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Media Convergence: Combining Paid, Owned, and Earned Media

Media convergence or the convergence of media can refer to either 1) the merging of previously distinct media technologies and media forms resulting from digitization and computer networking; OR 2) an economic strategy in which the media properties owned by communications companies employ digitization and computer networking to work together.

For me, the real origin of the phrase ‘media convergence’ comes from understanding the true definitions of paid, owned and earned media. From there you can understand how each variation of media can be combined (or converged) to form a comprehensive marketing ecosystem.

The advent of social media has changed a lot, especially when it comes to marketing. These days websites are not actually a brand’s dominant online presence; social media has taken that honour. This makes it not only important, but – in fact – absolutely crucial for companies to reconsider how they are going about approaching their paid, owned and earned media and especially their current social media strategy, which really combines all three forms of media.

While each brand’s exact approach is going to be unique, one thing’s for certain: convergence of media is key. In order for any brand to not only thrive, but even just survive in today’s age of cut-throat creative marketing, they are going to need to bring paid, owned and earned media together to create a cohesive, engaging front. There are a lot of businesses out there, and they’re all competing for your audience’s attention, so if you can’t commit to standing out, you may as well back down.

Paid, Owned and Earned Media: An Overview of Media Convergence

Before I get into convergence, let’s first flesh out the main concepts here so you can better understand what exactly we’re talking about and what exactly is at stake.

And let me be clear, I am talking strictly about media convergence in the digital marketing age,

Paid Media

Paid media refers to advertisements, be it print, online, radio or TV. This is, quite literally, the advertising you pay for. Businesses looking to beef up their web presence use paid media to drive traffic to their web properties, most notably their website or social media page. Given the undeniable dominance of social media, it’s imperative that you start paying for social ads to increase your reach. It’s not an option anymore; if you want your brand to be seen and heard in today’s saturated social arena, you’re going to have to pony up. According to Digiday, 64% of businesses are planning to increase their investment in social advertising and this year eMarkerter says it expects that the social ad industry will reach a whopping $11 billion.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to all the pages and assets that are managed by your brand on the Internet. They exist not only to drive traffic to your website, but to get visitors to spend some time there and engage with your brand, your content and even other visitors. As mentioned, for the vast majority of companies, their social presence is becoming more important than their website. In fact, businesses are getting far more traffic to their social platforms than any other web property. This means you’re going to want to put more time (and yes, money) into your social pages so that people will want to spend time there, as well as on your website. You don’t want to focus on one to the exclusion of the other; you want to nurture them both and, as we’ll discuss in a moment, combine their unique capabilities into one cohesive marketing strategy.

Earned Media

Earned media is arguably the most effective kind of media – and it’s also the most difficult to get. This is because you don’t have as much control over your earned media; you can’t buy it or create it for yourself. However, you can try to encourage the creation of more of it. Earned media is essentially social word of mouth; it’s content created for you by users who want to do it; they post comments, write reviews, share yours posts, blogs, and videos. They ‘Like’ , re-tweet and +1 you. They are your willing advocates because they want to be – not because you are paying them, and it’s precisely the enthusiastic and voluntary nature of this earned media that makes it so valuable to you (it’s free) as well to others (it’s coming highly recommended by someone who has no vested interest in promoting your brand, so others are more likely to put stock in its sincerity).

Most of us already know that word of mouth is the most effective form of any type of marketing. According to a Nielsen reports, word of mouth remains the most trusted form of advertising, with people reporting trust levels of 92%. Compare this to a branded website, which only scored 58%.

The objective of earned media is to get customers to talk about your brand so you don’t have to. You have to get your users to want to generate content for you.

Bringing It All Together: The Convergence of Paid, Owned and Earned Media

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot of competition out there vying for your audience’s attention. Much of it is from other businesses, but there’s a lot coming from your audience’s social connections, too. Consider this: 46% of adult internet users post content they’ve created on social platforms. 41% take photos they’ve found online and repost them. The activity of these creators and curators combined with the activity of other brands makes for a busy, noisy newsfeed.

So how do you stand out?

Convergence is the answer. You have to bring paid (ads, sponsored stories and posts), owned (your media library, content, social network profiles, campaigns, promotions) and earned (user generated content and sharing) media together. Much like Sheldon Cooper’s proverbial milking stool, each distinct type of media stands apart, but must also work together to support your media strategy as a whole.

Here’s the thing: depending on your business, your budget and a myriad of other factors, there is no set formula that will tell you how to ideally mix your paid, owned and earned media into a killer cocktail of marketing power and prowess. You have to build your own formula, and it will take a lot of testing to perfect.

Lip Service: The Common Denominator

One thing’s for certain across the board, though: all strategies do well when they focus on promoting earned media. Remember, word of mouth is not only your most cost-effective form of advertising, but it’s also the most powerful form of advertising.

For example, you can implement a paid strategy with your existing owned media and ask users to create content for you. Think about President’s Choice ‘Recipe to Riches’ contest, or Lay’s Potato Chips ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign. These brands are straight out asking people to generate a buzz for them, and they’re using their paid and owned media to create a foundation for this buzz. What’s more, these brands focussed on engaging the people – not the search engines. They created highly shareable, viral and visual campaigns that embraced multiple marketing strategies. They’re also both invariably successful and – considering the phenomenally positive outcome – incredibly inexpensive. Word of mouth, after all, is free.

Of course, these campaigns also share the major similarity of being formulated and backed by marketing experts. If you want to get the industry’s best marketing experts in your corner, contact us. We’ll help you decide how your brand can best converge, engage and stand out.

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