The concept of paid, owned, and earned media has evolved. What were once separate notions of media can be integrated in new ways to better serve brands and consumers, and disrupt the traditional online marketing landscape.
As a result, smart marketers are re-evaluating the ability of paid media to serve as a vehicle to amplify the impact of earned and owned media rather than viewing each media channel as a separate and totally disconnected effort.
How are marketers building successful digital marketing campaigns that take advantage of the synergy in a combined paid, owned, and earned media strategy? Based on successful campaigns we've seen conducted by some of today's leading technology brands, there are some important steps to achieving success.
Understanding what it means to integrate paid, owned, and earned media
For years, marketers have viewed paid, owned, and earned as separate strategies: paid (i.e., ad buys) to blast their messages, owned (i.e., branded social media pages, blog, website) to showcase their own marketing messages, and earned (i.e., articles, social media commentary, and engagement) to provide third-party validation about their products.
As paid, owned, and earned media evolved, marketers learned how to break down the walls to get these three distinct disciplines to work as a team. Many of today's digital and social media campaigns strive to take advantage of the intersection of these media channels.
Earned media is the most coveted because it offers outside validation that a brand is delivering value through its products or services. Whether it comes through as a positive review, a tweet, a Facebook update, or a blog comment, marketers and brands rejoice. The objective is to integrate positive comments, posts, and feeds from earned media into the paid and owned strategy in order to amplify the message.
To illustrate, brands can use paid media (i.e., display, text, or search ads) to broadcast earned media in a scalable and targeted way to reach broader audiences. Likewise, by integrating earned media into owned media properties (website, blog, branded Facebook and Twitter pages), marketers and brands are educating the rest of the community on what resonated with their most engaged and passionate users.
However, if you're going to spend the time, money, and energy building a strategy around paid, owned, and earned media, the earned media that you integrate should be as influential as possible.
The importance of influencers
The term "influencers" is used a lot today in discussion of the impact of social media, but what constitutes an influencer? What is the influencer's role in shaping opinion about a brand?
When it comes to considered purchases that require research before commitment, such as an automobile, mobile device, or expensive appliance, consumers are increasingly using the internet to seek out the independent opinions of professional bloggers and influential experts to help guide their purchase decisions.
Integrating paid media with earned media and measuring results
When considering an integrated paid, owned, and earned media strategy, it is important to recognize that paid media, or advertising, can be useful to consumers who are making a considered purchase, especially if it leverages independent influencer content that they are actively seeking to inform or support their decisions.
Consider: If you are in the market for a new television set, which of these two ads would increase your level of consideration or likelihood of purchase: a generic banner ad flashing a picture, message, and price for one brand of television, or an interactive ad unit that showcases articles and social feedback from trusted experts in the television arena?
As a marketer, imagine having the ability to tie your messaging to objective editorial content that an independent expert has written about your brand, and to then use your paid media spend to amplify that message, along with the validating content, across sites that your consumers visit to make their decisions. This approach is unique because it offers relevant and helpful information and allows for a heightened level of engagement to socially drive consideration for a brand's product.
Furthermore, because marketing online allows for tracking and measurements, brands can learn whether or not an integrated paid, owned, and earned media strategy has succeeded. Today, analytics software can track how brands are viewed compared to competitors and can even identify and measure the influential content that is consumed and shared about a brand.
Of course, one size does not fit all. An integrated strategy that leverages influential content is best utilized in considered purchase categories like technology, automotive, and other big-ticket items. This is because considered purchases are ones in which consumers do research and seek out the advice before buying. It is not as well suited for everyday commodities like paperclips, napkins, or light bulbs.
As the digital marketing landscape has evolved, so have the strategies. Changes in the structure and definition of media have broken apart the silos of paid, owned, and earned media and have spurred marketers to re-examine how paid, owned, and earned media can be integrated for greater success. In doing so, marketers have realized better ways to engage audiences by offering relevant information that informs and helps the consumer make better purchase decisions, rather than a one-size-fits-all message that is simply blasted where consumers happen to be. Integrating paid, owned, and earned media means that marketers are now viewing paid media as a means to amplify the impact of earned and owned media. It also means marketers are putting increased emphasis on the value to the consumer rather than treating each media channel as a separate and totally disconnected effort.