What are the typical search questions in your industry? What do customers search for? You can understand a few from your sales teams who handle customer queries.
- What are famous search keywords — Google search tools help you uncover jargons or acronyms from world-wide searches or can even help you figure out locations where the terms are used more often.
- What your competition is up to? — What keywords are they targeting or bidding on? What topics are they blogging on? What platforms are they choosing for ad promotion?
- Company news — Any important changes in the company. Launch of product, product enhancements, new geography acquisition etc
These are the content assets owned or wholly controlled by the brand. They include websites, blog, videos and brand-owned social network channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Owned media help in building long-term relationships with existing prospects. It benefits from creating niche audiences and is cost effective. The main challenge in owned media is that it involves more time than paid media.
Role: Build for long-term relationships
Benefits: Control, longevity, cost-efficient, versatile, niche audience
Challenges: No guarantees, Company communication not trusted, takes time to scale
- Content marketers should develop a plan that is long-term and unique. For instance, based on the search questions, you can develop an infographic addressing the questions and create some extracts from it with interesting statistics. These can be shared on social networks.
- Facebook attracts more audience on image-centric posts. So you can share the images of infographics on Facebook.
- For your blog posts, you can write content based on the statistics you developed or create topics for customer questions.
- You can also create content for guest blogging on your industry-specific websites which have higher domain activity and use backlinks to your own website.
- Include these links in weekly newsletters and allow customers to distribute your content socially.
- Be careful not to make corporate content too biased or technical.
- Additional budget is required for white-papers, eBooks, Infographics. Have well-designed pieces for both digital and print versions.
Paid media are display or broadcast advertising where brand pays to leverage a channel. This can be Facebook ads or Google ads. This should be carefully implemented so that your landing pages can serve audience from PPC and SEO. Paid media can show immediate results as soon as you run your ads, but the balance could shift as you run off on budget.
Role: Shift from foundation to a catalyst that feeds owned and creates earned media
Benefits: In demand, Immediate results, Scale, control
Challenges: Clutter, declining response rates, poor credibility
- Paid searches are too expensive to lose sight of them. Paid media brings its own benefits by including the opportunity to extend your reach to your intended audience across trusted channels.
- You might’ve written a blog post building your own statistics but you couldn’t get enough views and shares. Through paid media, you can bring the old but powerful content back to the forefront.
- You can combine personalization and paid media to target prospects through sales funnel.
- Make sure that your ads and their content are relevant to the target audience. For Facebook ads, the higher the relevance score, the lower your lead ads cost will be.
- Twitter now allows you to promote individual tweets, which can be a great way to get in front of the right people and join the social conversation.
- For the retargeting list of ads, you can go to AdRoll or Google retargeting.
Earned media are user-generated content when customers become the channel. This can be consumers’ social media posts, tweets, reviews, videos, photos and open online communities. It’s the word-of-mouth which includes mentions in media or social channels that are the result of PR or media relations. It is the most trustworthy information for consumers to consider and most sought after for decision making on the purchase. That’s the reason why this is the most difficult to crack among the three because you don’t have any control on this.
Role: Listen and respond — earned media is often the result of well executed and well-coordinated owned and paid media
Benefits: Most credible, key role in most sales, transparent and lives on
Challenges: No control, can be negative, scale, hard to measure
- For PR, work on one press release per month and share it on the social network or other websites, like TechCrunch. This could result in hundreds of additional links pointing to your website (great for SEO), as well as some inquiries.
- You can socially share content on networks, like, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook etc. They can drive a lot of traffic and thus increase sales.
- When you launch a piece of content, plan some sort of earned media promotion.
- Create unique, informative content — use high authority research from scientific journals and sources to backup your content.
- Encourage social sharing
- Write good metadata so you look good when shared on social sites
- The license on your own content — whether statistical or visual elements, so you get the credibility and also views on sharing.
The ideal content marketing plan should use a convergence media which uses two or more of paid, earned and owned media. What percentage of each of these should make up the convergence? There is no such thing as the right balance here since it actually depends on various factors, like, your industry, your budget, your goals, time limit etc.
What is your strategy when it comes to using earned, owned and paid media. Let us know in the comments below.