There's no doubt that one of the hottest topics in the marketing world continues to revolve around paid, owned, and earned media. Despite the fact that it has been discussed ad nauseam, important questions around execution still remain.
For a quick recap, paid involves the paid ad unit, owned is the content that a brand controls (website, Facebook page, whitepapers, case studies, brand produced videos), and earned is the stories your brand or product was mentioned in, reviews of your product, and comments from social media channels. Package all of these into a single unit, by using your paid ad buys as a vehicle to amplify this owned and earned media, and voila, you have the basics for a paid, owned, and earned-based execution.
It seems like every media company out there is adding third-party content to its ads, but it's the way they're identifying this content that is not optimized for success.
In most cases, the content being used is selected a few different ways: topical and contextual relevance, number of times that story was read (i.e., page views), or the number of times it was emailed or shared. (There are others, but these are the examples we'll reference for now.)
However there are a lot of marketers asking media companies to add content into their ads, so what difference does it make what kind of content you put in there as long as it is earned, strategically relevant, and speaks positively to the brand or service? Isn't content all the same? Well, it's bigger than you might think.
You've probably already seen ads that include earned media in the form of quotes from fans on a brand's Facebook page, a blurb from an article that received a lot of page views, or a user testimonial. While it's great to have an audience that admires and takes the time to comment on your product, the issue here is when you see an ad with this type of earned media, you really don't know the validity of that post or whether to trust that piece of content.
Optimize your owned media through data
The opinions of your brand's fans and followers are absolutely important, but if you're using this strategy to market something that is categorized as a considered purchase product, you will need to take a closer look at the underlying data. To ensure success of these executions, data analysis of the earned media can be your biggest ally.
More specifically, proper data analysis methodologies can help identify the authors whose editorial content has been extensively shared and become influential across the social landscape. Articles with the most amplification across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn are the pieces that you'll want to look at more closely to determine how they could fit into your ad.
Because there is a glut of content with varying degrees of weight, marketers need to draw meaning from their data and develop a more stringent mechanism to identify the most influential content about their brand or product. Moreover, the data needs to be analyzed to determine which content, over time, drives consideration or purchase intent.
On top of that, the owned assets in the ad, whether they are videos, links to whitepapers, or case studies, should serve as a resource to educate your audience members on how your product can fit their needs. This may seem obvious, but many marketers forget that the returns delivered by being a trusted advisor will far outweigh those of someone that is obviously shilling a product.
Marketers must realize that just because ads follow the rule of thumb for paid, owned, and earned media execution, it doesn't guarantee success. Proper execution involves frequent measurement of the ad performance metrics, including click-throughs, share rates of content, and post-click activities (if available). Proper analytics will help you better optimize the content to ensure higher levels of engagement with your ad and deliver better ad performance.
For the foreseeable future, one of the marketer's key go-to strategies will center on paid, owned, and earned media. Rather than integrating any positive earned media, the key to success will be to integrate content with high engagement metrics to support your brand's message. With this approach, you'll be on your way to creating ad experiences that will get your brand the attention it deserves.
Fred Han is a marketing and communications consultant.
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