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What is the Difference Between Owned and Earned Social Media?

Social Media Strategy

What is the Difference Between Owned and Earned Social Media?

As social media marketers, we are constantly looking for the best way to generate new content that is relevant to our fans and followers. It isn’t always easy to find what is going to work for your audience. That’s where owned and earned social media come into play. These terms are thrown around all the time, but what do owned, earned, and paid social media actually mean and how do they fit in with your social strategy?

So let’s start with the basics. What’s the difference between owned, earned, and paid social media?

Owned social media is what you say and what people say TO you. This could take the form of responses on any channel your brand controls, as well as any posts that directly mention or tag your brand. Examples include:

  • Social network accounts/pages
  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Brand packaging

Earned social media is what people say ABOUT you. This is the conversation around your brand without anyone actually mentioning or tagging your brand or the conversation around the kind(s) of product(s) you are selling. Earned social media has a greater impact and a higher ROI. Remember: people trust people. Examples include:

  • PR
  • Word of mouth
  • Online reviews
  • “Viral” content

Paid is what brands pay for people to see in a certain channel. Examples include:

  • Display
  • Paid search
  • Boosted posts
  • Social ad campaigns


The Social Trifecta

Social-TrifectaWhen these three types of social media work together, they create what Tracx calls The Social Trifecta™. Your owned, earned, and paid social media should not work in separate silos. In order to achieve the best results, you need to make sure they are all working together towards one common goal. By working together you will see greater engagement, increased earned social media, and ultimately, an uptick in your sales attributed to social.

When owned, earned, and paid social media works together, it creates what Tracx calls The Social Trifecta! Click To Tweet

The magic of The Social Trifecta™ all starts with your earned social media. Once you’ve begun to monitor your earned social media well, you can leverage influencer marketing, curate user-generated content, and track social media trends in real time. All of these activities should inform your owned social media strategy, which in turn serves as a testing ground for your paid social media. Finally, you measure the results of your efforts by how much buzz they create — i.e., earned social media. And the social media life cycle comes full-circle.

Some brands already have a ton of earned media, but if yours doesn’t, you can leverage influencer marketing to create an authentic buzz around your brand.  For more on starting an influencer marketing program, check out this blog post.

If you already have a healthy social media following, a user-generated content campaign is great way to gain earned social media. Remember #ShareACoke, #ALSIceBucketChallenge, or #LikeAGirl? These kinds of campaigns create tons of buzz around your brand and give you lots of authentic, user-generated content to highlight on your owned pages.

Here are 4 brands killing it with The Social Trifecta™:

  1. Amazon does a great job of using user-generated content to create owned social media posts. Like this one. This is not what you would think the Guzzle Buddy should be used for, but this customer had a unique idea.

  2. Denny’s was listening to what was trending and decided to get in on it, by making a playlist story like this one. This is an excellent example of targeting Millennials and Generation Z.  

  3. BarkBox built their business on The Social Trifecta™. Their entire social media strategy is based on earned media around funny dogs. Here is one and you can see they attribute their source in the pizza box, so it doesn’t look like it was originally their content.

  4. Domino’s knows how to get in on popular hashtags and uses earned social media to help them out. In this particular post, you can see they tagged on to the trending hashtag, #BeingSingleMeans, and added some humor to the post.

Will your brand be the next one to kill it with The Social Trifecta™? 

What is the Difference Between Owned and Earned Social Media? #SocialTrifectaClick To Tweet
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