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Digital Marketing eBook 2022

This is reprinted under a Creative Commons licence and is the work of Rochelle Grayson. Please click here to go to the original site and see the full book.


Foundations in Digital Marketing by Rochelle Grayson

1 Introduction to Digital Marketing

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Define what digital marketing is and its global importance
  • Explain the POEM Framework

What is Digital Marketing?

When people think of digital marketing, they often equate it to social media marketing. However, digital marketing is much broader than social media marketing; it covers a wide range of online marketing activities including:

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In this book, we will delve into each of these areas. However, before diving into those details, let’s first define what digital marketing is. At its core, digital marketing builds meaningful relationships with target audiences using digital channels and tools. For many marketers, their target audience will likely be potential or existing customers. But, depending on your organization or the goals of your marketing activities, your target audience could also be:

  • Employees (potential or existing)
  • Senior leaders in your organization
  • Investors / funding agencies
  • Strategic partners / alliances

We will share more about this in the Target Markets and Audiences chapter, but please note that target audiences are not always defined as simply customers or clients.

Impact of the Global Pandemic

The global pandemic has had a significant impact on digital marketing. Since more people have been staying at home and/or working from home, there has been a huge increase in online activity. These large increases in online traffic have provided opportunities for organizations to further engage with their target audiences through digital marketing initiatives. As a result, digital marketing activity has increased exponentially in recent years. According to a recent study by market research firm, Global International Analyst, the global market for digital advertising and marketing was estimated at US$350 Billion in 2020 and is projected to reach a US$786.2 Billion by 2026.[1] And more than 75% of consumers took a new interest in online activities in 2020.[2] Of those, 21% purchased a product online for the first time. So, the global pandemic has clearly disrupted marketing as we knew it and accelerated the use of new digital marketing practices, which will continue to grow and evolve in the years to come.

Types of Media: POEM Framework

Despite these significant changes in the digital marketing landscape, there is still a proven marketing framework that many marketers continue to turn to for their marketing strategies: the POEM framework. The POEM framework can be applied to many marketing practices, e.g., social media marketing, search engine optimization and marketing, email marketing, print advertising, retail marketing, and many more.

POEM stands for paid, owned, and earned media. While not a new framework, POEM represents a foundational approach to any a digital marketing strategy. POEM can be used to formulate and guide your digital marketing strategy and tactics, allowing you to capture more qualified leads and deliver better results.

Paid, Owned, and Earned Media Framework and Audiences. Described in following text.

There are three key components to the POEM framework:

  • Paid Media represents sponsored or paid ads that organizations run on various communication platforms. Digital examples include Facebook ads, Google ads, LinkedIn sponsored ads, banner or display ads, YouTube video ads, etc. However, offline paid media is also included, e.g., newspaper, radio, and magazine ads. In essence, paid media is any media where you pay to get exposure or access to an audience that you may not have an existing relationship with, i.e., “strangers”.
  • Owned Media includes the content an organization creates and controls. Websites, e-newsletters, and blogs are good online examples. Offline examples could be a physical store, trade show booth, a paper newsletter, or even your employees (because they do represent your organization and your brand). The target audience for this type media is often prospective or existing customers.
  • Earned Media represents content about your organization, services, or products, but created and distributed by others. Digital examples include shared posts, posts by customers about your organization, reviews, referrals, etc. Non-digital examples could include articles written by news organizations based on a press release or anyone who decides to write about your organization on their own. In essence, when you have earned the attention of your fans or advocates such that they “talk” about your brand, this is considered earned media.

While the above definitions may seem clear, not all media types fit nicely into a single category, for example:

A venn diagram showing the overlap between paid, owned, and earned media. Image description linked below.
POEM Venn Diagram [Image description]

Sponsored or Boosted Social Media Posts: These posts are a combination of paid and owned media. This is because while paying to show the post to a specific audience, the post content itself is considered owned media because you have created it, and it lives on your social media account page.

  • Sponsored or Paid Influencers: Posts from paid influencers are a combination of paid and earned media. Without payment, influencers’ comments or recommendations would be considered earned media. However, once influencers get paid to promote your brand, that earned media turns into paid media (with an earned media spin).
  • Social Media Share Requests: Social media share requests could represent a combination of earned media (the shared social media post) and owned media, if the organization requesting the share drafted or crafted the text for the post.

Because of these overlapping categories, POEM is sometimes referred to as POSE or PESO (paid, owned, shared, and earned media). Keeping this in mind, remember that some media types may straddle multiple categories.

