Question – Is social media owned, earned or paid media? Answer – It’s none of them.
In marketing communications, we work on the premise that there are 3 types of media that make up what is called the ‘media landscape’ – these are Paid, Earned & Owned . This landscape has been around for ages and as a result, it doesn’t really take social media into consideration.
I have sat through many presentations whereby both marketers and media agencies refer to social media as ‘owned’ when discussing promotional plans, and technically, this is not correct. To modernise the media landscape I believe social media needs to be considered on its own, as ‘loaned media’. Why?, well let me explain – but first let’s look at the media landscape as it is.
The media landscape defined
Paid media refers to any media where you have to pay in advance to secure it. This includes radio, TV advertising, print advertising in newspapers or magazines and online or social media advertising such as banner ads and sponsored posts. This form of media is often purchased upfront, on a targetted reach and frequency basis, and, once the media rate has been paid, your content is guaranteed to run.
Earned media is more commonly known as Public Relations (PR). PR runs off the back of a press release sent out by your company to the media with the sole objective of getting picked up and featured in the news, blog, magazine etc. The name ‘earned’ is apt for this form of media, as the chances of it being broadcast to the wider public relies purely on how good, different, unique your ‘news’ is. Basically, your story needs to earn its spot. You can increase the chances of securing earned media if it includes a celebrity, a world-first innovation, a twist or is of great public interest (such as a government policy release or a new CEO appointment for a large corporation). However, here’s the catch, earned media is never guaranteed and it is not uncommon for a story to get ‘bumped’ if another, more interesting story breaks.
Owned media is any media channel that you own, which for 99.9% of people relates to your website. You own a website because you built it, host it and have the ability to control all the information on it. You can publish and promote anything you want on your website whenever you want, without paying to secure it or writing press releases in the hope it gets picked up.
Social Media as ‘Loaned Media’
Social media environments are third party platforms owned by other companies that allows your business access for free (technically) to promote your brand as you wish. By default, this makes it feels like you own and control your social media presence – after all you can post content, add functions such as apps and promotions or interact one on one with your followers, just like your website -but you don’t own it and it is nothing like your website. Think about it, if the social media platform you are using shuts down in the morning, how will you contact your community? As you don’t pay for access to these platforms, you are very much at the mercy of how the platform’s owners want to run their businesses. This means when Facebook makes an algorithm changes that decreases your organic reach, (to increase the need to pay for advertising) there’s not a lot you can do about it, and if you want to keep using it for free, you have to learn to adapt or die. On the other hand, you can bow down and pay, moving it into the paid territory for the duration of your campaign, but f you don’t allocate a spend toward social media, it will always be ‘on loan’ to you, but you can make it work for you with some effort.
What can you do about it?
- Drive all social media activity back to your website, where you can own and control the experience
- Include other types of media into your marketing communications mix, particularly if you are promoting something that has a revenue ROI attached to it
- Make email capture a key feature of your social media and website strategy so you know who your audience is and you can continue to build a deeper relationship with them off social media
Does your business use social media exclusively? Has this been succesful for you?