Today's widely used framework describing media opportunities consists of three parts: paid, owned, and earned. These terms describe the nature of content and are often used synonymously with the platforms on which they are served.
When it comes to social media, content and platform usually find themselves lumped together in the earned media category. This leads to confusion during the activation planning process, limiting strategic options for brands. It's easy to believe that customers are inevitably in control if anything on a social media platform is considered earned media.
A better approach for brands lies in separating platform strategy and content planning. Platforms evolve constantly, whether technology evolution, user behavior, or regulation change. Content should take advantage of platform context while supporting business objectives. Every platform has earned, paid, and owned opportunities:
- Television: media coverage (earned), advertising/advertorial (paid), niche networks (owned)
- Word-of-mouth: brand advocacy (earned), BzzAgents (paid), employee ambassadors (owned)
- Social media: posts/tweets/likes (earned), social ads (paid), sponsored communities (owned)
When content and platform are considered separately, social media begins to break down similar to a molecule under a microscope. In fact, under close investigation it starts to look a lot like a combination of digital media + traditional content models, catalyzed by current cultural trends.