August 18, 2014

What Is Earned Media?

What Is Earned MediaWhat it is earned media and how do we use it?

Earned media is easy to define, because it’s happening constantly, and it’s something we’re familiar with in practice, if not by name.

Any time someone Tweets about your brand, whether it’s an event or feature they love, earned media is taking place. Same goes for someone featuring your brand in a blog post, or making a post on Facebook, which is not so complimentary toward your customer service. Earned media is the publicity that’s happening thanks to someone else. It isn’t something you can pay for, or concoct.

It works in tandem with your owned and paid media, but the distinction between the three is pretty clear. Owned media encapsulates the stuff under your brand’s control. Everything from your blog, to website, social media accounts, and email. Paid media covers the advertising you’re paying for. It’s easy for lines to blur between own and paid media, but among consumers, earned media sticks out as something they can take at face value.

It’s true that earned media isn’t something you can generate for your brand, there are ways to influence some of the conversations that are happening. Here’s how:

By now, I think we’ve all been beaten over the head with rules about how to engage clients and consumers on social media. But the big question is whether or not you’ve followed through. Too many brands think their work is done once they’ve amassed an impressive following. It’s great to have big numbers, if you’re actually reaching them, and then reaching out to talk and share what they have to say. The truth is, your most important work is happening daily, when you’re responding to comments and interacting with followers on a personal level.

Conversation isn’t going to take off if you’re creating and sharing lackluster content. Figure out who you’re targeting, and what they’re going to want to share with friends and family. Different audiences are going to respond differently, which seems like common sense, but needs to be kept in mind. Figure out what’s going to keep people interested, make it easy for them to share, and you’re on the right track.

Another seemingly common sense tip is to keep customers happy. Look how well it’s worked with Zappos! Nothing solidifies consumer loyalty like great customer service. We spend a lot of time talking about it, but a lot of the time, the execution isn’t so great. Excellent customer service has to become part of company culture, a priority, and something that is active, rather than passive. Examples of your brand going above and beyond for clients makes for great earned media, when those clients go out and share their experiences. Whether it’s through social media, or offline, their word about a great interaction counts for a lot.

Now that you have an idea about how to increase your earned media, do you know how to measure it?

First up, reach. Reach is often confused with “likes” or clicks, which shifts the focus from engagement to how your social media numbers stack up. It isn’t about the numbers, alone. You can have all the followers in the world, and not know what to do with them.

Too many brands utilize a spam-like approach, sending out messages and Tweets asking consumers to like, share, and otherwise promote their brand, without the consumers having any attachment, or reason to do so. If you gain a large following through anything other than smart campaigns, and great interaction, there isn’t much meaning to those numbers.

When you’re measuring reach, you need to have a basis of comparison to see how you grew from where you started, and where you end up after your efforts. Only looking at reach by the numbers, instead of the impact of a well-run campaign and great content, is misleading and shouldn’t be the only marker of success.

You should also be looking at visits. New and returning visits say a lot about whether people are drawn in once and then never return, or if you’re offering something that keeps them coming back. You can keep followers coming back by providing content and engagement that’s worth their time. What do you have to offer that your competition doesn’t? If you’re struggling to come up with anything, back to the drawing board!

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