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As a business, it’s great to get out there and engage with customers. It’s great to use a variety of social media channels to open up communication and spread your marketing message, but what a lot of business decision makers might not realize is that it can be the combination of tactics that work much better than any one strategy.

Social media marketing can be broken down into three categories: earned media, paid media, and owned media. This is how Maggie Fox, CEO of Social Media Group presents it. Social Media Group, by the way, counts brands like SAP, Ford, Yamaha, ING Direct, CNN, and Thomson Reuters (to name a few) among its clients. 

Do you you use a combination of earned, paid, and owned media? Let us know

"In the simplest possible words, earned media is when someone says something about you rather than you saying it yourself," Fox tells WebProNews. "Paid media is when you then pay to place your content on a third-party channel, and then owned media would be your own channel, so when we’re talking about social, there are social components to all of these things, that would be something like Twitter or Facebook, or you know, your own social website."

"You can take earned media, for example, it’s very expensive to generate, particularly when we’re talking social, it doesn’t have a huge reach," she says. "If you do, say, a blogger outreach program, you know, perhaps you might reach a couple hundred thousand people. They might consume your content, and realistically for a big brand, that’s not enough to move the needle. You need hundreds of millions of impressions, but you’re just not going to get it through earned social, so then what you can do is take it and amplify it through paid, so there are paid opportunities on places like Digg, Outbrain, StumbleUpon…things like that, where you can actually amplify that content to a much larger audience and get the benefit of it."

"And then you can also syndicate it through your own channels, so there are…most companies have multiple channels, so you might have something on Facebook, you might have Twitter, you might have YouTube, you might have Flickr," she continues. "You have all these different places you can publish content and work them together in a very concerted, sort of orchestrated fashion to get a lot of people consuming content that’s very favorable to you. So it’s really about orchestration. How do they all work together?"

Orchestration That Increases Clickthroughs and Conversions

Finding the right mix of these three types of media may just net you a significant increase in conversions. The way Fox describes it, it almost seems like it should be automatic.

"We certainly see with paid social that we typically will see a clickthrough or conversion rate of about half a percent against…a program we recently did for a large publishing company…we saw a conversion rate of .55%, so when you compare that to typical display, which is (being very generous) often around .09%, the results are obvious," she says. "There’s an obvious reason why you would choose to leverage some of these platforms, so what we often see people doing is rather than using marketing materials and these paid places again…you take that earned media and take people saying good things about you, as opposed to you saying good things about yourself, and get it to a broader audience."

Still, a lot of businesses don’t seem to be latching onto the three-prong approach Fox describes. Many are just after the earned media, which can be great, but it’s not necessarily going to maximize a campaign’s effectiveness. 

"I think there are a couple of reasons. I think the primary reason is that they’re unaware of it," says Fox. "That’s changing though, because we certainly see large advertising networks establishing groups to kind of crack the nuts of emerging paid platforms. They recognize that the effectiveness of existing platforms largely is starting to diminish…that advertisers are demanding more results, and so there are emerging places and ways to get the .55% instead of the .09%, so they’ve gotta figure it out."

"In terms of the ways people aren’t using it, it’s largely that knowledge," she adds. "It’s the knowledge of ‘how do I do this? What do I do?’ and then the other part of it is, interestingly, services. We see the ratio of media to services to do this properly – to get those results – actually being quite high compared to what you would see from traditional creative, but the results are so much better, so for example, just to…give some data points, we recently did a project for a client where we saw four and a half times the clickthrough rates of what you would see from a display campaign using the same amount of media in the same time frame."

On using social media in general, Fox says, "At the end of the day, it all comes back to a simple thing, and that’s fishing where the fish are. The primary business reason is 70% of people who are online spend time on social platforms, so go where they are."

There’s an interesting study making the rounds, looking at when Facebook users are most active. It may also help to go where they are, when they are there.