Definition: Paid media refers to external marketing efforts that involve a paid placement. Paid media includes PPC advertising, branded content, and display ads. Paid media is an essential component of revenue growth and brand awareness for online businesses.

Types of Media: Paid, Earned, Owned

Owned media is website, blog or other web entity that you control. Earned media is content that organically travels across the web based on its popularity and inherent value, such as reviews and social media comments. Paid media, on the other hand, is closer to traditional marketing, whereby you pay a third party to broadcast your message to other individuals.

Though it was once possible to firmly categorize all media as either paid, earned, or owned, the omnichannel experience is blurring these lines. For example — social media is technically earned media, but it allows for paid placements. This makes it a platform that supports varying strategies, techniques, and campaign types.

Why use paid media?

At first glance, paid media might appear archaic or and unnecessary. After all, one of the strengths of web marketing and social media is it allows you to avoid the typical pitfalls of paid advertising by exposing different internet users to your brand in new, different and engaging ways. While this is true, paid media still has a valid usage and can work in tandem with earned & owned media to help an online business grow.

Paid media is a good way of opening doors, even if just a crack, that would otherwise stay closed. For some users, a promoted post or tweet will be their first exposure to your business or brand. Whether yours is a new venture fresh on the scene or already well established, the opportunity to spread your brand as widely as possible should be a top goal. Your content, even if paid for, will still potentially get clicks and perhaps even followers, leading to earned clicks in the future.

Additionally, the results of your paid content will be easier to track than organic content. Social media providers typically provide statistics on how many views, clicks and shares your paid content receives, while viewing the same information about organic content can be trickier.

Finally, just because content is promoted doesn't mean its not valuable. As many social media experts will tell you, the ways of the Internet and social media are mysterious, and there's often no way to explain or predict why one piece of content becomes more popular than another. Sometimes, it's just a matter of the moment. Paid promotions can help ensure your content - whether a promotion for a big sale, an update on a charity or cause, or an informative video aimed at establishing you as a thought leader - gets picked up, shared around and goes to the right influencers.

Using paid media on social networks


Paid media takes various forms across different social media platforms. Chief among these platforms is Facebook, which over the years has gone from being one of numerous social media options to becoming virtually synonymous with the term.

Facebook offers a number of paid promotional options. For instance, you can choose to take advantage of the site's more than 900 million daily visits and rich database of user data by paying for a Facebook ad. Facebook lets online businesses target their ads based on metrics such as:

  • Geographic locations, filtered by country, region, city or even postal/zip code
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Spoken languages
  • Interests, including sport, films and music
  • Behavior, from where and how they shop to whether they're a house hunter

This lets you tailor your product to the exact demographic of your typical customer. For instance, if you were a sports retailer based in a Spanish-speaking area of a city, you might choose to target an ad for basketball shoes to users aged 18-40 who speak Spanish and are interested in the sport. Your ad will appear on their news feed like any other product.

You can do the same thing when it comes to boosting your posts. Choose how much you're willing to spend, pick an audience profile and your post will post will be sent out to many more people. This is especially useful if your business is running a promotion you want to let people know about.


Twitter offers similar services like its promoted tweets, which act as regular tweets but are sent out to more people who may be interested in your business. They will pop up on both timelines as well as at the top of relevant search results that users make. Promoted tweets can be used both to raise awareness of your business and inform users of a particular event or action. You can also pay to set up a promoted account, where Twitter will encourage users to follow your account.


Instagram allows you to pay for photo or video ads that will get promoted on user's feeds. With more than 400 million users, it may be worth taking advantage of.

Just remember: With all of these things, it's not enough to pay to boost your content - the content itself must also be crafted well to succeed. Remember, too, that all of this paid content will be labeled as such. You're not going to be tricking any users into clicks.

Paid content is one part of what should be a three-pronged strategy by businesses to get their brand out there. Paid content should work alongside of, rather than in opposition to, earned and owned content for a successful social media marketing effort.

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