Paid, Owned, and Earned Media

Paid, Owned, and Earned Media

Did you know there are three kinds of media involved in a successful marketing strategy? Learn more about paid, owned, and earned media, and how you can use them in your content planning.

The basis of any successful marketing strategy includes understanding what assets you already own, what your long-term goals are, and if you need to spend money to close the gap. Understanding the difference between paid, owned, and earned media — and how to make each one work for your business — is a big part of the process. 

While large corporations often have an entire department dedicated to marketing, small business owners are often their own head of marketing. They’re also head of finance, human resources, operations, and information technology. It’s safe to say the average small business owner doesn’t always have time to manage their marketing strategy. If this sounds like you, have no fear. We’ll break down the different kinds of media and give you a basic concept of media management. When we’re done, you’ll be able to build a strategy, then go forth and breathe new life into your marketing.  

What are paid, owned, and earned media?

As technology opens the digital world more and more, consumers have instant access to a world of information at their fingertips. The stakes to stay relevant as a small business are higher than ever, and not leveraging your online presence effectively can make or break your business. The good news is there are simple tools you can use to decide where to invest your time and money to make sure you stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds. 

First, let’s break down the idea of paid, owned, and earned media. 

  • Paid media: any media you pay for on behalf of your company, such as TV, magazine, and social media ads.
  • Owned media: media that you create and control, such as a company website, blog, YouTube channel, or social media pages.
  • Earned media: when the public, such as your customers and the press, share your content or information about your company via word of mouth or online, or leave you a public review.

Where, then, should you invest your resources? As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. A successful marketing strategy will use a little of each. 

Get started with owned media

A great place to launch your marketing strategy is investing in owned media. What makes owned media powerful is its ability to give you an affordable platform to showcase your business. You can open a Facebook or Instagram page for free, or buy and host a website for relatively low cost. The idea is straight-forward: set up a Facebook page or website for your business and wait for customers to find you. If you build it, they will come, right? 

Not necessarily. Owned media is something you have to be consistent with; it isn’t a “set it and forget it” system. You have to build your brand story, curate and create your content, and build up your list of followers. It can be a lot of work, but the success of your media strategy will rely on the time you spend on owned media. Without a solid foundation here, you won’t have as much to share via earned and paid media channels.  

If the thought of sitting down and writing a blog post every day intimidates you, remember that content doesn’t only mean words. Content can include videos, infographics, podcasts, even video games. Anything your customers can engage with or learn from is content, so don’t be afraid to be creative. 

Increase your influence with earned media

Once you’ve built your brand and have a solid online presence, start working on earned media. Unlike owned media, you cannot directly control your earned media. It’s based on word of mouth — or in today’s digital world, shares, likes, and reviews. While it may seem like you’re leaving your marketing strategy to chance, consumers actually see earned media as the most authentic. This makes it powerful. 

To leverage this power, you have to get your owned media in front of as many people as possible. To accomplish this, share your owned media such as blog posts, informational videos, and product reviews on social media. Encourage friends and family to like, share, and interact with your posts as much as possible to help get you started. Getting out and being active in your community — or communities of people who fit your target audience — can also be a great way to introduce your brand. You can also consider recruiting brand ambassadors to help spread the word about your business. 

Online reviews often get overlooked, but they are a type of earned media. Consumers rely on transparency and honesty more and more when deciding where to spend their money. Online reviews tell current and prospective customers about your business, and most Americans rely on them. If reviews make you nervous, remember the cliche “there’s no such thing as bad press.” The same goes for reviews, for two reasons. First of all, a critical review can point out where you can improve for future customers. Second, by responding to a review, you’re showing that you care about your customers and their experience. This can entice future customers to do business with you, regardless of what the original review said.

Get a boost with paid media

While putting money into marketing makes many business owners balk, realize that all media comes at a cost. Writing a blog or running a social media campaign may not directly affect your checkbook, but they also may not be as cost effective as you think. Consider what an hour of your time is worth and multiply that by the number of hours you’re investing to make earned media work for you. As a business owner your time is valuable; make sure you’re spending it effectively.

A great way to boost your efforts is to use paid media. The key is to know where your customers are and target those channels. For instance, Pinterest reported this year 60% of their audience are women, and almost half of people in the US with a household income over $100k use their platform. If that sounds like the demographics you’re trying to reach, perhaps a paid ad with them would be your ticket to building a solid customer base. They claim 80% of weekly pinners discover a new brand or product — yours could be next! 

If you aren’t sure where to target your ads, running analytics on your owned media presence can help. Tools like Google Analytics or HubSpot are some of our favorites. We also have pros who can tell you exactly where to put effort into advertising so you can spend less time analyzing and more time running your business. Drop us a line — we’re happy to discuss options, no strings attached.

Develop your media strategy

As in all things marketing, what works for one business may not work for yours. Consider what your goals are. Whether it’s increasing sales, providing more tailored services, or exploring ideas to put you ahead of the competition, build your media strategy around your goals. 

While understanding what owned, earned, and paid media are, implementing is a whole other thing. Here are a couple of examples of how you can balance the three of them in your business strategy. 

  • Create your own blog with 5-6 posts, and share it on your social media (owned). Invite friends to like and share the blog and ask them to share their favorite things about it (earned). When you’ve honed in on the content your followers like, make it a sponsored post to boost your reach (paid).
  • If you’re a product-based business, create short video reviews of your top sellers (owned). Share them on your social media and encourage people to share their experiences or reviews (earned). 
  • Find your ideal customer and ask them if they’d be interested in a social media takeover. This approach has two advantages. First, an influencer can create content for you via blogs or visual content such as photos and videos (owned). Second, if they’re perfect for your brand, the people that follow them will be too. This can organically increase your followers (earned). 

As a small business ourselves, we know that creativity and passion fuel many small business owners. We also know that not everybody has savvy marketing skills. Understanding the basics of paid, owned, and earned media is a good first step in bridging the gap between just starting out and being a successful business owner. 

We love sharing our tips and tricks and helping you grow your business. But if you ever find you need a little help along the way, we’re here for that too. 


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