When deployed together, paid, owned, and earned media can deliver impressive results, e.g., marketers can use:

  • Paid media to promote owned and earned media: This approach helps your audience find any of your owned properties and/or earned conversations. For example, on a transit ad (paid media), you might display a customer review (earned media) and include a link to your own website (owned media).
  • Paid and owned media to generate and drive earned media: The goal of this approach is to present content that can spark a public conversation. For example, you could boost a post (paid / owned media) from your social media page (owned media) to get your target audience talking or commenting about it (earned media).
  • Owned media to host earned media conversations: This approach can be applied to collect ideas or feedback from your audience. For example, enable comments (earned media) on your blog (owned media). Or, host a contest or competition (earned media) on using your social media account (owned media).
  • Earned media to listen in on audience conversations: This approach can provide insights about what your target audience likes, wants, or needs. For example, listen to social media conversations (earned media) that relate to your brand, your competitors, or your industry. Or offer real-time customer support to understand what is working or not.

Benefits and Challenges of the POEM Media Types

For each of the three media types – paid, owned, and earned – there are benefits and challenges. As a marketer, it is important to consider these strengths and weaknesses so that you can deliver the most effective results and outcomes:

Benefits and Challenges of the POEM Media Types
Benefits Challenges
Paid Media
  • Immediacy: Marketers can get their media in front of target audiences much more quickly and efficiently.
  • Control: Because paid media is created by the brand and distributed through specific channels, the messaging is controlled and usually, cannot be changed or edited.
  • Wider Reach: Marketers can access larger audiences much more quickly and effectively.
  • Trackable: Most paid media systems can measure the behaviours of the audience and report on the media’s performance.
  • Noise: Since people are bombarded with so many ads, it can be challenging to get your audience’s attention.
  • Low Response Rates: Due to ad blockers and ad saturation, response rates continue to decline.
  • Less Credibility: While easy to promote, paid media can sometimes be perceived as spam or inappropriate.
Owned Media
  • Brand Control: Since this media is developed and distributed by the brand, it represents the media that brands control the most.
  • Ability to Change: Brands can quickly create and adapt media to meet the ever-changing needs and interests of the audience.
  • Efficient Processes: Brands can ensure that these processes are efficient and match the structure(s) of their organizations and audiences.
  • Longevity of Content: Brands can make sure that this media is available / accessible for longer periods of time.
  • Relevance: If the brand does not know its audience well, the media may be perceived as irrelevant or uninteresting.
  • Mistrust: Many people do not trust communications that come directly from brands.
  • Difficulty in Scaling: It takes time and resources to organically build and grow a large audience.
Earned Media
  • Most Credible: Posts written and shared by others carry the most credibility. They tend to be perceived as the most believable, authentic, genuine, and truthful.
  • Wider Reach: Getting others to share content with their own networks can exponentially increase a brand’s reach and exposure.
  • Lack of Control: Brands cannot control what others say about them.
  • Negative Virality: Negative posts spread faster than positive ones and have the potential to go viral.
  • Hard to Track: When others post, it may be difficult to know who is hearing about your brand.

While some aspects of paid, owned, and earned media can be challenging, they are still essential elements in creating a balanced, engaging digital marketing strategy and plan, regardless of channel. When you start developing your specific digital marketing strategies, consider each media category and leverage the unique benefits of each one.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital marketing builds meaningful relationships with target audiences using digital channels and tools.
  • Target audiences may not always be customers or clients. They could represent employees, funders, strategic partners, or any other stakeholders.
  • The POEM framework is made up of three key components – paid, owned, and earned media.
  • Regardless of marketing channel, POEM can help marketers build balanced and engaging digital marketing strategies / plans.

Digital Marketing – Exercises & Additional Resources


  • If digital marketing is about building relationships, what are some ways you build meaningful relationships in real life? How might those strategies also apply to digital marketing?
  • Looking at an organization that you are part of, create a list of the media assets that might fit into each of these categories – paid, owned, and earned.

Additional Resources

At the end of each chapter, there will be additional resources listed that explore the chapter topics in more detail. These may include articles, videos, and/or industry certifications. For example:

Image Descriptions

POEM Venn Diagram:

A Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles showing examples of paid, owned, and earned media as well as well as examples that overlap.

  • Paid media:
    • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
    • Display (banner) ads
    • TV/magazine/transit ads
  • Owned media:
    • Website/blogs
    • Events/newsletters
    • Stores
    • Talent/employees
  • Earned media:
    • Shared content
    • Content by others
    • Reviews
    • Press coverage
  • Overlap
    • Paid and owned media: Sponsored posts
    • Owned and earned media: Share requests, forums
    • Earned and paid media: Sponsored influencers

This is reprinted under a Creative Commons licence and is the work of Rochelle Grayson. Please click here to go to the original site and see the full book.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Foundations in Digital Marketing by Rochelle Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



[Return to POEM Venn Diagram image]

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