Social Media Best Practices: Owned, Earned, and Paid Content

Social Media Best Practices: Owned, Earned, and Paid Content

I am certain that you have heard that “content is king” even if you’ve read only a smattering of digital marketing blogs. No alternate position on content not being king will be presented here. However, “content”, by itself, won’t keep the throne unless it continues to evolve and strategize on how to retain its prized position before another player usurps the rank.

Social Media Best Practices | Blueprint

That uprising royal is OEP content, and its imperial reign is on the verge of being upon us all (evil laugh).

What Is OEP Content?

All metaphors aside, content marketing’s reign built on frequency, accuracy, and utility is not enough anymore. Content itself is evolving and a sound, digital content lineup has to follow suit. A business has to systematically distinguish the forms of content it should deploy and what ecosystems it should deploy those content types to online.

OEP Content plays into this evolution and has to do with a three-tiered strategy for social media best practices: owned, earned, and paid. While most effective in the social media realm of digital marketing, the principles of OEP content speak to the rising requirements on how user-generated content lynchpins the whole kingdom together.

At Blueprint, I have the pleasure of overseeing our growing social media department; OEP content is at the foundation of what we are trying to provide for our clients. Let’s look at how each of these three types fleshes out.

1. Owned Content is Free

Owned content refers to any free (or relatively inexpensive) piece of content that a company can create and publish. Publishing Facebook status updates or tweeting about trending topics are both types of owned content. One of the weaknesses I see with businesses using an owned content strategy is that they drop the ball by not taking owned content to the next level–they never curate content to their social channels from brands that align with who they are and what their customers want to see.

Once a piece of content has been uploaded into the social sphere, then it’s fair game to leverage that content to your own social channels if it is on brand. So, some of the juice in owned content is in the shared ownership of other’s content as well; curated content can go even farther than created content at times.

2. Earned Content is We

Earned content refers to any of the other content created as a result of your owned content: likes, comments, shares, retweets, direct messages, and reviews. The types of earned content, though, are not all created equal. Build a weighted scale of what types of content matter the most to your business (positive reviews should be at the top) and craft your owned content strategy around the types of posts that drive those soft conversions you’re seeking.

A good practice in your earned content strategy though is to “prime the pump” by continuing to re-engage active, earned content participants on the posts they are engaged with (i.e. mention commenters by name in your replies and ask more questions).

3. Paid Content is Key

Paid Content refers to any content you spend ad dollars on to promote: sponsored stories, website conversion ads, Twitter follower campaigns, etc. Let’s face it; when all of these social networks went all IPO on us having to pay to play was inevitable. But, paying to play is actually where you can gain a true advantage on the competition. Take extra precaution on your target audience when planning your ad campaigns.

Social networks enable people to answer questions about themselves that no surveys could ever ask; as advertisers, we are privileged to that information and can use the demo/sociographic info to our benefit. Of course, copy and creative are two other large proponents in a sound paid content campaign, but even a rudimentary campaign can garner quality traffic if it is displayed to the right audience.

At least for now, OEP Content is fast on the rise as the winning way to shape social media best practices; I imagine the principles of this content technique will bleed across other digital environments and most likely already do. Remember, Owned is Free, Earned is We, but Paid is Key–so, pony up the dollars to work with an agency if you don’t think you can wrangle the paid piece. We’d be happy to help.


By: Trey Sheneman
  • Samantha Torres

    This is a meaningful breakdown for understanding the different basic strategies with content. With paid, it definitely comes down to proper targeting to make the spend worthwhile when trying to keep a modest budget. Look forward to learning more about the paid social side of your world!

  • Jeff Cline

    Great breakdown Trey. We have heard “content is king” repeated over and over, but you share great insights into what content should and can be, and with a great pneumonic to memorize.

  • Patrick Price

    Great understanding here Trey. I think this helps understand about how content can control the way a website is viewed by online users.

