Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Marketing: Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned

Marketing can be bewildering. You decide which combination of creative, content, and promotion leads to the best conversion or return on investment. How should advertising or labor be allocated? Should an online retail business focus on search engine optimization, content marketing, or something else? How are you addressing your audience of potential customers?

To cope with marketing’s potentially mysterious side, the industry has developed media models to organize, measure, and improve marketing campaigns. One of the most popular is called PESO — Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media.

This model makes it relatively easier to determine who creates the promotional content, who develops the audience the content is intended for, and who controls the distribution of the content.

Understanding how a model like PESO organizes marketing may help ecommerce businesses better plan marketing campaigns.

By organizing marketing tactics into paid, earned, shared, and owned media, you gain a better understanding of who creates the promotions, who owns the audience for the promotions, and who controls the distribution of the promotions.

By organizing marketing tactics into paid, earned, shared, and owned media, you gain a better understanding of who creates the promotions, who owns the audience for the promotions, and who controls the distribution of the promotions.

Paid Media

Perhaps the most obvious category in the PESO media model is paid media. It describes promotional content a company creates but is distributed or promoted by someone else, typically to an audience the other party owns.

For ecommerce, pay-per-click advertising is a common example of paid media. You create a simple text ad that is shown when someone conducts a search on Google. The ad copy is your creation but the means of reaching potential customers belong to Google and the potential customers are Google’s users (customers).

Another example could be a video ad on YouTube. Again, your company creates the video, but the platform is YouTube’s and the audience is using YouTube. Buying an ad in a newsletter or on a website is paid media, as is an ad on Hulu, Pandora, or in a local newspaper. With paid media, you are buying the right to communicate to an audience someone else created on a platform someone else owns.

To measure paid media’s performance, advertisers typically track conversions, views, clicks, or similar.

Earned Media

Word-of-mouth marketing, customer-submitted reviews, and posts about your store are all examples of earned media. Earned media is content about your business that others created and distributed.

Your business might promote a press release or volunteer to be interviewed for an article or podcast. When the journalist or podcaster publishes content mentioning your business, you’ve earned that exposure.

Earned media might also come in the form of reviews on marketplaces. If you sell widget X on the Amazon marketplace and customers write reviews about widget X and your business’s ability to deliver it, those reviews are earned mentions.

Earned media can be measured in mentions or share of voice.

Shared Media

When you post on Facebook, Pinterest, or similar, you’re sharing content. Shared media describes content your business creates that is distributed to an audience your business developed via a platform that someone else owns or controls.

Shared media can take many forms. You might post a promotion on Facebook or you could answer a question on Twitter. You might use shared media to distribute content or communicate directly with shoppers.

To measure shared media, you could count followers or track conversions.

Owned Media

Blog posts are one of the most common examples of owned media. For the most part, a company creates blog posts, controls the platform on which those posts are published, and builds the audience who will read the posts.

The business owns or controls everything from one end of the tactic to the other.

Other examples of owned media in the ecommerce and retail context might include on-site banner ads, a small brochure inserted into a shipping box, or, to a degree, your email marketing list. Product packaging can be owned media, as are signs in a brick-and-mortar store.

Owned media could be measured in site traffic, newsletter subscriptions, or sales conversions, as examples.

Blending Media in Your Campaigns

The PESO model organizes promotions around who creates content, who develops the audience for content, and who controls the distribution of content to a particular audience. Once we understand what each of these mediums does, we can blend them together to create a marketing campaign.

Media Content Audience Distribution
Paid Your business creates the content, ad, or promotion. A third party developed the audience. A third party controls the distribution of your content.
Earned A customer, company, or journalist creates the content. The customer or journalist developed the audience. The customer or journalist controls or influences the distribution.
Shared Your business creates the content or promotion. Your business developed the audience. A third party controls the distribution of your content.
Owned Your business creates the content or promotion. Your business developed the audience. Your business controls the distribution of your content.

There are many ways an ecommerce business might use each of the PESO media types to support a single marketing campaign.

Here is an example. Imagine you have an online t-shirt store, selling designs around having a beard, smoking cigars and pipes, and eating bacon. Your primary customers are men from about age 35 to 45 who wear beards. You want to create a new marketing campaign to boost t-shirt sales 5 percent in the next six months.

GOAL Increase t-shirt sales 5 percent in the next six months.
AUDIENCE 35 to 45 year old men interested in casual fashion and the bearded lifestyle.
CHANNELS Blog YouTube Reddit Pinterest Facebook Public Relations
PAID Banner ads on leading men’s magazine sites that link to the blog. Ads featuring video stories. Ads promoting specific products. Ads supporting the blog and ads showing products.
EARNED Ask influencers if they would give feedback on the t-shirt designs. Ask influencers if they would give feedback on the t-shirt designs. Ask influencers if they would give feedback on the t-shirt designs. Ask influencers if they would give feedback on the t-shirt designs. Volunteer industry information about the t-shirt business on HARO.
SHARED Share buttons to encourage distribution. Post videos about company. Participate in beard-related Reddit community, offering beard tips and advice. No selling. Maintain beard and t-shirt boards. Participate with others. Post trailers for all blog posts.
OWNED Publish useful blog posts. Have a news section with current press releases.

Plan a series of blog posts, a few “story” videos, some social interactions, and a public relations campaign. Chart your plan and assign activities to each of the media types.

As you begin your campaign, monitor and measure each activity. If something is underperforming, modify it or cut it. If an activity is generating a relatively better return on the time or money invested, do more of it.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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