Owned media is easy to understand – that’s your marketing and promotional material that you post on your website.
And paid media is straightforward as well – that’s your advertising that drives prospects to your owned media or to call you about a product or service you offer.
These two types of media are how you traditionally reached your markets and they share an important characteristic: you have virtually complete control over them. You can design your website and marketing material any way you want. You can present your features and benefits in the most optimal way for customers to understand. And you can advertise wherever and whenever you want. It’s all a function of how much you want to spend.
Social media is earned media
But social media is something else entirely: it is earned media.
Online influence, good reputation and thought leadership are not products of marketing or advertising. These attributes are earned slowly over time and as a result of activities that engage and add value to your social networks. Just like in your offline life.
If we understand the fundamental earned nature of social media, a number of other facts become clear:
1. Early adoption is rewarded in earned media
Those who start early and invest their time and attention in learning how to be effective in online social networks reap the rewards of a head start: they build greater visibility, a stronger reputation and accrue an overall competitive advantage.
2. Procrastination is penalized in earned media
Drag your feet and postpone your engagement online and you will pay a price with diminished visibility, missed opportunities and competitive disadvantage. Waiting for others to take the blaze the trail means giving up the advantages of a head start.
Trust and good reputations are earned slowly online, as they are offline. You need to develop personal work habits and the capacity and culture within your organization to engage in meaningful business relationships in social networks, while providing a steady stream of content that helps your market solve problems. Effective social networking is a marathon, not a sprint.
4. Social media is neither marketing nor advertising, yet some of both
Social networking is extending how we communicate and where we have relationships. It is changing how you leverage your network and deliver value to your clients. When you focus on helping your clients and prospects rather than hyping them on why they should buy your products and services, your engagement in social networks can have the same effect of good marketing and advertising.
5. Your brand is defined by your clients and customers
In an earned media ecosystem, what you say about your brand matters way less than what your customers tell each other and their networks about their interactions with you. Telling people about your brand using traditional marketing and advertising channels is bringing diminishing returns. You need to BE your brand in social networks. A social business recognizes it needs to earn its brand in the hearts and minds of its target market.
6. You can’t outsource yourself
If you’re in a business where you and your reputation are linchpins, then you need to build your personal brand. Don’t hire someone to try and do social media for you. Instead, hire someone to help you articulate your brand and activate your network. Only you can earn the reputation you deserve.