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Within the realm of digital marketing, the terms paid, owned, and earned media are thrown around a lot, but what do they actually mean? And how can you use them to your business’s advantage? That is what we will be breaking down in this post.


These three types of media refer to the different ways that you can strategically advertise your business online. Each level is affected by certain controls, including cost. This ultimately dictates the amount to which each one will be utilized for your business.

Paid Media

Paid media references advertisements that your business pays to have displayed. In the digital world, these are typically ads that run on websites and social media platforms. A common example of this is a Facebook advertisement or a sponsored Google search result.

This type of advertising is great for getting people’s attention and bringing them over to your own site. It typically works very quickly, and most places you work with will give you some control on the formatting and design of the ad. However, paid media has its drawbacks since there is a high level of competition with many keywords. Audiences are also trained to subconsciously tune out ads in social media, making standing out that much more difficult. Businesses should seek to use paid media in a way that is eye-catching and unique. Promoting Tweets and sponsoring LinkedIn updates that will get the attention of viewers are great ways to start.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to properties like websites and social media accounts that your company owns and has unlimited access to.

The advantages of owned media are indisputable: they allow customers to interact with and get to know your business. They often take a considerable amount of time to develop, but it certainly helps when building long-term relationships with your audience.

Owned media is versatile and long-lasting. Starting an email newsletter to educate customers or launching a social media campaign around a company-specific hashtag are just a few ways that businesses can capitalize on their owned media.

Earned Media

Lastly, earned media is the “buzz” generated around your business by the community through word of mouth. Examples could include an unsolicited positive YouTube review or a social media post from a customer about their experience. Anything that your company does not have a hand in creating can be considered earned.

This type of media holds the most weight and credibility with your audience, because it comes from fellow audience members. The difficulty with earned media is that it is out of the control of your business, at least initially. The attention earned or content itself may not be positive every time. However, there is no cost to you or your company, and promoting positive media experiences can greatly benefit your prospects.

Sharing positive social media posts and reviews that reference your company not only shows your appreciation to those leaving the positive comments, they also allow you to expand the reach of these comments.

None of the three types of media happen in solidarity; they are all connected, and a balance of the three may be the most successful approach. Deciding how much to emphasize each one for your business, though, is dependent on every individual case. You may find having an expert to guide you in this space to be beneficial.