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Paid and Earned Media: Building an Integrated Strategy

April 2012 Download

How Marketers can set themselves up for social media success with an integrated approach

Written by Sarah Sikowitz, VP, Group Media Director, & Matt Wurst, Director of Digital Communities

Executive Summary

The social media space is becoming increasingly crowded as more brands and people engage on the various platforms. According to industry estimates, fewer than 10% of a brand’s Facebook fans see content that is posted by the brand. Eager to connect with and engage their target consumer, brands are fighting for attention in this fragmented and crowded space, and can no longer rely on smart content distribution alone to drive engagement and organic fan acquisition. As a result, it’s important for brands to look to paid media as an integral part of overall community strategy.

This report outlines how brands should begin to think about a strategy that integrates paid and earned in order to maximize their opportunity across social channels.

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The Benefits of Paid and Earned Integration

There are several benefits to an integrated approach to managing paid and earned media:

  • Paid media can help grow an audience that is more likely to engage. Paid media can be used to drive community growth. Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms offer both the insights and targeting capabilities needed to deliver ads to the people that are most likely to join a brand’s community and even to those who are most likely to take action once they join.
  • Earned media content can increase interaction with paid efforts. Communities can be seen as creative testing grounds for content to be used within ad placements. If a brand’s community responds well to a specific piece of content, it’s likely the same content could perform well in advertising, too. Both Twitter and Facebook offer advertisers the ability to utilize earned media content in their paid placements.
  • Paid media can help surface owned or earned content more widely to a community. Engagement and action – not just reach – are critical for any brand actively managing a community. Paid media can be used to deliver a brand’s content to their community, in case it’s not seen through organic placements alone. This in turn encourages the community to stay engaged and active.

When working in tandem, paid and earned can create a virtuous cycle – building engaged audiences who interact with content and influence their friends to do the same.

Community Insights Connect an Integrated Earned and Paid Strategy

Community and social data is essential for integrating earned and paid media successfully. This data provides a tremendous amount of insight around how people are engaging in a community – who they are, as well as how and when they engage – and can be used to create more informed and strategic media strategies. Community insights can:

  • Reveal content that is well-liked or discussed among a community. This content can then be used in advertising targeted to existing or potential community members. Ads that utilize content that has already been shown to resonate with the brand’s community are likely to elicit a better response and extend the reach of a brand’s most engaging content. For example, if a brand posts a video in their community that quickly becomes one of its most buzzed-about posts, they might then run advertising for this video to acquire new fans or to improve the reach of the content within their community, furthering the video’s impact.
  • Uncover the types of content that best resonate among specific demographics within a community. For example, if a retailer learns that women 18-34 in their Facebook community respond well to posts that include pictures of shoes, they can use this insight to inform the creative in their Facebook advertising campaigns aimed at this target demographic.
  • Reveal the days and times when a community or target demographic is most likely to engage, based on the content. For example, a CPG brand might learn that their Twitter community responds more to recipes that are shared during the hours of 2-4pm. Based on this insight, paid advertising can be run during this time window to attract current and prospective followers.

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide insights on what type of content fans are likely to engage in. Community and content managers are using these insights to optimize their content and distribution strategies within the platforms. Paid media practitioners stand to benefit from these insights, as well.

The Three Pillars of an Integrated Approach

There are three pillars to a truly integrated approach.

  1. Planning: Create an integrated content creation and paid promotional calendar. Content creation and paid promotional planning should go hand in hand. As the editorial calendar comes to life, brands should also be thinking about the goal of the channel as a whole, which content they should leverage in paid placements and who the target audience should be. Knowing that content may be repurposed in a paid placement also ensures that the content creator adheres to or creates alternate content that will render well in advertising. If the teams controlling paid and earned are separate, they should come together or assign a lead to manage and approve the integrated process.
  2. Execution: Be prepared to respond quickly to community reaction and insights. Communities react to content in real-time, often in unexpected ways. An integrated team is ready to respond quickly to new community insights and capitalize on new opportunities; for example, using paid placements to amplify content that is suddenly driving high levels of engagement or increasing reach against an audience that may not be responding organically.
  3. Measurement and Reporting: Set up an automated system to measure earned and paid media together. Automated reporting and measurement across both paid and earned channels are ideal for an integrated approach. Monitoring the impact of each channel on shared KPIs provides a more accurate view of the role each channel may be playing in overall success.

