Earned media = 80% of your reach

According to an Ogilvy study, 80% of a brand’s reach now comes through “amplification through advocacy.” When Forrester said that paid media is now used to feed owned and earned media they weren’t kidding – but owned media feeds earned media too, and the study by Ogilvy serves to emphasise just how important earned media has become to brands.

Defining paid, owned and earned media

In a 2009 blog post defining earned, owned and paid media, Forrester suggested that some of the leading agencies in the world were already using the terms to develop their digital strategies. An understanding of the terms helps to “categorise and ultimately prioritise all of the media options,” according to Sean Corcoran on Forrester’s blog, and what was then helpful for optimisation of a brand’s marketing efforts has since become essential for survival in Google’s user-centric view of search.

If you run a commercial business and want to use Google to advertise your services, Mountain View wants you to use paid media. The clue is in the title tag, if you hadn’t already gotten the message in your Webmaster Tools. However, if you want to add value to users and create content that people want to share and read, Google will let you stay in search.

Google Organic is fast becoming earned media. The algorithm rewards brands, not advertisers, and companies don’t enjoy the same influence over the SERPs as they once did. An optimised website; mobile site; blog; and social accounts are now required to gain rankings.

“Features trump emotion”

The Ogilvy study isn’t suggesting that marketing campaigns that fail to go viral are failures, or that companies absolutely have to up their budgets in order to gain enough traction to get in front of customers. In fact, Ogilvy’s Elizabeth S. Mitchell says it means that “brands that don’t generate substantial advocacy may end up paying more to market less efficiently than those that successfully make advocacy a priority.”

Again, it’s all about priorities. Putting resources into what actually drives advocacy; that is focusing on campaigns that provide value to users; means that brands will achieve a much higher ROI than those who fail to prioritise the needs of the audience. We knew that, but the Ogilvy study shows just how vital a user-centric, content driven approach can be for brands.

According to the study, “features were the #1 driver of advocacy…and deserve the most attention,” with features being mentioned more often than any other type of media publicised by brands. Ads/commercials received fewer mentions than any other media, which highlights the enormous benefits of earned media when compared to paid channels. Companies seem to see paid advertising such as PPC as a safer, cheaper investment.

Brands are failing to drive satisfied customers to share

“Our study suggests that the vast majority of satisfied customers are not publicly advocating for brands on social platforms,” said Irfan Kamal, global head of Data+Analytics and Products at social@Ogilvy, adding: “Brands have not provided the technology, incentives or content that both inspire and enable customers to speak out positively.”

Making the most of an already engaged audience is not only essential to the success of an online brand, it also makes perfect sense from a business perspective. When acquiring links back to your website reaching out to people who know and love your product is much more efficient than scouring the web for influencers who get hundreds of propositions from brands they’ve never heard of every day. The practice is the same for social; paying to promote your tweets and hijack hashtags is unlikely to yield the same results as getting people who are currently enjoying your products to tweet about them – you’re paying more to market less.

It’s essential to give customers the power to engage with your brand when they’re in the conversion funnel – whether that’s through employing nudges throughout the purchase cycle, or something as simple as making sure your brand handle is in a generic tweet. When someone has completed a goal, suggest that they follow you on social networks. If they’ve expressed interest in a feature on your site, suggest they sign up to a mailing list so they don’t miss your next one. Ask them to review the product they just bought, and to tell their friends that they just bought it. It doesn’t matter how mundane what you’re selling is – everyone needs everyday items, and an attractive site hosting insightful content can be enough to gain an advocate for life, if you make it easy for your customers to fulfil that role.

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