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Facebook and other social networks are re-organising how consumers experience the web, centring it on their personal connections and activities.

This is blurring the lines between branded content, paid advertising, and consumer conversations.

Marketers therefore need to integrate owned, paid and earned social media strategies.

How owned, paid, and earned media work together on Facebook 

Looking at Facebook it is simple to identify the basic assets (owned, paid, earned) that comprise the social marketer’s toolkit.

Owned media refers to everything created and managed within the social network by your organisation, such as Brand Pages. Paid media covers the growing number of ad formats available on Facebook. Earned media refers to the incremental exposure that a brand 'earns' through engagement and interactions people have with the brand’s owned and paid content, including likes, comments, shares and check-ins. 

In the past, social media marketers tended to segment their initiatives into distinct owned and paid media strategies and teams. This was due, in part, to limitations in the features and functionality provided by the networks, as well as challenges associated with the novelty of using social media as a marketing channel. 

Essentially owned content on social media was seen as a delivering branding and engagement, measured through metrics such as likes, comments, and shares. Meanwhile, paid social media buyers attempted to determine how best to leverage channels such as Facebook to drive measureable sales, revenue, and return on investment primarily using advertising. 

The difficulty with this approach is that consumers on social media don’t split neatly down the middle. They are affected by both the content and the ads they see. And the good news is that as the available marketing tools have evolved, it is increasingly possible for brands to integrate their owned and paid efforts to maximise overall performance.

What does this mean?

This new, extended content lifecycle means organisations are not only optimising content for engagement, but also for sales and revenue. Everything from content formats (i.e. photos, video) to messaging and post frequency is now informed by two sets of performance metrics – engagement data (in the form of likes, shares and comments) and conversion data (in the form of sales, revenue and return on investment). 

As Facebook expanded the opportunities to amplify owned media posts as paid ads, the benefits to marketers increased exponentially. The new lifecycle of Facebook content enables brands to extend the lifetime of their posts and reach more consumers with brand messages.

Using innovative tracking technologies, each piece of content can be measured based on its ability to generate engagement, drive referral traffic, and generate bottom-line sales and revenue. Over time this informs brands how to optimise content and advertising for interaction, loyalty as well as return. 

Three ways to take advantage of the Facebook post lifecycle 

Social marketers are no longer limited to viewing their owned and paid initiatives in isolation. Instead, they can leverage the Facebook Post Lifecycle to maximise their efforts in three main ways:

1. Create optimised owned media that engages your current community

The starting point of this lifecycle is each Facebook Page Post. Optimising posts to get the most exposure and interaction in the Facebook News Feed means strategically creating posts based on four factors:

  • Content: creating relevant, compelling creative content.
  • Format: picking the optimal type of post, such as photo, video, text or link.
  • Timing: choosing a time when most members of the community can see your post.
  • Call-to-action: creating a specific call -to-action that delivers your desired outcome .

2. Monitor and measure to determine how to exploit paid media 

While you can amplify page posts as paid ads immediately upon publishing, this may not result in the highest overall campaign performance or the most efficient use of paid media budgets.

Instead, brands should measure the results of their individual page posts and amplify only the posts that generate the best organic performance among fans. 

3. Close the loop and extract insights throughout the post lifecycle

Tracking and measuring the performance of each page post throughout its lifecycle is the key to building an effective, sustainable and profitable social media program. Each post provides invaluable information as it moves from organic content in the News Feeds of fans, to earned media in the News Feeds of friends of fans, and finally to paid ads in the News Feeds of non-fans.

Extracting insights at each step of the way, and amongst the various audiences, helps to inform future posts. Ultimately, each post can be measured for its impact on both brand and direct response goals and marketers should use this data to continuously improve campaign performance. 

The lines between owned, paid and earned media are disappearing fast in Facebook. Savvy marketers realise this and are embracing integrated strategies to meet their goals on the social network, from engagement all the way through to sales. 

Matthew Whitehead

Published 18 December, 2013 by Matthew Whitehead

Matthew Whitehead is Lead Solutions Consultant, EMEA at Kenshoo UK Ltd  and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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