Blog post

Will paid and earned social media converge or collide?

By Jennifer Polk | September 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Marketingdigital marketingDigital Marketing Strategy and Execution

Social media managers know earned engagement rates are down across major social networks. Established social media sites like Facebook and Twitter stress the importance of integrating paid and earned social media and have improved their offering with new ad products and advanced targeting. Emerging social media site like Pinterest and Instagram are launching advertising to help brands rise above the noise from by competitor-and user-generated content and conversation.

But there’s a dirty little secret undermining the success of paid and earned social media…

Social media managers and community managers—the hosts at the social marketing party—are really good at managing earned social media. They’re great at planning, integrating and executing social marketing, wrangling content from a variety of sources, and encouraging conversation amongst fans, followers, customers and prospects. But they aren’t exactly experts in paid media. They haven’t had to be. They focused on growing and engaging audiences and paid was someone else’s job (and budget).

On the other hand, digital advertising and media managers—experts at generating impressions—are really good at managing paid media. They can define the target audience, build a budget, design the buying strategy, and choose the right sites to make the most of media spend and guarantee (sort of) that the right people are seeing the right message in the right place and at the right time. But they may not know how to handle two-way dialogue—audiences that talk back when the message is redundant or irrelevant.

The result is that roles, responsibilities and budgets have been divided with media managers and their digital advertising agencies taking a cut (12.2% of the digital marketing budget to be exact) and social marketing managers and their PR or social agencies taking a smaller slice (9.5% of the digital marketing budget). Now those two worlds are converging colliding because success in social marketing requires paid advertising to ensure your compelling content actually reaches enough of the right people.

At the same time, ad budgets are shifting from traditional to digital media. For more of a perspective on this, read my colleague, Andrew Frank’s, post about “media” emerging as the dominant gene in “social media”. Consumers are spending more time consuming content on social media platforms, and where they go ad budgets follow. If media managers and agencies want reach, they need social networks, but it’s not just about designing ads and buying slots. Success in social media requires ongoing engagement.

Paid and earned social media collide

As these two worlds—media planning and brand storytelling—converge collide, who takes control of social media? Do media managers need to learn more about authentic engagement? Is it time for social media managers to build skills in media planning and buying? Or do we see an emergence of a third, hybrid role that combines skills needed to manage both paid and earned media? Comment and tell us how your company manages these two silos and the convergence or collision of two worlds.

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