Earned Media And Social Media: How Brands Can Get Beyond The Hype

Earned media is really just the digital-age term for word-of-mouth advertising. It’s an idea that has grown hand-in-hand with content and social media marketing and the notion that a viral success can translate to mega-exposure on the cheap. 

Everyone wants earned media.

Marketing agencies know this, and they routinely pitch their ability to generate it. Most brands and businesses, even small ones, are embracing the earned media paradigm. However, there are many misconceptions floating around the notion of earned media via social media.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we define what exactly earned media means in the context of social media, analyse how to make earned media via social media a strategic focus, detail the various different approaches and methodologies brands are using to generate earned media via social media, and look at the various benefits and potential disadvantages of generating earned media via social media.

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Here’s an overview of how things currently stand:

  • Earned media as a strategic focus is tricky: Too often, an earned media strategy is an afterthought, tacked on at the end — as if its only purpose was to squeeze out a few hundred-thousand “free” impressions. Why? There is still a bias in the client-side toward maximizing the proportion of their spend going to actual ad buys, which they sometimes call “working” spend, as opposed to “non-working” spend. The result? Agencies, social media platforms, and even digital publishers are promising earned media as if it were a condiment that can be quantified and heaped out in spoonfuls as value-adds to paid campaigns, not as a full-blown strategy with a life of its own.
  • But, most brands and businesses, even small ones, are embracing the earned media paradigm: 80-four per cent of businesses said “the trend toward earned media via social media marketing” was quite significant or highly significant to their organisations, and 90% believed it would be so by 2015, according to a recent Econsultancy and Adobe survey. A Technorati survey found that 55% of 150 major brands had adopted specific earned media goals.
  • Earned media has any number of advantages: Many of them are obvious: it’s “free,” in the sense that there’s no direct payment for the exposure provided, it’s transparent in that brands need not rely on intermediaries to measure earned media’s impact, and it tends to create greater trust than paid or owned messages. People will trust the enthusiasms and recommendations of their friends, acquaintances, and professional networks more than ads, including TV ads.
  • But, the disadvantages are less obvious: Some brands may be frightened away from earned media simply by the prospect that an earned social media campaign might morph into a user-generated storm of negative publicity. But, the real disadvantages have to do with earned media’s hidden costs. It takes time and effort. It requires investment in internal and external social media content generation, i.e. owned media. For this reason, earned media can quickly become as expensive as paid media, or more so. A final disadvantage to earned media is that it is difficult to collect, track, and measure. However, the tools are there, and if earned media became more of a focus, these tools would likely see more refinement and development.

In full, the report:

  • Defines what exactly earned media means in the context of social media
  • analyses how to make earned media via social media a strategic focus
  • Details the various different approaches and methodologies brands are using to generate earned media via social media
  • Looks at the various benefits and potential disadvantages of generating earned media via social media.

To access BI Intelligence’s full report on Earned Media And Social Media, sign up for a free trial subscription here.

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