There was a time when magazines, newspapers, and televisions were the only ways for consumers to find out about trending stories, new service offerings in town, or other cool stuff. Brands used to get earned media through these sources.
But, things have changed over the last decade. Earned media has gone beyond magazines, newspapers, and TV series. The digital realm has opened up a world of possibilities for marketers and digital marketers who are able to harness the power of earned media online as well.
Before diving into earned media strategies, let’s first clarify what earned media is.
What is Earned Media?
In simple words, earned media is the free publicity a business receives. It is the content written or published about your business or brand by a third-party without any cost. It is also called “earned content” or “free media.”
For instance, if you advertise on search engines or social media, it costs you a certain amount of money. But if bloggers include your brand name in a “Top 10” article, then it’s called earned media. Because you haven't paid them for including your brand on that list.
While the above example shows that earned media depends on third parties, you can still create a strategy to get more earned media. This can help you grow your brand awareness and reach your target audience.
You can generate more earned media by creating viral content or through reviews of your service or product.
Additionally, mentions, shares, reposts, and retweets on social media platforms can do the trick.
Other Types of Media
Apart from earned media, there are two other types of media as well — paid media and owned media. Let’s discuss these in brief:
Paid Media: If you spend money to reach more customers through Google Ads, social media ads, or any sponsored content on third-party websites, it's called paid media.
Owned Media: As the name suggests, owned media is the content that you own. You typically have complete control over this form of media. Owned media for your business may include the content on your website, blog posts, and social media platforms.
The Evolution of Earned Media in the Last Few Years
The booming growth in internet usage has changed everything in the last few years. In December 1995, only 0.4% of the world's population was using the internet. However, by June 2019, over 58.8% of the world’s population was using it. This is a growth of around 608%.
Today, brands gain earned media in the form of a Facebook post or tweet by a consumer saying, “The best product ever!” which is then shared or retweeted by other users.
Recently, review websites and forums have also gained popularity. People review a product or share feedback about a service on these websites and this counts as earned media for the businesses.
What is Not Earned Media?
To help you better understand earned media, let’s take a closer look at what it is not:
- If you are paying even a single penny for the publicity of your brand, then it is not considered free media.
- If you are paying a blogger or forum to include your brand name in their article or blog post, it does not count as free media.
- If you have published a new blog post on your website to promote a new product or service, then it is not free media.
The Effectiveness of Earned Media
Earned media can be an extremely effective way to improve your brand awareness. It can also help you generate leads and get more conversions.
This is because people prefer to get advice from their near and dear ones who have already used a product or service from a particular brand. They read reviews on social media and other blogs and websites before deciding on a product.
They may be influenced by their favorite celebrity, blogger, or social media influencer. If they find that they are using a particular brand's product or writing positive things about it, they may be more inclined to buy it.
According to research, 57% of individuals trust their friends and family the most when it comes to discovering a new product or company.
Image via HubSpot
Additionally, around one-third of shoppers search and read reviews on Google before making a purchase online.
This shows that free media is a very effective way of branding and marketing for businesses of all sizes.
The Various Forms of Earned Media
There are numerous forms of earned media that your brand can leverage. Here are some important forms of earned media that you can consider when developing your marketing strategy:
While many businesses underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing, it is still one of the most impactful forms of free media.
A consumer posting a positive review in the form of a tweet can significantly impact the buying decision of many people. A positive review by a blogger may go viral and help you boost your brand's reach for free.
A quick solution to a customer's problem can invite positive feedback from them. Similarly, an emotional social media campaign can gain quick traction and go viral. Both act as word-of-mouth marketing.
Another example of word-of-mouth marketing is the publishing of your press release or blog post by bloggers on their blogs.
For instance, let’s say you’ve launched a new mobile app and published a press release for it on your blog. Some tech bloggers find it useful and write a unique story about it to share with their readers. This extends your story's reach and you get promotion for free. Moreover, there are chances that the story will get further shares on social media.
2. Newspaper Story
Newspapers today are not limited to printed papers only. They are also available online in the form of news websites and mobile apps. Hence, if a newspaper covers your story whether it is an interview with your CEO or a story about your new product launch, it can help you reach a much wider audience.
3. Social Media
Social media users sharing your content with their circles is also a part of free media. Not just sharing but writing about your business (good/bad) is also counted.
However, most of the time, it depends on the people writing and sharing posts about you. Imagine the reach you'd garner with a Twitter user with 100K active followers tweeting about your brand. That reach would be greater compared to that of a user with just 100 followers.
It is worth noting that if you are running paid campaigns on social media, it wouldn’t be considered free media. Things only count when posted by other users without any incentive from your end.
4. News on Television
While this may be an old tactic, it still works for many popular brands in the industry. Many news channels like to provide their viewers with valuable information in the form of an ad or spot. For example, if you are launching a new product, some news channels may promote the launch and might broadcast it as well.
5. Story by a Trade Publication
If you have a SMB (Small and Medium Business), your recent developments or new product launch may not interest TV channels and big media houses. But, trade publications in your industry may show interest in your work.
For example, let’s say you have a telecom business and have announced a new point of presence in Singapore. TV channels might ignore this news, but a trade publication in the telecommunications sector would not. They might want to write about it and share with their audience. This also counts as free media.
6. Articles About “Top” Services or Products
Today, there are many content creators and bloggers out there who share the best suggestions and recommendations for their viewers/readers. Say, for example, you are a web hosting provider. A blogger from the same niche writes about the web hosting industry. They include your business in their roundup article titled “Top 10 Web Hosting Providers in the World.” This is a form of earned media.
Best Practices to Harness the Power of Earned Media
1. Create Intriguing Content
People will only share your content with other users if they find it interesting and engaging. That content can be an infographic, a short and informative video, or even a blog post. To make it easier for people to share your content, you can add social media sharing icons.
2. Social Media Interactions and Engagement
Social media provides you with a platform to engage with your customers and it can help bring them closer to you. This is why it’s important that you (or someone on your team) spend time on social media platforms and post engaging content.
You should also reply to the comments and questions from your followers as that can help increase your engagement. Adding a bit of humor can also help increase engagement.
You should also ask your followers to share their experiences of interacting with your brand. When they create posts related to your brand, it’ll be free media for you.
3. Stay on the Top of SEO
Google and other search engines keep updating their algorithms to improve the user experience of end-users. As a marketer, you have to keep yourself updated with the latest trends in SEO to optimize your brand’s presence on the search engines. Remember, higher rankings can get you more organic traffic.
4. Take Care of Your Consumers
If you want your consumers to promote your brand and write good things about it, you need to ensure that they are happy with your products and services.
Resolve their issues as quickly as possible. Meet or exceed their expectations, and remain loyal to them. Customers will reciprocate with positive feedback if you take good care of them.
5. Get in Touch with Media Portals
There are many media portals for every industry that publish unique stories, interviews, press releases, etc. at no cost. All you have to do is find such portals, approach them, write friendly emails and request that they interview your CEO, founder, or another senior executive.
If you want them to publish your press release or cover a story about your brand, provide them with reasons why they should do it. Such efforts can be beneficial for you and get you some free media.
Earned media can help your business grow quickly without chipping away at your marketing budget.
Creating valuable and unique content is one of the best ways to attract new consumers. You should also encourage your audiences to share your content to increase your chances of getting earned media.
It’s also important to pay attention to aspects like social media engagement, consumer satisfaction, and SEO to achieve your earned media objectives.
What forms of earned media is the most effective for your brand? Let me know in the comments below.