A Series on Social Media Marketing: Part 1

Social Media Marketing is still a relatively new and therefore often misunderstood field. With few clearly articulated paths to success out there, you may find it difficult to parse all the noise and find the winning formula.

SocialFlow thinks a bit differently from the rest. We believe this kind of thinking translates into winning strategies for our clients. This series looks to elucidate the concepts, terms, and strategies that drive our customers’ success on the social graph.

This is part one in a multipart series of posts by Frank Speiser, SocialFlow Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer.

Get the Most from your Owned, Earned and Paid Media Social Channels

Much has been said about the convergence of owned, earned and paid media. Brands implicitly understand that this is happening, and must happen. Since people on social networks are not forced to interact with your messaging in order to use social platforms, the best performing efforts are going to look like helpful, interesting and timely content. Your best source of success cases will come from the people who have already elected to “subscribe” to your messaging – your current audience. Once you understand what is performing with the people who have elected to receive your messaging, social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with their broad userbases provide an opportunity to locate people who are predictably likely to be interested in the same kind of things that your existing audience finds worthwhile. This is a much more effective way to inform labor and spending against these social channels. Here, we’ll take a clear look at what each method of reaching users is all about.

Owned Media

This is content, assets and audience to which you have immediate ownership and access. People can locate your owned media via search, or they can visit your website, or visit your Facebook or Twitter presence. If you publish something to a social network, and someone sees it in their feed – that is an owned experience as well.

This is great, and the better you are at connecting with your audience, the more upside there is to this model. By providing engaging content relevant to your audience, Facebook’s Edgerank will learn to be a little more permissive with your messaging, and your users will learn to recognize content you’ve published and be more inclined to take a look.

Once your content flows through the network, in order for it to be valuable, from here on out, the bulk of value is derived from other means. It is time to make the audience to work for you.

Earned Media

After your published content is distributed to your social audience, all subsequent actions are the result of your audience working on your behalf. It is one of the best things about marketing on social media platforms: your audience can provide value that dramatically amplifies your success. The downside to this approach is that your audience can decide it doesn’t like your messaging and rebroadcast it, possibly altering your intent or message in the process. The best way to minimize this and make best use of the channel, is to give the audience what it wants, when it wants it, and be a helpful participant in the social attention economy.

Your earned media success can yield tremendous value by decreasing costs to build your audience, convert sales, capture leads, advance your company’s brand and awareness or capture email and direct marketing contacts. Once the initial wave of owned access is spent, your earned media success comes from a few avenues.

Publishing / Referred Distribution

When you publish to the social graph, you will have some level of access to your audience. Whether it is Facebook’s Edgerank or the streaming-and-never-come-back nature of Twitter, you will likely not reach all of your audience. In order to get full value from your social strategy, you need your owned audience to take action and act as re-broadcasters to a broader audience. The following are some common earned media components to social.


Shares on Facebook generate a News Feed story, and give you access to the currently-available audience of that person. After your content is shared, you now have the potential for interaction from an audience to which you didn’t previously have access, and your content is granted an extended lease on life.


Likes on Facebook also sometimes generate a newsfeed story and they show up when that asset is referenced on Facebook. Having a broad variety of content that gets comparatively high “Likes” will ensure that you have contextual anchors that keep you in front of an audience for an extended period of time.


Retweets place you in the Twitter feeds of other users who may not be directly following you. This extends your reach and the probability that other interested users might interact with your content. Also, since it was retweeted by a user into their audience, it comes with a tacit stamp of approval that means a person has found it worthwhile to share.

Paid Media

Paid media is different than earned or owned media in a few ways. The most pronounced difference is that you will be reaching audiences that often have no prior social connection to you. When you land in someone’s Facebook News Feed or Twitter feed, you should understand that you were not explicitly invited there. In order for the user to welcome you into their social experience this way, it is absolutely important to be timely, contextual and relevant. If not, the money you are spending on social media is building a wall between you and the person you’d like to reach.


In a sense, landing in search results is a function of owned media. You have something which matches a user’s search, and they find you. Success!

However, Google has proven via a $60+bn industry that not all searches are created equal, and just like search, the quality of your content and connected peers matters quite a bit. The actions taken against your content, when it is converted from owned to earned media will invariably factor into the visibility of your appearance in search. Users searching for topics are highly focused and much closer to the bottom of the marketing funnel, but it is your value to the audience as demonstrated via your earned media success that determines your successful appearance in searches.

It is important to garner sustained success in your earned media efforts in order to:

  • Improve the likelihood that you’ll be weighted very highly in any given topic that you may have in play on the social graph.
  • Lower the cost of new exposure to audiences that have not yet formed a direct social connection to you.
  • Connect with users who have a direct path to very likely near-term engagement with your content.

Your earned media success helps your search results on social platforms, and in turn, your success there helps direct people back to your potential earned audience.


In order to be as successful as possible, you should carefully consider how the entire value creation process works in social. If you have good content, and work to cultivate an audience that works for you – you will see success faster and you’ll get more results per dollar spent. Being good at only one aspect of this means that you are leaving a considerable amount of value on the table. A successful social strategy will include a plan that integrates approaches for owned, earned, paid and social search simultaneously.