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Owning your marketing

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Here’s a question I’m getting more often from business owners and startups: What’s the difference between “paid, owned and earned” media for marketing? And how do I use them together?

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. 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 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.

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.

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