What is earned media?

Online marketing EcosystemIn a previous post I presented the Basic Principles of Online Marketing. What you need to know from that post is that there are three types of marketing, communications and advertising.

My previous post was on owned marketing, this one will focus on earned media.

So what is earned marketing?

Earned marketing is everything you do not control. This means positive and negative word of mouth and press coverage in every possible manner.

People talk about your products and services both online and offline. The discussions and comments exchanged online remain permanently on several sites, including user review sites (such as Yelp), blogs and social media sites. The “noise” generated about your brand can sometimes be significant enough to help boost your campaign (when positive).

Earned MarketingAlthough you can’t control the tone or content of discussions, you can incite people to talk about you by helping them share and comment on information, which will, by extension, help increase your visibility among people who don’t necessarily know you. The more you publish on the environments you do control, the more people will discover you. The more your communication is honest, human (as opposed to press release, sales or legal talk) and trustworthy, they more they’ll like you (for real), the more they’ll be inclined to share your content to their friends in a positive way…

You can also participate in their conversations about you or your product / service category. Participating can be as simple (but powerful) as saying “thank you” when someone shares your content or says something positive about you publicly to their friends. It can include answering questions people have about you on Q&A sites like LinkedIn Answers, Quora, Yahoo Answers or others. It should even extend to attempting to right wrongs that are publicly denounced about you – but this you’ll need to do delicately, in a human and friendly manner.

How do you know when they’re talking about you? You’ll need to listen. How can you go about that? Many tools and services exist to help you pay attention to when someone will mention you name somewhere online. There are high end (and costly) services that will not only highlight mentions of you but also their volume, reach and overall sentiment (positive of negative). These include Radian 6 which is the better known service. Another new player in this field is SeeVibes which specialises exclusively on radio and television programming online noise.

At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Google Alerts which is free and customizable to your needs up to a certain point. I use this to learn if and when my name pops up anywhere, or if my employer or business colleagues are mentioned. That way I am never surprised as I pay attention to my “online brand”. You can be alerted by email (you choose the volume and frequency) or via RSS (which is what I use) through Google Reader, Flipboard or any other reader.