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Your Most Valuable Marketing Material | SMB Forum by

account_circle Team

Back in 2015 we distinguished earned and owned media.  Today we’re revisiting these core marketing concepts to help you determine what your most valuable piece of marketing material is. Helping businesses identify their greatest content assets means they can be more effective in their online marketing.

We’ll also quickly discuss how AI can help you better manage both owned and earned media assets. Read on for that curveball and to help diagnose your most valuable content assets for marketing.

What is the difference between earned and owned media?

Before we begin looking at all types of content, let’s start by just putting some structure around it all.  “Owned media” is the media or content you own and control. Examples of owned media include:

  • Your business website
  • Your social media pages and what you post on them
  • Any type of content you create and share online, including blog posts, photos, infographics, webinars, etc.

“Earned media” is the media you don’t control— rather you earn it from other people, including customers, industry experts, reviewers and basically anyone with access to the internet. Types of earned media can include:

  • Online reviews of your business
  • Posts, comments, reshares, etc. from your social media followers
  • Mentions of your business in print or online publications
  • Mentions of your business by bloggers and other influencers
  • Getting interviewed on the local TV news or the local radio station
  • Word-of-mouth
  • User-generated content (UGC)

There is also paid media, which is a whole other discussion. If you’re having trouble with earned media, paid media can help you fast-track, but of course it also requires a budget. Here’s a diagram that will help all the visual learners understand the difference between paid, earned and owned media:

What type of content has the biggest brand impact?

Once upon a time, the best thing a business owner could hope for was getting an article about them in a national magazine. Today, times have changed. Getting a mention from a popular blogger, a social media influencer or even a strong customer review offers more brand visibility than traditional media ever could (not to mention it could actually go viral online!). Of course you can create content yourself that can have this rippling effect, but it’s easier to make waves with earned media. 81% of marketers in a recent survey said they believe earned media has a bigger impact than owned media.

Consider these statistics:

  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 68% of millennials say peer reviews are trustworthy sources of information; just 34% trust TV and 37% trust radio
  • User-generated content is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than other media

Arguably earned media will earn you more success as a brand than owned media. Then again you won’t get anywhere unless you’ve polished all of your owned media assets. If you build it (owned), they will come (earned)!

The most valuable type of content for small business owners

Small business owners have become savvier about the connections between owned and earned media and how one can boost the other. So contrary to the “if you build it” idiom above, if you haven’t mastered your owned media you likely won’t earn mentions from others, because you don’t deserve them.

There are so many businesses and brands that are creating fun, engaging and even award-winning content that people want to talk about and share. Here’s an example of a car insurance company that broke a world record and put it all over their owned media, in addition to the fact that they maintain a comprehensive classic car blog:

If you haven’t given anyone anything to write about or share, don’t be surprised when they don’t. With that in mind, owned media is the most important content for small business owners to focus on. With this in check, they can set their sights on earned media, which as we established in the previous section, will have a greater impact on your marketing and business results.

How to master owned media in 3 steps

Here’s the three-step process to maximize your owned media:

Step 1: Start with your business website—the most important element of your owned media and the one all the others come back to. Make sure it ranks well in search results by using search engine optimization tactics to attract people looking for what you sell.

Step 2: Next, create valuable, SEO-friendly content to share with prospects and customers. Valuable means it’s educational or entertaining for them in some way. From blogs and videos to infographics and podcasts, sharing engaging content on your website will raise your business’s profile online in time.

Step 3: Get social. Share all of the information, knowledge and content you created in Step 2 on social media. Post photos, videos and inspirational quotes relevant to your business. Ask your followers questions or do a poll. Hold a contest. Again this will help you to grow this marketing channel in time.

How to master earned media in 4 steps

You can’t force earned media, but you can help it along. Here’s how:

Step 1: Identify important media contacts (journalists, reporters, bloggers, reviewers, politicians etc.) who influence your target market. Reach out to them on Twitter, on their blogs or on their websites. Don’t make it all about you! Comment on their posts or articles and share useful and relevant information. Make yourself a resource they can turn to when they need a quote, statistic or sound bite regarding your market or industry.

