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Small business marketing channels can seem narrow. With limited resources and digital platform properties, it’s easy to see how local retailers and businesses can feel restricted when it comes to the way they can create and promote their content. 

But, small businesses may have more marketing channels than they realize.

Through owned, paid, and earned media, small businesses can find multiple ways to stretch their reach and connect with larger audiences and more consumers. This post will explain how these marketing channels work and how a small business can leverage each media type to get more out of their content promotions.

What Is Owned Media?

Owned media consists of marketing channels that a business controls and manages. The business is in charge of the platform and what media is shared on it.

Owned media includes a brand’s:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social media profile feeds.

While a company may not directly own all of their owned media platforms (such as their social media networks), they do control their presence there. They choose what to share and how to communicate. This can be referred to as organic content as it fits into a platform naturally and is shared without paid promotion.

What Is Paid Media?

Paid media is a small business marketing channel that relies on paid advertising and sponsorships. It’s media that businesses pay to promote.

Paid media includes:

  • Social media ads and promotions
  • Sponsored content
  • Influencer marketing partnerships
  • Display ads
  • Search engine marketing

This type of content relies on a third-party platform. Unlike owned media, which exists on a business-owned channel, paid media appears on another brand or business’s channel. Paid ads appear on other websites, sponsored content appears on separate blogs, and paid social promos do not organically show on social media platforms. They exist as paid placements.

What Is Earned Media?

Earned media is one of the small business marketing channels that is controlled by customers and media outlets. It is content that is spread by third-parties without a monetary exchange.

Earned media is:

  • Content shared on social media
  • Brand press coverage
  • Brand mentions in blog posts and other digital content  

This type of media is considered “earned” because the content is mentioned because it is so valuable and exceptional that a third-party shared it without compensation. The content “earned” a mention or placement based on its merit.

Formulas for Small Business Marketing Channels   

When a small business is only focused on one of these marketing channels, their media reach can feel restricted.

That narrow approach makes it seem as though marketing opportunities are limited.

But, when a business acknowledges owned, paid, and earned media as separate channels and uses strategies to make them work together — they can unlock vast opportunities for effective content promotion.

Owned + Paid

Businesses have the most control over their owned media. They are responsible for it’s creation and direct distribution through their platforms. But often, organic promotion of owned media isn’t enough to catch attention on its own.

Owned media needs to be paired with paid media to get a larger reach. To combine the two:

  • Publish content on your website and use search engine marketing and pay-per-click ads to promote it.
  • Publish social media posts that lead back to your website and use paid promotions to increase the content’s visibility on social platforms.
  • Pay social media influencers to mention your content or brand or share your content. Note that you should never try to hide these paid sponsorships. It’s unethical and goes against FTC rules. Always make it clear that your brand has paid for a sponsored post or mention.

Owned + Earned

There isn’t an exact formula or guarantee that can turn owned media into earned media. But, there are ways to improve the odds that your owned content will get earned attention through your small business marketing channels.

  • Create exceptional content. Deliver extremely high-quality resources and guides that trigger users to share the content with their friends. Use multimedia and video to attract extra attention.  
  • Give third-parties a reason to share your content by including them in the content. Crowdsource quotes or images. Mention other brands as resources or references. Then, let the third-parties know you created something that includes them. They will be more likely to share something that is also a promotion for them.
  • Offer sharing incentives through social media sweepstakes that provide entrance for a contest in exchange for sharing or commenting on posts.

Paid + Earned

As mentioned above, there is no formula for getting people and media outlets to organically share owned content. You can use tactics that encourage sharing and, you can also use paid promotion to get more earned media.

Use paid promotions on social media channels to get more exposure for your posts. This type of sharing tends to compound. The more people that see a piece of content, the more likely it is that the content will be shared repeatedly.

Owned + Earned + Paid

Combining owned, earned, and paid media creates a marketing strategy that can develop more and more over time. Each channel feeds into one another when you have systems set up for each media category. This allows all of your content to work double-time and expand all three of your small business marketing channels.

How to Make the Most of Your Marketing Channels

The key to tapping into owned, paid, and earned media marketing channels is developing an editorial calendar that lays out all your content develop plans. When you can look at all of your content assets in one place, it becomes much easier to identify opportunities to combine channels and expand your reach.

To begin reaping the benefits of a plan that includes owned, earned, and paid media, start by building an editorial calendar for both your marketing, promotional, and informational content. This will give you the foundation you need to start expanding on all of your available small business marketing channels.  

Click here to get our step-by-step guide and free template for building your editorial calendar.