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The importance of 'borrowed' media

Posted By Martin Thomas, Wednesday 20 December 2017

We have become familiar with the concept of 'owned', 'earned' and 'paid-for' media, but the social media that provides the greatest value for organisations and brands is 'borrowed'. These are the social media accounts of the senior management team, other company spokespeople and anyone else in the organisation using social media in a professional capacity. I describe these as ‘borrowed’ because they are not owned by the organisation and unlike 'earned' media, they can be relatively easy to harness on behalf of the organisation with the right mix of persuasion, training and support.

The overall reputation of an organisation is shaped more by this 'borrowed' media than it is by its corporate channels. This is partly about reach - the cumulative follower numbers that can be potentially reached through 'borrowed' channels are invariably much higher than those of the official corporate channels - but also about impact: we are far more likely to engage with social media content shared by a person than by a faceless organisation. According to research undertaken by LinkedIn, employee networks on the platform are ten times larger than those of official corporate channels and when employees share content on LinkedIn the engagement rate is twice as high as when the company shares the same content.

An employer’s ability to leverage its 'borrowed' media by mobilising its employees and harnessing the collective reach of their personal social media networks is therefore one of the easiest and fastest ways for any organisation to increase its profile and enhance its reputation with customers, clients, prospects, potential employees and other stakeholders.

No one should be forced to use their personal social media accounts as a mouthpiece for their employer, but they can usually be persuaded that the support they can provide through something as simple as liking, sharing or retweeting the occasional corporate post or tweet, can be incredibly useful.


We have created our Masterclass series for senior-level marketers looking to take a deep-dive into a specialised topic, to enable them to make insightful decisions and better choices for their business. The series is focused on helping you develop competencies specific to the knowledge, skills and mindset required of senior marketing leaders. We will host a Masterclass with Martin Thomas on Thursday 1st of February. More information on this Masterclass can be found here. 


Martin is a highly experienced marketing communications consultant, trainer and author. He is course leader on digital and social media for the Institute of Directors UK. He has enjoyed a highly successful career in advertising, PR, sponsorship and new media, including senior management roles with some of the world’s leading agencies.

He has advised many multi-national corporations on their marketing and communications strategies, including Xerox, Citibank, Bacardi Global Brands, Sony Ericsson, Royal Mail, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive. Much of his work in recent years has focused on the business response to new, digitally-empowered patterns of customer behaviour and changing expectations: a subject on which he has become a highly-regarded writer, speaker and commentator.

If you want to learn more about the best way to harness 'borrowed' media, drop Martin a line at


Tags:  Social Media 

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