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Move Over Digital Advertising, Here Comes Earned Media

The Problem

For the past several years growing and capturing an online audience and market was all about advertising – Pay Per Click/Search Ads, Banner Ads, and the like. This worked well. But in the change-every-5-seconds digital world we live in, things continue to evolve rapidly.

It could be that, for the most part, online ads have run their course. People are tired of being bombarded with ads every time they visit a website. (Not to mention the stalker-like tactic of those ads following you to other sites.) So online ad spending has become increasingly hard to track in terms of ROI. Ads may lead to a purchase at some point, but fewer and fewer people are clicking on them.

A 2017 study by Deloitte Global found that about 1/3 of all Americans were using ad blocking technology. And those numbers are growing.

So, how is a business to reach an audience if people are blocking their ads out?

The Path Forward – Earned Media

The answer to the problem above is the creation of earned media.

What is earned media? Earned media begins with genuine content that you or someone on your team is creating. This can be a blog post, a social media post, video, podcast or some other content – this is your “owned” media.

The “earned” part of that media comes when someone shares, or reshares, it, comments on it, likes or embeds it, or it’s featured in some other online publication or blog. Think of it as digital word of mouth advertising. This is beneficial to your brand. Earned media builds and enhances your brand. This creates followers. Over time these followers, if you’re consistent about delivering content, will sooner or later, if they’re not already, become customers – they click and open your door, so to speak.

It’s this third-party validation that results in earned media.

Earned media…

  • Helps to give a running start (or a re-start) to your brand awareness
  • Enhances credibility
  • Helps you dial into your Positioning so you can better manage your messaging
  • Expands your reach – all of those shares and retweets grow your audience and ultimately will help your search visibility

OK, Drew, So How Do I Build It?

As with anything, if you build it, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come. No doubt some will. That’s inevitable if you’re consistently pushing new and relevant content. But what will most successfully generate earned media requires some work.

  • Cultivate Influencers – Seek out people who already have an audience, and who have relevance in your space. Create relationships with them so that they’ll pay attention to what you’re doing and will share that with their constituents. Hint: Look through your LinkedIn connections – it’s likely you have a handful of these people at your fingertips already.
  • Get In Front of People – Yes, real, flesh-and-blood people. Get out of the office. Network. Be seen. Find local events you can sponsor with banners or have a table or booth at. This is probably still the best way for a smaller local business to generate the connections that will result in earned media.
  • Engage with Your Audience – That’s right. If this whole social media thing wasn’t exhausting enough, you’ll need to not just post and hope for reshares and retweets, but you need to engage with the people who do it. Find a way to spend some time commenting back on their comments, or sharing them. Facebook recently made a move that gives higher relevance to posts that are strong on engagement. That means you’ve got to participate. It’s become a full-contact

Get Out There and Earn It

So there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about earned media but were afraid to ask. Now, make a plan. Build time into your schedule to pay attention to generating strong, relevant content that people will be interested in and want to share. Don’t abandon your paid advertising if it’s working for you, but start giving the development of earned media as part of your marketing toolkit the weight it deserves… Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning things evolve in a split second. The thing is, missing one of these trends can be like a chain missing a link. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it, but do it to one degree or another.