Social Media, Earned Media and Paid Media


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Social media is a very popular term these days. A Google search yields over 35 million results.

Yet, many businesspeople cringe when then hear the word social. To some, it implies the opposite of work or business. Many think of it as connecting with friends, sharing vacation photos and letting friends know what you are doing.

Those who evangelize the use of social media for business argue that these businesspeople are missing the point. The social element implies an openness and transparency in communication, sharing, participation, cooperation and collaboration—all of which can be good for business.

Recently, a new term is surfacing that might be more acceptable—Earned Media. Earned media has some merit because it can be directly contrasted to paid media. Earned media sound like work and might be more acceptable to business. And, it avoid the ackwards contrast social media with? Antisocial media?

According to a recent article in Advertising Age, earned media includes the media brands cultivate via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, viral marketing campaigns and much more. But the majority of it comes in the form of Consumer-generated content (CGC). This is where people share their thoughts or their experiences as customers. Companies earn positive consumer-generated content if they enable compelling customer experiences. If they don’t, customers are not shy about says so. The evidence, quite clear, peer-reviews and other forms of CGC is trusted and has a growing influence on customer purchase decisions.

In contrast, paid media, tradition advertising, is producing diminishing returns. Think of earned media as PULL, as a force that attracts customers to potential experiences. Think of traditional advertising as PUSH, a company telling consumers what they should buy. Both can impact sales, however, PULL is much more likely to result in loyalty and advocacy.

David Armano has produced a clever illustration to contrast the two.

For insight into how business can cultivate earned media you might want to check out my Customer Think interview.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


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