On Facebook, Lines Between Paid, Earned, Owned Media Become Blurred

By Justin Lafferty 

Prior to Facebook and the rise of social media, it was fairly easy to tell the difference between paid, earned, and owned media and advertising. But now, the lines are becoming a bit blurred, according to David Armano, managing director of Edelman Digital Chicago. Armano spoke with a crowd Thursday at the Tahoe Snowcial conference in Nevada, talking about the importance of content, and he also gave people a look behind the all-hands-on-deck approach that Cars.com took with its social media efforts during the Super Bowl.

Armano talked about how content is currency. The higher the quality of content brands are sharing through Facebook, or other sites, the more legitimacy they have in the eyes of fans. Even on the user level, people share things on Facebook to make themselves look good — turning Facebook posts into social currency. Armano said brands are starting to wake up to this, putting more importance on what they share online.

In the worlds of journalism and social media, editorial and advertising are starting to become enmeshed where before, there was a more strict separation. Armano said Facebook’s news feed is a prime example of owned media coming together with paid and earned media, most notably with sponsored stories.

By mixing an advertising image from a brand with comments, likes, and shares, along with the social context (showing that a friend likes the brand), and mixing the ad unit into the news feed with users’ posts, it shows how the lines have become blurred. Armano called this converged media.

Armano added that these types of ads on Facebook have changed the way advertising plays on social media:

Sponsored posts from Facebook is, I think, one of the best examples of this, and I think it’s going to be super highly disruptive for a number of reasons. One, it kind of throws those hard lines away, because when you look at a sponsored post: Is there a paid element? Yes, because we have to work with Facebook and actually pay them to sponsor a post. Is there an owned element? Yes, because we own the content and somewhat have ownership over the channel. Is there an earned element? Yes, because even though promoting it might increase the visibility and the click-through rates, ultimately, if your content is not good, you’re not going to get the earned media of people sharing it … Paid, earned, and owned all work together. It’s all converged.

Brands are also putting way more resources into their social ad strategies now than they have in the past. Armano used two examples from the Super Bowl earlier this month: The infamous Oreo ad during the blackout, and a campaign where his company worked in tandem with Cars.com to have a full-on social media blitz.

Oreo not only had planned content, but the company had a team available to create a unique and engaging ad on the fly after the lights went out in the New Orleans Superdome.

Also during the game, Cars.com worked with Edelman Digital for an all-hands-on-deck approach after the company’s commercial aired. Edelman Digital and Cars.com worked together to not only track every hashtag and mention of the ad, but respond to commenters and tweeters in live time. The approach worked, as there were 2,127 social interactions between Cars.com and fans on Facebook during the Super Bowl.

Armano described how the process of media buying has shifted in the age of Facebook:

What I think Facebook is doing is really disruptive and really interesting, and it’s beginning to turn the official advertising model on its head.

Readers: If you’re an advertiser, how do you work paid, earned, and owned media strategies into your Facebook marketing campaigns?