When my daughter was little, anyone entering her room would think she was a future Olympian. Why? The Trophy Shelf. Today’s kid sports system – at least at the beginning involves parents paying an entrance fee for little Johnny to join an active sport (no tryouts needed). At the end of the year there is a trophy-laden ceremony in the park — with popsicles. Everyone is a winner. Skill or even participation is not required. As a result, the average 4th grader has more shiny awards than Michael Phelps. Fortunately, as kids mature this silliness passes, and my almost teen-aged competitive swimmer fights a battle for every second shaved off a backstroke. Due to hard work and hours of practice, she understands the difference between first and lost.
In this new age of paid vs owned vs earned media, I see strong parallels between those who are still playing in the kiddie leagues and those who are athletes. I’ll grant you it’s not black and white — there are different forms of performance with owned and earned media.
Paid media is straightforward – a company pays for advertising or promotion.
Earned media is about publicity that comes naturally, organically and without payment.
Discerning the value of owned media gets a bit trickier. It could be a website, blog, facebook page or an online community. For owned media it is more about the outcomes of the effort, not who paid for it. With owned media, while the organization sponsors the property or pays for the staff to create and support it, whether or not the world finds it to be valuable is a different story!
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with paid media – entire industries are built on the advertising and promotional model. They are often essential for building awareness – especially in the product or consumer world. But they need to be balanced with meaningful thought leadership. Organizations which take the time to cultivate and support thought leaders, giving them an online channel or outlet to enable their participation on a community, blog or other social channel, often reap the benefits of their efforts threefold. Especially in the B2B world, clients depend on their suppliers to be experts. What better way to showcase expertise than through online thought leadership?
Given the overall lack of traffic on most company blogs, and the failure rate of online communities, real success is hard-earned, to say the least. Regardless of whether it is earned, owned or paid, given the crowded online space, any positive affirmation is a hard-earned mini trophy of sorts. I know first-hand. I find real value in every retweet, like and social bookmark my content earns. When a blog post does particularly well, I sometimes follow its journey throughout the day on different social channels. It is an affirmation that Leader Networks’ point of view matters and, quite frankly, that maybe we helped someone on their social journey.
Alas, no good deed goes unpunished. I am in mourning over the loss of thousands of earned endorsements for this beloved blog. Over the words and years, this blog had built up sizable following of likes, LinkedINs and thumbs up. Following our website redesign, needfully, we re-platformed. It’s a simple-sounding phrase, but it means wiping the slate clean online. Every celebrated RT, those little chirps of joy that helped me see when hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of readers liked what we had to say? All gone. But it was a necessary change. Sigh. So for all you bloggers and community managers out there, remember to celebrate your earned endorsements today! Just like real, competitive athletes, we don’t get a trophy just for showing up.