For Social Media Marketing, Earned Media Rules
Earned = user word-of-mouth
Owned = brand managed channels such as websites, social networks, and email
Paid = Bought media through an insertion order or agreement
In reality, true integration is disappointingly rare. Here's why:
·Organizations are silo-ed between owned (digital), earned (communications) and paid (advertising). Since social media impacts a business horizontally -- across customer acquisition, retention, service -- corporate structure gates the ability to act effectively in social media across channels.
·The primary way in which people consume media is a link; word-of-mouth is a link; traffic is a link. With all due respect to creative directors around the world, great viral content must be created in the context of how content is distributed. People interact with the Old Spice Guy through shared links; relatively few actually engage with the live experience.
·Paid, owned and earned media are not actually separate. For example, Brand X creates a campaign based on earned word-of-mouth, promotes through its Facebook page, and syndicate as an ad unit through Outbrain. The lexicon is inadequate; paid + owned + earned = basic, fundamental social marketing. The more we separate the terminology, the more we reinforce the silos.
·If earned, owned and paid media had a baby, it would be called shared media. Successful marketers increasingly build audience by bartering exposure on social channels in exchange for in-kind promotion. When Barbie and Match.com work together to promote Ken and Barbie, both companies reap the benefits of the reach, and validation, from each other's communities. This is just good business.
·In the end, earned media rules. All marketing should pass through the filter of its potential for earned word-of-mouth. If you had two pieces of creative, and one could drive earned media, and one would not, all things being equal, it is an easy decision. Earned media requires paid and owned, but it is the place to begin the ideation in most cases.
So here is what you do:
·Knock down organizational walls to force marketing disciplines to collaborate. This is not the job of a social-media vertical within the organization. Do not create an organizational hierarchy, in which paid -- which has the biggest budgets -- often rules, because social ideas can come from every part of the organization.
·Use word-of-mouth potential as the primary criteria in campaign ideas. Use data, the representation of word-of-mouth, to inform the campaign.
·If you want to build audience, build audience on the backs of people and partners who already engage your audience through shared media.
·Marry creative/production with distribution to ensure that brand content plays out along today's more distributed, social customer journey. Ensure no dead ends in media.