So far in the convergence of search and social we have talked about Social Media / SMO, Search / SEO and ZMOT. We start off this week by turning our eye towards paid media, which as a very valuable position as it straddles all of the aspects already discussed. But before we dive into how paid is connecting all three in the convergence I think it’s worth taking a quick glance at the difference between paid, owned, and earned for those who might not be familiar or need a refresher. If you’re well acquainted with P.O.E. feel free to skip this part.
In the world of marketing there are 3 main categories that media falls in to. Paid, Owned, and Earned. Sometimes you’ll see people throwing in other options like shared or bartered and you can pretty much ignore these. These are really just “subcategories” and can be placed under paid, owned, or earned.
Paid is anytime you pay to leverage a channel to get your message out. This includes billboards, commercials, ads, Google AdWords, Facebook ads, paid StumbleUpon posts, sponsored Reddit or Digg posts, promoted Tweets, sponsored YouTube videos, sponsored forum topics, paid wiki entries, etc. It’s a great catalyst for getting your owned content in front of the right people which can also help increase your earned media.
Owned is a channel / platform you control. Forum (on-site), wiki, Twitter or Facebook page, blog, website, newsletter, apps, etc. Anything you own, or at least have direct control over without having to pay an advertising or distribution fee, is considered owned. These platforms often have a longer term view and are where you will spend time to get your earned media from customer and fans.
Earned is when a customer uses one of their owned channels to talk about you. If you paid them to use their channel then it’s paid and not earned. Earned is something generated by customers and fans on their own. Often called “buzz” or “viral” it’s really just good old fashioned WOM (Word Of Mouth) and is often the result of well run paid and owned campaigns / channels.
Now back to the question of where paid fits in to the convergence of search and social.
Social Media – Paid
Paid social media options are very flexible and have a lot of applications, but does not include buying useless fans and followers just to inflate numbers. In the context of search and social you should focus your paid social efforts on bolstering the content and landing pages that are core to your search and social efforts and campaigns. For example if you have an infographic that is a core part of your content strategy then paying for placements on sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc. can help spread the content through the paid platforms as well as other earned platforms like user’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. accounts.
These secondary actions (sharing outside of the paid site) can then lend a social boost to the content and help with your SEO goals for that piece of content. The increased exposure of the content can then also increase your earned media numbers as conversations start up around the content. If it’s blog worthy content it will have yet another SEO benefit as bloggers and vertical specific sites pick up the content and link back to you.
Search – Paid
When you think about search and paid the first thing that comes to mind is Google AdWords. If you’re not able to dominate the SERPs organically then you can pay Google (or any other search engine) to display links to your content in the paid portion of the search results. This is a great way to get in front of potential customer’s and those in the ZMOT “research mode” who are looking for products like yours or your competitors.
Social networks are also getting in on the paid search results game and you can buy placements in search results on sites like YouTube, Facebook and more. It’s a very effective way to find people who are looking for what you’re offering and then moving them to share or purchase your products and have them be part of your search and social cycle.
ZMOT – Paid
When it comes to ZMOT, paid can be the Stimulus that puts a customer into the ZMOT mode / mindset. It can also be used to influence their decisions when in that mindset. Your paid social and paid search efforts / campaigns can even be the Stimulus that starts a customer down the ZMOT road by getting the right content in front of them at the right time. When it comes to paid search they are often, but not always, already looking for products like yours so something else (a need or a want) might be the initial stimulus. However, your paid placement could be the stimulus to research and ask their friends about your products specifically. It can also help customer make decisions as they are searching for products and reviews.
When it comes to social the content that you pay the social networks and platforms to promote could be the initial stimulus. The customer may not have even known they wanted what you’re offering until they see it come up as a sponsored post in their stream or shared by a friend. Paid social can also help when customers are in the ZMOT mindset by showing up as sponsored videos or content for things they are searching for. On many review sites, like Yelp, you can pay to have your ads or products / business show up at the top of results and on the side of the page of competitors reviews.
Paid has a very valuable place in the entire search and social ecosystem. It can bolster your efforts, act as the stimulus, tie pieces of your content strategy together, and influence decisions in ZMOT by being or supporting the content the users find. One thing to be wary of is using paid as a crutch. Far too often marketers will dump money into paid and then think they are owed results because they paid for them, but that’s not how it works.
When using paid, use it on your best content, not your worst. Leverage paid in the places that strategically make sense in the context of the overall search and social campaigns. Use it to bolster the key areas of search, social, and ZMOT. Think of paid as a spice like smoked paprika. It’s a wonderfully delicious spice and when used in the right amounts it can elevate a dish to new heights. But when you add too much it’ll overpower and ruin your dish (campaign) or if you use too little it will impart no flavor (results).
Thanks for reading,
Josh S Peters
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 1
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 2 – Social Media
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 3 – SEO
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 4 – ZMOT
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 5 – Paid Media’s Place
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 6 – Content
- The Convergence of Search and Social Part 7 – A Strategy Framework