Businesses have probably heard a lot more about “converged media” recently. Though not a new term, its role in digital marketing is a new concept for many marketers that presents opportunities, challenges, and questions.
So what does it mean and how should it impact digital marketing strategies for retailers, home service providers, financial institutions, and other businesses?
The simplest explanation is that “converged media” represents the overlap of any combination of paid, owned, and earned media types. Savvy businesses recognize the opportunity in this overlap, but before a business or brand can capitalize, they must understand the three media types which combine to create “converged”:
- Paid media: This includes pay-per-click (PPC), mobile PPC, social PPC, mobile search, mobile display, etc.
- Owned media: This efers to location pages, mobile location pages, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Google+ Local pages, YouTube channels, etc.
- Earned media: This includes local SEO, mobile SEO, Google+ Local and Bing listing optimization, customer reviews, and more.
Paid and owned media are fairly well understood by most businesses, but earned media can be a more difficult concept to grasp and perfect.
Earned media can't be created by marketing teams yet is largely the result of efforts in the paid and earned arenas through the accumulation of “Likes,” “shares,” “retweets,” user reviews and other user-generated content which features a company. Word of mouth meets the web.
Each of these media types provide value, with perhaps earned being the most sought after thanks to the inherent credibility it contains via consumer perspectives. Many businesses struggle to generate earned media, but two basic strategies can help:
- Make sure that owned and paid content is unique and valuable as quality content drives earned media.
- Work to gain the attention of key influencers who increase value by sharing your content with their followers; not all “Likes” are created equal.
While “converged media” has existed in various forms for years, changing consumer media consumption habits prompted by the rise of the Internet, social networks, tablets, smartphones, etc. – have sped up the evolution of paid, owned, and earned digital media. Today, these three categories naturally overlap, and brands should focus on developing a fourth, opportunity-rich digital media type: “converged.”
As is often the case, addressing untapped opportunity brings challenges; “converged media” is no different. The most obvious challenge presented by “converged media” is simply the increasing number of digital marketing channels which require management.
Ad types are increasingly diverse with mobile and social joining the display and PPC ranks. Pile these on top of managing a multi-faceted social presence that includes Facebook, Google+ pages, and blogs, then stir in organic content such as search engine optimization, local listing pages, and reviews, and the process often becomes overwhelming.
Then come the challenges of ensuring the look and feel on each of these channels and media types consistently represents the company or brand and overcoming the structural silos that have developed around the ownership of the individual pieces. Many departments play a role within “converged media,” and it’s important to ensure they all work in unison toward a common goal.
Perhaps most importantly, how does a company define and measure the success of its “converged media” efforts? What are the key performance indicators which will emerge as this form of digital media continues to evolve? What tools are necessary to measure “converged media” efforts, and who will be best suited to use them?
Mitigating these challenges requires technology. Bid management platforms automate and assist with paid media. Content management systems help deal with the challenges associated with local marketing and location listings.
Several tools assist with customer relationship management on social platforms, and of course, some all-in-one solutions combine all of these into a single, user-oriented package.
The all-in-one solutions usually offer the best all-around experience by combining existing technologies and eliminating a number of the cross-platform challenges. In fact, a recent report from the Altimeter Group, “The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Will Combine Paid, Owned and Earned Media,” stated “…disparate tools leave marketers kneecapped at the workbench.” This is hardly a description that inspires much desire for the multi-tool approach.
- Offer access to all channels in a single location.
- Provide cross-channel consistency.
- Enable fast and easy distribution to all channels (including the ability to manage content across hundreds or thousands of local pages).
- Simplify cross-channel analysis and measurement.
Regardless of whether a business manages its “converged media” efforts with one tool or several, it’s important to recognize “converged media” is here to stay and begin addressing the issues which come along with it now.
Successful management of “converged media” will take practice, and CMOs and CTOs must work together and break down silos with technology to make it work. Businesses must remain flexible to maximize success and minimize potential stumbling blocks. Regardless, companies must act now or risk wasting the opportunity.