Nine out of 10 customers say online reviews influence their buying decisions. Eighty-six percent of customers rely on their peers to learn about brands, according to Edelman’s 2016 Earned Brand study. A single tweet can set off a firestorm of negative publicity or drive thousands of eager customers to your website to make a purchase. As you business prepares its marketing strategy for 2017, it’s imperative your company carefully considers how to leverage the power of this organic word-of-mouth advertising, also known as “earned media”.

What is Earned Media?

It refers to any exposure your brand gains through word-of-mouth marketing. A decade ago, most word-of-mouth recommendations happened in person. A neighbor might recommend a new lawn care service or a friend might tell you about a new clothing store she’s loving. Today, word-of-mouth has gone digital. It encompasses press mentions, positives reviews (including Yelp and Google), social media recommendations, reposts and recommendations. Earned media swings both ways: a customer’s angry tweets about negative customer service could offset a blogger’s glowing review about your latest product.

Sure, you can’t explicitly control what people say about your product or service, but you can think strategically about the best way to incorporate earned media into your broader marketing plan. As Brian Kolb at the Content Marketing Institute writes, hoping people publish or share your content is like stepping up to the plate without a bat. You’re can’t possibly hit a home run, much less get on base.

Earned, Owned and Paid Media: How Does it All Fit Together?


Most marketers spend a lot of time focused on their owned media and paid media. Owned media is content your create and distribute on your own distribution channels, like publishing a white paper on your website and tweeting about it on your business account. With paid media, you pay to increase the distribution reach of your content via tactics like social media ads, promoted tweets, and PPC campaigns. With owned and paid media, you’re completely in control of your content and distribution plan. However, you’re also paying a pretty penny to produce, publish and market this content– and there’s no guarantee that folks are actually reading any of it or paying attention.

The Power of Employee Advocacy

We’ve written before about the power of employee advocacy for building your brand. People trust employees, not CEOs. So when Carl in marketing shares his thoughts on content strategy with his LinkedIn network, folks will pay a lot more attention than when a faceless company publishes a report. Employees also have a much larger network than companies, averaging approximately 10 times as many connections on LinkedIn as their companies.

Impact of a Brand Ambassador 

This same principle holds true for customers and clients. Consider these two approaches to promoting a company’s commitment to customer service. Company A tweets a generic “we love our customers” message. Company B doesn’t tweet anything– they let a brand ambassador tweet about how the company went above and beyond to promptly resolve a recent problem. Which tweet do you think will have the bigger impact?

Getting Started: Social Listening

Your customers and clients are already talking about you on social media. Do you know what they’re saying? If you assume you know what folks are saying about your brand since you track your brand mentions (either using hashtags or @ mentions), here’s the thing: many customers and clients don’t actively tag a company in their posts. A more aggressive social listening strategy is necessary to identify the top brand influencers and what folks are really saying about your business.

Once you’ve identified these influencers, you can start reaching out with partnership opportunities to grow your earned media program. Next week we’ll consider the top three strategies for building these partnerships.

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