Paid, Owned or Earned Content Digital marketing, Social media | Neil Wilkins | 15 June 2015

Earned media is the most powerful type of content and where you should relentlessly focus.

There are three types of content on the internet and you have a choice in your content marketing strategy which you focus on.

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Paid media, as the name implies, is content that you pay to place online. This typically takes the form of paid advertising. Google Adwords, Facebook advertising, sponsored banners, email marketing and content syndication are examples of paid content. You need to pay for the privilege of paid content but with most platforms allowing profiling of the audience you can carefully target who sees your article, advertisement or banner. Paid content is usually used at the start of your customers’ journey where you are attempting to create brand awareness and entice people into your website or social networks. It can be particularly useful if you have tight deadlines and a time-bound offer (discount, product launch, event, etc.)

This takes us to Owned media. Owned content is words, images or video that resides in places that you own. Your website and social network pages are good examples of owned content where you have control over the look, feel, placement and style of the media. Owned content would be no cost to you and typically focuses on your existing connections and customers as they move through their customer journey, converting prospects into customers and then onward to ongoing retention.

Earned media is the most powerful type of content and where you should relentlessly focus. Earned content is that which has been spread by word of mouth, replies, reviews and retweets. In many ways you have ‘earned’ the value of this content by virtue of your paid and owned media being high quality. The better you are at paid and owned the more it logically follows that others will advocate you. Much research has looked at the reliance of others on earned media and how much they take from it in comparison to the trust and faith they have in owned media and particularly paid media. Advocacy and earned content can be up to 10 times more effective than other forms of media and so your role as content creator in your business should be to:

1. Help your target audience understand clearly what you do and what value your business provides

2. Balance the paid and owned content such that it brings your target audience into a ‘customer journey’ and moves them to a point where they convert into a customer

3. Provide shareable content and media to your most loyal customers to encourage advocacy and their sharing with their peers