Paid Opportunities Across Social Platforms

As brands continue to invest in their earned channels by creating digital content, paid media will become a more critical piece of the activation. This isn’t new, but publishers are finally beginning to develop advertising products to allow this to happen more seamlessly. Here are some of the opportunities on the leading social platforms:

Facebook

Facebook offers the opportunity to engage with fans through status updates, photos, videos, events and polls. Paid media can serve as a virtual megaphone to amplify the brand message and extend it to their fans or their fans’ connections. Brands can use Facebook Insights to inform strategy when buying Facebook’s Premium Ads, as well as Marketplace Ads.

Recently, Facebook launched two new ad products to better connect a brand’s paid and earned efforts on the platform. Reach Generator gives brands a guarantee that they will reach 75% of their fans over a 28 day period. Premium on Facebook is a package of highly-trafficked placements, including the right-hand homepage placement, logout page, and desktop and mobile newsfeed. The creative specs for these placements mirror the content brands are already posting to their page.

360i recently created an integrated paid and earned strategy for one of its large retail clients. Based on the insight from the community team that video content was driving higher fan engagement, the media team used Facebook’s Video Page Post ads to reach fans and friends of fans. The brand saw 187% increase in daily page engagement when the media was running, as well as a 30% increase in daily viral reach.

Twitter

Marketers can utilize any or all of Twitter’s three ad products - Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends - to increase engagement with followers of the brand. Promoted Tweets allows brands to target their best performing content (tweets) to related Twitter streams on desktop and mobile. Promoted Accounts is a way for brands to grow their followers through placement on a user’s Twitter homepage targeted to users within a specific geographic area or with specific interests. Marketers can use Promoted Accounts to grow a follower base more likely to be interested in their content. Promoted Trends is currently sold on a national level and user engagement depends on the trend topic a brand decides to promote.

360i client USA Network utilizes Promoted Tweets to spark conversations around its shows. When Twitter users search for relevant keywords, such as show titles like “Psych” or another USA show (e.g. Burn Notice), the Promoted Tweet will show at the top of the results.

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YouTube

YouTube allows brands to reach viewers that are using the platform's search engines. Marketers can utilize promoted videos, pre-roll and True View in-stream videos to drive engagement with their content. Using Google’s precise targeting capabilities, marketers can ensure that this content gets in front of the specific users that they most want to engage.

There are a number of established and emerging social platforms which have not developed the measurement tools or paid media products to allow marketers to implement specific strategies. That said, these platforms should not be ignored as brands continue to expand their digital footprint. Established platforms, such as Foursquare and LinkedIn, are places where brands can engage with consumers around specific activities or topics. Platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ are great places for brands to curate and drive engagement around content.

Marketers Can Be In Different Phases of Social Maturity

Marketers must evolve to succeed within this ever changing landscape. With so much to consider, it may be difficult to identify the next step. In order to move forward, we suggest establishing your brand’s staging in the space. Are you crawling, walking, running or already in the middle of a marathon? Once you establish the stage, take inventory of your current channels [know your environment], ask the right questions [identify your challenges] and start working towards a goal [maximize your opportunity].

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Recommendations

Planning in silos limits opportunity and prohibits marketers from optimizing each channel. An integrated strategy ensures continuity of voice across platforms and generates comfort, authenticity and familiarity for users as they engage with the brand. Brands must take the proper steps to identify their brand advocates and create an authentic, relevant voice across all communications.

  1. Consider your investment in owned and earned channels. If it’s significant, understand the levers you can pull to continue to engage with your most valuable customers. Educate yourself on how paid can be used to drive this activity within your communities.
  2. Evaluate your organization’s maturity phase. What phase of social maturity is your organization in? Is there an open dialogue between the departments that manage social and paid media? If not, make those connections internally. Align with your agency partners to ensure there is communication between teams externally.
  3. Develop and execute a test. Using the recommendations discussed in this report, begin to understand how the channels can work together and what types of results you can expect to see.
- Published April 2012

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