How Does Social Media Differ from Earned Media?

Earned media and social media are two very important elements of today’s media landscape and each serves a different role. When creating social media content for clients, I find myself thinking about the creative ways I can bring the tone of the company into the graphics or captions. When writing news releases, however, AP style and formatting are more top-of-mind. As the lines between digital and traditional media can sometimes cross, let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between social and earned media.


Social media provides you with the control over the content you share. This freedom means you can share updates, be creative with your content and increase engagement, with minimal to no costs associated.

Earned media relies on journalists to tell the story. And although we have control over which messages to share and which outlet to pitch, we must trust in the process that the reporter assigned to the story will tell is accurately, fairly and objectively.


With the click of a button, social media content is shared worldwide. This virtually instantaneous form of communication means brands and organizations can interact with consumers in real time through comments, polls or direct messages.

Social media provides organizations with the opportunity to amplify your earned media placements. Sharing across your social media channels extends the shelf life of a print or broadcast story beyond its original publication.


Social media can be used to raise awareness and engage with an audience. This puts brand-consumer conversation at the forefront and thus makes the personality of your brand an important aspect of your social media content. Personable, conversational, and even humorous content is typically better received on social platforms than in news releases.

Tone of voice is important in earned media as well. Letting the personality of the brand or organization shine through is always key, but keep in mind the importance of AP style and other guidelines for preparing earned media materials for distribution.

Although there are differences and similarities between social media and earned media, what’s important to consider is what the most effective strategies for reaching your organizational goals might be.

Different goals require different strategies and social media versus earned media are just a few. Interested in some other strategies, we’d love to talk to you about them.

Written by
at May 23, 2023

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