  • Joshua Bains

    Owned content is short order Advertising.
    Earned content is short response PR.
    Paid content is doing both better.

  • Victoria Vener

    I found this breakdown very interesting, and it brought up a question: Blog posts aren’t exactly a social thing when posted on your own page (though they certainly can be), but they become more social when shared; is it considered owned or earned at that point?

    • I would argue for owned content Victoria with responses to the blog like yours above being earned content.

      • Victoria Vener

        Thanks for clearing that up! Makes a lot of sense.

  • Excellent synopsis of a comprehensive approach to content for businesses. I especially appreciate your point on content curation. Businesses can be more successful in reaching target audiences by being intentional with their content.

  • Emily Fogarty

    Great thoughts Trey. It is true, paid content is huge in getting a leg up on the competition. I do not think people realize how specific you can be when targeting your paid campaigns. The idea of “priming the pump” is also a great best practice. People are on social to be social. Just because you have earned someone’s attention, does not make it permanent. You must nurture your relationships in order to gain true followers.

    • Aaron Ward

      “Just because you have earned someone’s attention, does not make it permanent.” Great point. Once you find your unique selling point and what your audience craves, you can be creative a put a new hook on the content that you put out. One day if might be a gif. Another day a meme but both could related to the same topic just offering a new perspective. Fresh, relevant content is key.

  • Erin Li

    Great explanation on the OEP content Trey. It is indeed very important to keep your audience on mind all the time when creating contents, even the old stories can be told from different angles and be innovative. I also like how you point out utilize the social media channel to interact with the consumers. It is a very efficient way to gain feedbacks.

  • Adam Baxter

    I feel as if engaging your followers often on social media platforms is one the best your business can be more attractive. Just from personal experience, when I see that a company I like on facebook takes the time to simply reply to a comment on their page, it makes them seem more genuine and likable. Great breakdown, Trey!

  • Soletia Owens

    Social Media is a growing money making machine. Having a unique and interesting content is key. It shows your audience what you can do for them and basically that you can keep up with the trends in today’s society. Making up more and more content as you go can drive up your fan base and get your business to new levels.

  • Naima

    Creating owned content can be very hard especially when you don’t know anything about your audience. What matters the mosts to me is the earned content. It is important to create content owned that your company can benefit from in the long run. There is no need to create content that will only end up being buried in the news feed. Not all content is the king, only the beneficial and useful content! Thanks for sharing!

  • John

    This is a great summary, I’m glad I read this. Struck most by the point you made about social networks enabling people to answer questions about themselves that survey’s can’t. Put that way, social really seems like the best way to learn about and properly target your consumer base. Also, that poem is stuck in my head now.

  • Naima

    Creating owned content can be very hard especially when you don’t know anything about your audience. What matters the most is the earned content. It is important to create content that your company can benefit from in the long run. There is no need to create content that will only end up being buried in the news feed. Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephen Shaw

    You learn something new everyday, and i just learned something new 🙂
    I’ll definitely need to start “priming the pump” on social content!

  • Elizabeth Weaver

    Wow, great stuff Trey! I’ve never really thought about these concepts as they relate to social. These are great insights to drive a social campaign to the top. Thanks for sharing! This has really made me reconsider the way I build social posts, for myself, as well as for brands.

  • Mark

    A very well written article, conversational in voice, rich in poetic features, and structured in repetition. I have to agree with the final point about paid content because even I am guilty of not writing favorable reviews despite all manner of contentment; hence, the saying “No news is good news.” Sometimes one can only obtain what is bought with a price.

  • Chuniq Inpower

    A cohesive mixture of owned, earned and paid is a solid foundation for any social campaign. Harnessing the tools you have at your disposal can sail an otherwise mundane effort to success.

  • Kara Lane

    If I have learned one thing about social media, it is that it takes a lot of strategy! Thank you for sharing these insights on the three types on content, and the best practices. Businesses should focus on these practices to be a success.