How Decision Making Is Affected By Earned Media and Paid Media

By now, you’ll probably be aware that Twitter has banned all political ads, whereas Facebook, on the other hand, will continue the non-transparent, no-need-to-check-the-facts approach for political ads distributed via their platform. 

This news has been met with very mixed feelings, with a presidential candidate tweeting out the simple message of “Good. Your turn, Facebook” and a leading liberal national newspaper calling the decision “unnecessarily severe and simplistic”.

We’re not going to get into the politics of the decision. We’d rather hone in on the earned versus paid media element of this story and the effect that these methods have on your decision making.

Earned media and the challenge to win recognition organically

HubSpot defines earned media, or earned content as “any material written about you or your business that you haven’t paid for or created yourself. Although this type of media is always published by a third party, there are ways marketers can position themselves for earned media opportunities.”

Earned media is exactly what the name suggests – it’s earned. It can be highly dependent on the recognition and actions of others because it’s the sharing and mentions of your content, as well as the banklinks to your website by others, that will strengthen your engagement and widen your content’s reach.

It is also very much about customer experience. Examples can include a customer’s review of a restaurant or a new blog written by a consumer about the brilliance and effectiveness of a product. It’s a push for popularity through publicity and personability.

Ultimately, the impact of earned media comes down to a question of trust.

The impact of earned media

When no payment for promotion is involved, and the content comes straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak – we are yet to discover a horse that can actually talk or tweet), it brings with it an authenticity and realism that can make or break brands.

Essentially, it’s word of mouth.

Think about when a trusted friend or colleague gives a glowing recommendation of a product or service; you’re more likely to invest in their belief, right?

And with 83% of people saying they completely or somewhat trust advertising formats through recommendations from friends, earned media becomes pretty important for brands!

Many brands gain earned media through social media channels. These are the platforms on which the battles for frequent attention occur each and every day. That’s why the Twitter ban of political ads is so significant. The brand’s control of its messaging has been removed.

It’s also why Facebook’s approach is quite alarming – due to its lack of fact checking and limited transparency on the data being used to target ads. It’s this negligence that led to Netflix’s fascinating documentary, The Great Hack, which goes into some investigative depths to reveal the use of data collection, tracking and breach during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Paid media and the suspicions that come with it

Unsurprisingly, HubSpot also offers a definition of paid media as “one method by which organizations can promote their content through sponsored social media posts, display ads, paid search results, video ads, pop-ups, and other promoted multimedia. Paid media can be an effective opportunity to expand your brand reach.”

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, as the old saying goes, you’ll most likely be familiar with the term, “fake news” – made popular by President Trump himself. It’s the potential spread of falsified news by certain brands (including politicians) through paid ads that has led to Twitter’s founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey to tweet, “it‘s not credible for us to say: “We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!

A growing scepticism and declining trust in paid media

Paid promotion and sponsored ads are familiar terms associated with paid media. You cannot see certain content unless it is paid for.

With the ever-changing digital landscape, consumers—especially those of the younger generation—are becoming more clued in about how online ads work. And where the trust is decreasing, skepticism is growing.

Influencer marketing plays a major role in consumers’ skepticism. There needs to be a clear distinction between what is paid content and what is not.

This led to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to release an advertising disclosures guidance for online influencers. You may see that influencers are writing “#ad” in their posts as a result. The FTC’s video on advice for social media influencers can be watched here.

Are earned media and paid media merging?

There are some sources out there that claim that earned and paid media are merging. This is where native advertising enters the fold. Native advertising does involve the use of paid ads and can be so fully integrated into your social media feed or media format, that it’s difficult to tell the distinguish it from regular content.

This is probably why US advertisers are likely to spend almost $44 billion on native ads in 2019.

The argument for this merge or blend is that all earned media has now become paid media anyway. Essentially, the original organic content is created and eventually, brands will pay to boost or sponsor it. Just take a look at this example of Airbnb’s paid post on the New York Times website and decide for yourself.

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