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  • Writer's pictureAlpha Moose

Online Marketing: Owned vs. Paid Media

Most small business owners don’t get home from a long day of work looking forward to spending several hours building their online presence. Yet in this time of virtual everything, how you present yourself online is integral to business success. Paid marketing can save you precious hours, but is it worth your hard-earned cash? Read on to find out more.

When it comes to your online presence, there are two main avenues on which to focus:

Owned/Free Media


Owned media (sometimes called free media) are the channels that you personally own yourself and can manage without a third party. This includes your social media, website, and blog. While you may choose to pay someone else to manage these for you, in theory they are free to use and maintain. To make the most of these channels, a lot of time, creativity, and energy is required.

The benefits of owned media? The cost is very low and you are in complete control of the content, delivery, and audience. Long term, these channels are how you build an authentic relationship with an ever-expanding audience. This relationship and community are invaluable for brand loyalty and aren’t something that can be easily bought.

The downside? A large audience doesn’t always result in direct sales and building this long-term following takes time. It requires a lot of time and energy that might not see an immediate payoff. Because the end result is usually brand loyalty, larger audiences, and engagement, ROI isn’t clearly attributable.

Paid Media


Paid media is when you spend advertising money on social media advertising or boosts, Google Ads, or other online marketing. Online advertising can be high in cost, since it takes several trial campaigns to determine the perfect fit for your brand and audience. Yet, drafting and managing an online campaign doesn’t require the same time commitment as owned media.

For paid media to be the most effective, it’s important you already have an established online presence, and that you have enough funding for the purchase to be cost-effective. Paid media, like owned media, often requires trial and error, so it is important that you provide adequate time and funding for testing to see what works best to grow an active audience. When done well, paid media can be essential in breaking out of your audience bubble and expanding your products and services to an entirely new group of clients.

Which is best?

So how can you figure out the best combination of owned and paid media for your small business?

  1. If you haven’t already, establish your owned media as soon as possible – the best time was yesterday, the second best time is today! Having a modern website, active social media profiles, and additional channels like a blog, will set your brand up for success in today’s digital world.

  2. Manage your expectations. Don’t start refreshing your feeds every five minutes looking for new likes and followers, though! Building an organic online presence takes time and trying to rush the process can result in insincere content, offended audience members, or wasted effort.

  3. When your online presence has been established AND there’s room in your budget (sometimes this might take a few years), include paid advertising in short term marketing plans. This will expand your audience and take your business to new heights.

Still not quite sure the best way to use media to expand your online audience? Contact Alpha Moose Editing today: With affordable rates and years of experience, we can help you develop the perfect marketing strategy that will see your small business (and wallet) thrive.

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