Paid And Earned Media: An Unlikely Marriage

It’s clear by now that groundswell technologies, especially social media, are disrupting the advertising world. You can’t read a major marketing magazine or Web site without at least one headline talking about how social is changing the world. Yet, we still find there are many people in the interactive marketing industry on two extremes: those who think social is just another channel in the advertising mix and those who think social media will full on replace advertising.

The reality is that both sides are wrong. On one hand, advertising has done a poor job of incorporating social media. For instance, why was the idea of Old Spice actually responding to the audience through social media such a big deal? Considering all of the hype over the past couple of years, you’d think this was something every TV campaign included (for the record, I completely agree with Augie Ray’s assessment that the campaign was a great use of social media). On the other hand, there are still many social media “experts” who believe that paid media has no role in social media marketing. This is also wrong.

In fact, paid and earned media can have a very close relationship and should be leveraged together (along with owned media) for the best results. Here are some ways in which paid and earned media can work together:

  • Brands use advertising to scale participation for their social assets (this has been especially leveraged by brands on Facebook).
  • Advertising content can become viral (e.g., Old Spice campaign)
  • Advertising creative can be co-created with the community.
  • Listening platforms can provide real-time assessments of campaign success (like a mirror to word-of-mouth o maybe like a funhouse mirror).
  • Earned media can become advertising content (often happens with ratings and reviews).
  • Social media data can be used to target audiences through online media (see Media6Degrees or 33Across).

What’s the point? Social media marketing is very important, but it can't be done alone. While advertising, though on the ropes and lessening in its importance, will continue to play a role in providing scale and immediacy. Interactive marketers need to start balancing their media together for optimal results.