Step 2: Cultivate influencers. A social media influencer can be anyone from a 7-year-old reviewing toys on YouTube to a personal trainer sharing fitness tips and advice on Instagram. The key is finding a social media personality with a large following of people who fit the profile of your target customer. “Large” is relative. An influencer who focuses on eco-friendly building techniques won’t have as many followers as Kim Kardashian. Still, you should be able to find social media presences that can influence your desired customers. Reach out to them in the same way you would a member of the media.

For both Step 1 and Step 2 you can also create a newsworthy or share-worthy buzz by doing a PR stunt, which is anything that grabs attention. For example you create an epic haunted house at your store for Halloween and make the local news. Similarly you could host a really interesting contest that gets tons of shares online.

Step 3: Promote earned media on your owned media. Did you get some great publicity (a review, a mention in an article etc)? Great! Now post it on your website and share it on all your social channels. This spreads the word about your business to people who don’t follow where the original mention came from, in effect creating exponential results for your brand marketing.

Getting earned and owned to work together

Of course, you can (and should) promote earned media, even if it’s not a PR coup like getting interviewed by the local news. In fact, the smaller forms of earned media can build up to create a bigger splash in the long run. For example you can capitalize on user-generated content your followers post on social media. Did someone post a picture of the new kitchen you just remodeled for them? Share it, repost it, comment on it—whatever you can do to get more attention to it (Make sure you ask if you can put it on your website first!). Why not create a gallery of photos from satisfied clients?

Monitor your business’s online reviews and print quotes from the best ones on your staff’s uniforms or paint them on your store walls. If you get a great review, link to it and share it on social media, being sure to thank the reviewer! You could even offer them a discount to entice more people to leave reviews.

Promoting earned media on your owned media creates a snowball effect, building awareness of your business among new prospects. The more people are talking about you, the more people will hear about you—and pretty soon, they’ll start talking, too.

How AI can help with owned and earned media

Smart entrepreneurs are turning to AI-powered apps to help simplify the process of managing both owned and earned media. Here are some examples of how AI can be used for your owned media:

  • Social media management apps can identify the best time of day to engage people with your social media content automatically using algorithms
  • Chat bots that can provide customer service, make recommendations or answer common user questions on your business website
  • Predictive analytics tools can show your website visitors different landing pages depending on their behavior last time they visited
  • Email assistants can use natural language processing to determine it’s priority and forward issues to customer service.

What about AI and earned media?

While earned media’s importance has been stated, the sheer volume of it through content and chatter has exploded with the phenomenon of social media. That means if you have any success with earned media, it can be hard to keep up with the engagement that follows. AI can help here.

AI is already being used to help businesses stay abreast of what customers are saying on social media. Via “social listening,” image recognition and sentiment analysis, AI-based tools can help assess followers’ posts and alert brands to how customers feel about them. AI can detect potential problems, such as a burgeoning PR crisis. In most of the earned media applications, business owners benefit from the amount of data the AI can process and make sense of.  

As AI tools continue to influence business operations, business owners who embrace it can feel good about automating tasks and being more efficient.

Converged media offers the best of both worlds

Using both owned and earned media in tandem will help you maximize the value of both. In this converged media approach, owned media enhances earned media and vice versa, ensuring that both types of media work hand-in-hand to achieve your marketing goals.

At the end of the day your marketing goals are unique and therefore your most valuable content assets will be as well. Aside from your website and owned media as a whole, there may indeed be one whitepaper or infographic for example that is most valuable to your business. Whatever gets the most social shares, comments, links etc., is what you could safely consider to be your most valuable piece of content. If you’re having trouble identifying your most valuable owned marketing material, get inspired by what these 10 “content heroes” consider to be their most valuable piece of content ever.

Image Credits
Feature Image: Unsplash/rawpixel
Image 1: Via Skyword
Image 2: Via
Image 3: Via Accenture Insights