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Is Your Marketing Rented, Paid, Owned or Earned?

Do you feel like you are constantly pushing new content through your social media channels and nothing is happening? Are you paying for online ads month after month with no web leads? Are you wondering how to get more leads without increasing your overall monthly marketing budget?

It might be time to own, not rent, your marketing.

There are four types of digital media: rented, paid, owned, and earned. All four are important in a home builder marketing plan. But not all media provides the same value. Without an understanding of how each one works, it can be easy to constantly push new content out and not see any real results.

Here’s how each form of media works within an online home builder marketing strategy:

1. Rented Media

Rented media refers to websites that are owned and controlled by someone else, but that you populate with your own content. Rented media websites include Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter, Slideshare, Flickr, and Tumblr, among others.

To understand rented media, consider rented versus owned real estate. When you rent an apartment, someone else makes the rules. When you own, you make the rules. When you rent an apartment, you are making someone else rich. When you own real estate, you are building your own asset.

Rented media works similarly. When the foundation of your online marketing is based on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you are populating someone else’s site (also referred to as digital sharecropping). You do not own your content and you are limited by someone else’s rules about how you communicate with your audience (post type, length, visuals).

Rented media is also temporary. According to recent research, the lifespan of a post on some of the most popular social media sites is limited to hours or even minutes:

  • Average Facebook page post lasts three hours and seven minutes
  • Average tweet lasts just 18 minutes

In addition to the limited time and reach of each post, rented media is also filled with distractions: updates from friends and family, ads, game requests, photos, videos, and more.

However, the biggest risk by far of building a digital strategy solely on rented media is lead ownership. When someone follows your page on a rented media website, you do not own that lead, and you do not control how you can follow up with that lead.

An email list of engaged leads and prospects is a home builder’s most important online marketing asset. Builders that build an audience on social media at the expense of building an email opt-in list are not building an asset – they are simply renting. Social media is an important tool, but only one tool.

2. Paid Media

Traditional builders often rely on paid media that includes Google AdWords, listings sites, banner ads, and display ads. Paid media offers a couple of key advantages:

  • Often easy to setup and maintain
  • Creates an immediate increase in website traffic

Like rented media, though, there are some disadvantages:

  • The auction-style format of paid search means builders can be outspent by their competition.
  • Traffic quality is often lower than in organic searches, which means fewer web leads.
  • There’s no ongoing benefit once you stop paying for ads.
  • Paid ads, as opposed to quality content, are not shareable across social media networks.

Unlike rented media, paid media can build a home builder’s email list by driving traffic to website conversion pages. However, there is no long-term benefit to paid media and therefore it isn’t asset-based. Paid media does not create long-term marketing leverage and is best used as a supplemental marketing tool.

3. Owned Media

This is media that you own with 100% control. You make the rules about content, length, format, and visuals. You do not compete with other ads, status updates, or other distractions.

Owned media includes:

The single most important benefit for owned media is that when someone opts in, you “own” that lead and have complete control over the format, frequency, message, and length of all future communication.

The other benefit of owned media is that you continually build assets that drive traffic to your home builder website.

To illustrate this point, consider your new home community directional signage program. Do you put up just one directional sign on the weekend and hope that potential buyers will find you? Or do you post directional signs from major freeway off-ramps, busy shopping centers, and even the sales office of your competitor to drive as many on-site visitors as possible to your community?

Owned media works in the same way. One blog post or video optimized for search engines may attract one or two visitors to your website. But as you add more individual forms of owned media (assets), over time you build dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of “directional signs” that attract visitors from all over the web to your home builder website.

4. Earned Media

Earned media takes the longest to achieve – and is the most valuable. This includes content that ranks high in search engines for popular, relevant keywords as well as positive feedback from your customers shared on the internet. It also includes content that you own, shared on the web independent of you (giving home builders more reach without spending more time and money). Earned media includes:

  • High quality content that ranks well in search engines for the most popular keywords and phrases
  • Positive reviews on Yelp
  • Positive word-of-mouth from customers and brand advocates on their social media networks
  • Content that you produce that goes “viral,” meaning it is being distributed by others
  • Likes, shares, positive comments, retweets, repins
  • Inbound links from trusted sites and publications
  • Publicity generated from online press releases

For home builders, earned media comes from providing consumer-centric content and exceptional customer service that clearly sets one apart from other builders.

What types of media are you using in your marketing mix? Reallocating dollars from social media and paid ads to blogs, email marketing, and other forms of asset-based content can increase your return on investment (ROI) and deliver better results.

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This is an edited excerpt from the eBook Slingshot: How Small and Medium-Sized Builders Can Compete – and Win – in Big Markets. Buy the eBook.

Dawn Sadler

Dawn Sadler is the Founder and CEO of Builder Target. She is also a speaker, author, and content strategist.

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