The internet has changed radically the history of marketing, from traditional to digital and from a forced-fed passive consumer to an active and liberated participant. With so many options, channels and devices, now the challenge for marketers is to hold the consumer’s ever-shortening attention. This calls for the a convergent media strategy, which is the integration of paid, owned and earned media.
In this digital era convergent media strategies are vital for online business and those who can embrace this approach will be industry leaders. The Altimeter Group says: “Brands that do not integrate and align paid, earned, and owned media now are at a disadvantage”.
A quick look at paid, owned and earned media:
Let’s start by looking at the definitions of the three media types and the role they play in digital marketing.
Paid media is all forms of paid advertising. For the digital marketer this immediately translates as any online advertising that includes pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM), cost-per-action (CPA), video ads, sponsored content and social media ads are just some examples. In the hands of an experienced digital marketer these can deliver a great return on investment and tremendous opportunities to expose a brand. There was a time when Google Adwords was enough to drive sales for an online business, but it has reached a level of competition that has made certain bids extremely expensive. This has opened opportunities for competitors to offer the same service, such as Facebook and Linkedin ads. Although these ad campaigns are still effective, consumers are becoming more wary of ads in general and therefore paid media is considered less trusted.
Owned media relates to the content that a company has control over, specifically, content marketing. These includes the website, blog, e-newsletters and branded social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube etc. That said, the company’s website is really the most valuable and the only truly owned media. Its here you can create and achieve conversion and goals. Marketers should always work hard to maintain, update and optimise websites. Its baffling then to see websites direct traffic to their social media channels. Kissmetrics in its post, ‘Web Marketing Cannibalization‘, likens this to sending customers back up the conversion funnel and therefore this traffic is far less likely to convert. There is a caveat to the perception of social media channels as ‘owned media’; they are in fact ‘borrowed’ media. Yes you can engage with your customers and direct them to your website, but you do not own these channels and they are subject to change at any moment. For this reason, heavily investing resources in just one social media channel is unwise. Some think of owned media as free, but it also requires significant resources to maintain and thus comes at a cost.
Earned media is any promotion or attention your brand receives that is owned by a third party. It includes user-generated content on social media channels (tweets, reviews, shares and likes); this is where the user becomes the channel. Its also media coverage generated from PR activity and the impression that your brand makes on your customers that can be amplified by word of mouth. Another earned media strategy is to become a thought leader in a certain area, which will in turn create more opportunities to expose your brand. Earned media can also be created by paid media, for example launching a competition using a Facebook advertising can lead to viral sharing.
So what is the value of a converged media strategy?
None of these media types can stand on their own in the digital noise that now fills everyday life. For a long time digital marketers could focus on specific channels, but this is no longer enough. Marketers need to employ a mix of these three medias to succeed. Owned media is directed to your existing clients and is the platform upon which paid and earned can exist. Paid media is directed to prospective clients, bringing traffic to both owned and earned media and increasing brand equity. Paid and owned media can motivate earned media. Earned media is directed to fans and followers and is the most trusted of them all, but the hardest form of media to manage. This is because user reviews are very powerful and will influence potential and existing customers in either a positive or negative way.
The Altimeter Group Report entitled ‘The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned, and Earned Media’, makes the point that obstacles to integration are many. It could be fragmentation between teams within the brand company or a campaign focus with the digital agency, at the expense of sustained and consistent engagement. So its important not to lose sight that convergent media is about the integration of various channels and tactics with a customer-centric point of view. Furthermore, the challenge is identifying the touch points throughout dynamic customer journey. With this in mind, content creation is for the purpose of achieving business goals, and the serving of this content across many channels is a natural evolution. Recognising the overlap of the three medias and finding the right mix will keep costs lower. Finding ways to converge these media types will mean the messaging across all channels will become more coherent and ideas will be reinforced.