At the IAB Social Media Marketplace in New York this week, marketers were given a reminder by KickApps CEO Alex Blum:

“Not all social media inventory is created equal.”

And while social media is often seen as a cost free marketing channel, that old maxim that you get out what you put in certainly applies. But more than simply putting effort into a social media strategy, success can often be gauged by where and when it is executed. Which is why many speakers at the event were proponents of owned media. And knowing what to do with it.

Marketers have long spent effort on bought and earned media. But increasingly, they’re learning that creating sticky content on their own digital properties pays dividends. Wenda Harris Millard, President and COO at MediaLink explained:

“I think of it this way. Is Nike a sneaker company, or is it a media company? If you go on their site, you may opt for the latter.”

Increasingly, advertisers are having to create content that not only sells their products, but engages their consumers despite — not necessarily because of — their products.

That’s been a hard concept to catch on. Cary Savas, director of client services at EVB, remembers how hard it was to sell brands on creating their own content even just a few years ago:

“I remember sitting with a client. I said, you’ve got to start creating original content. He told me: “Cary, I’m not in the publishing business.”

But it’s precisely the engagement with that content that creates the relationships brands are looking for today. Says Rahim Fazal, CEO at Involver:

“If you’re able to create this long term engagement, then the opportunities to monetize that channel you’ve created are pretty incredible.”

That said, distinguishing the difference between paid, earned and owned media is becoming increasingly difficult.

Hashem Bajwa, director of digital strategy at droga5, says “these things are much more interwoven and blurred.” He thinks that taking a separated approach to different marketing channels is problematic. Rather, he recommends brands avoid siloing their branding, and dial up and down their presence across platforms according to performance and goals. But there’s no foolproof approach. He says: “I don’t think anyone has a code cracked. I don’t.”

And a repeated concern throughout the day is that digital budgets still represent a small portion of overall ad dollars. Beth Reilly, who does digital marketing for Kraft Foods, says that her budgets come at the expense of other marketing departments: “I think eventually you’ll see us move to dedicated social media budgets.” But it hasn’t happened yet.

However, Tom Phillips, president and CEO of Media6Degrees, is optimistic:

patient. If you look back to where this started, bandwidth was a real
problem. That’s finally getting resolved in our favor…it’s just that the
medium hasn’t accomodated great creative execution until recently.”