The majority of marketers are now involved in digital content marketing but, unfortunately, much of the brand generated content drives little inbound traffic to creators’ websites. The reason is, more often than not, the lack of a cohesive content promotion strategy. That’s where an understanding of the roles of earned (your content published on other’s web properties), owned (a brand’s online real-estate) and paid (purchased) media comes in.

While creating useful/informative content lays a solid foundation for thought leadership campaigns, developing an aligned content promotion plan is key to its success. Content promotion is crucial because people don’t stumble upon content by accident, they search for it on the web, on social media, or take a friend’s recommendation – then, once intrigued by the value of the content, they follow embedded links to your website, where, if all goes well, they will be converted to take some desired action.

Owned Media

Driving traffic to your web properties using owned media requires loading your content into one’s social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, etc.). The benefit of leveraging owned social media lies in its ability to drive traffic from your social media following while allowing a brand to build a robust social media community.

Promoting content via owned media allows marketers to dig deeper into friends’ and followers’ interests. The more people a brand successfully engages through their owned social media channels, the stronger its social media following. But to effectively acquire owned social media traffic, it’s imperative to develop a social media content calendar, which will help content managers maintain a relevant flow of social media traffic to the brand’s website. It’s also important to determine the best times to post and tweet to insure that one’s social media posts are seen by most brand followers.

Developing compelling content begins with an understanding of consumer expectations for your brand. By addressing the unique needs of audience segments, a brand can convey its solutions in ways that will appeal and may lead to conversion. Overall, content distributed via owned channels should be focused around a brand’s unique benefits, industry expertise and proprietary solutions.

Paid social media

To utilize paid social media, a brand must put money where its mouth is – behind its posts – in the form of social media ads designed to drive traffic to the mother website. Paid social media traffic enables the marketer to target a specific audience and to increase the brand’s social reach, or the number of people exposed to its content.

By buying social media traffic one ensures that its content will be seen by the ‘right people at the right time.’ The analytics that accompanies paid social media traffic can provide deep insights into target audiences, and what drives them to engage with your content. Paid social media traffic can be driven through ads on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, YouTube, etc..

Earned Media – Authority and Exposure

Earned media focuses on channels where publicity is gained through promotional efforts, particularly educational and thought-leadership focused content marketing. Content within earned media established brand trust by virtue of the publishing outlet’s own credibility and influence. Such channels – online publications (news-sites, zines, blogs, newsletters, magazines, etc.) – deliver high reader engagement and are potent conduits for further relationship building.

When creating an earned media content plan, keep the focus on providing value to your audience through brand mission aligned communications, whether its entertainment, how-to’s, or brand promotions. This content should be easily sharable, include link-backs, and be interesting enough to foster engagement.

Today much earned media is the result of social media actions. When social media followers (people who viewed your content) link back to your website organically through mentions in articles or columns, re-tweets, shares, etc., the brand acquires earned social media. Similar to word-of-mouth marketing, these unaffiliated users voluntarily expand a brand’s reach by sharing its content through their social media channels.

When it works, earned social media traffic delivers a powerful multiplier because the brand receives traffic without putting any direct effort into its’ acquisition. A brand reaches more people without paying for that media reach, and Google likes these social media signals when they determine a website’s search engine rankings.


Modern content marketing requires a balance of paid, earned and owned media mapped against a brand’s audience engagement patterns and successful content marketing strategies include all three kinds of media. Finding your brand’s best mix requires constant review of strategy, consistent production of content, and on-going analysis to see what types of content are best received. Nevertheless, each of the three media types has a specific role and when balanced will make a brand’s content marketing strategy more effective.

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