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No matter how much you promote your own brand, there will always be customers who aren’t willing to take it from you. In fact, HubSpot Research shows that 57% of U.S. consumers trust the opinion of their friends and family when it comes to a new product.
Plus, with the widespread access of the Internet, customers can deep-dive into their research before they put up their hard-earned money. It’s easier than ever to compare products, seek recommendations and read reviews.
That’s where earned media can help build your credibility.
But what is earned media?
Well, let’s start by exploring what it’s not.
Earned media is not paid for by your company. That’s paid media... and it’s an important part of your marketing strategy as well. A glowing article that you commissioned is advertising, not earned media. And if you control the entire channel, like your brand’s newsletter or blog, that’s owned media. Paid media and owned media work together to build up the ethos of your brand. They can help bolster brand recognition and keep your brand top-of-mind with prospects.
But earned media goes beyond... it comes from happy customers, people satisfied with their brand experience who become ambassadors. And it’s more expansive than ever in the landscape.
A study by inPowered and Nielsen found that 85% of consumers “regularly or occasionally” seek expert content, including credible, third-party articles and reviews when they consider their purchase. Similarly, 67% of consumers agree an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing. Earned media is a powerful thing... and it can’t be created by YOU. But you can explore your earned media... encourage customers to build it and engage in it... and use it to build credibility with your brand.
Here’s what earned media can look like... and what you can do to encourage it
Customer reviews and testimonials: This might be the most obvious form of earned media. But you can incentivize your customers to help you out here. Make sure you follow up with purchasers and encourage them to leave a review. You could offer a discount on a future purchase or entrance into a giveaway as an incentive. But ultimately, the review is written by the customer who wants to share their honest opinion of the product or service.
Social media mentions: This happens when people talk about you on their social media platforms, from Twitter to Instagram and beyond. “Influencer” marketing doesn’t count... again, that’s paid media. But if you please your customers enough, you can get organic social media activity. Maybe it’s making an Instagram-worthy photo op at one of your brick-and-mortar locations, whether it’s on the wall outside or within the store. Make sure your branding is visible, in case people don’t tag or geotag your company.
You can also encourage social media activity on your marketing materials by promoting your channels or inventing a hashtag with a call-to-action. Think about a retail clothing brand that might prompt you to “share how you style this.” It puts the power in the customer’s hands... and if it works, creates organic, unpaid influencers.
Discussion forums: Consumers have built up reliable forums to discuss products and services with other people on the internet. One example of this is the Reddit group “r/BuyItForLife.” Users discuss products that have proven longevity, ask for recommendations and share their experience.
This kind of earned media is all about quality and service. What can you do here? Well, it comes down to quality and service. Invest in creating high-quality products and training customer service professionals to elevate customer experience. For a deeper look at customer experience, take a look at this blog post about creating exceptional CX.
Publications: How can you make your brand newsworthy? That’s the question you must ask when you’re thinking about earned media in newspapers, magazines and trade publications. Strangely, sometimes advertising can LEAD to earned media... think about how publications cover Superbowl ads or unique or controversial spots. Or the other side of this coin... doing something out of character. Budweiser made headlines by choosing NOT to air a Bud spot in this weekend’s game. But this is a sticky wicket: you want to make sure people are talking about YOUR BRAND, not your stunts.
But remember: it’s ultimately about your brand, not the ad. And you can get coverage for many things, including charitable actions that endear customers to your values. Or maybe it’s as simple as your product making it into a celebrity’s “in my bag” section in a tabloid. If these things happen organically, make sure to amplify the coverage on your channels. It has credibility because it’s coming from an outside source, even if your brand shares it from your own channels after the fact.
As experts in the science and art of customer engagement, J&C understands the impact of effective paid, earned and owned media. From data-driven analysis to audience segmentation, trigger emails to retention strategies and beyond, J&C creates campaigns that get results. If you need help building a successful campaign for your brand, contact J&C today.