How earned media is driving customers for a lifetime

Nathan Elly

Nathan is the branch manager at Digital Next, a full-service digital agency based in South Melbourne specialising in responsive Web design, SEO, PPC and social media marketing. He's a passionate digital marketer specialising in business development and long-term strategy, with experience from a multitude of SEO disciplines combined into a role which supports and progresses online businesses.


It has never been more important to develop the lifetime value of a customer. Consumers are more commercially savvy than they have ever been in history, and this increased awareness has brought scepticism as well as opportunity.

Key to a brand’s success is earning trust, the primary driving force in consumers’ modern-day buying decisions and ongoing advocacy. And it’s this very need to build engagement that is seeing media spend shift away from paid media and into earned media opportunities. In fact, according to Starcom MediaVest’s Media Futures 2015 report, the increase in earned media spent is expected to be 3.5 times the size of paid media activity this year.

Gone are the days where buying was primarily influenced and driven by owned and paid media. Today, earned media is at the forefront and to gain a competitive advantage, marketers must shift their engagement approach into sixth gear to win over customers, influencers and advocates.

The rise in influencers

Rising groups of influencers once ignored by most of the brands as temporary fads are now leading figures orchestrating advocacy for a brand, a vital component of any earned media effort.

Some of these influencers command a legion of followers, such as Zoella, who boasts more than 9 million followers on her YouTube channel and is a strong influencer among many young women globally, granting brands access for peer-to-peer communication.

Core to engaging influencers is resonance, and brands need to create opportunities for a branded collaboration.

Brands also need to consider whether to rising influencers or established influencers based on their audience reach and engagement.

The evolving role of earned media

Today’s earned media tactics are also often about changing the perception of brands from ‘product or service provider’ to value-driven partner by helping trigger a ‘cult-like obedience’ to the brand. Apple is a strong example of this.

During the consumer buying process, consumers reach out to earned media to influence their purchase decisions. Brands must ensure their presence and share of voice across earned media to successfully build the consumer’s confidence while they are considering their purchasing action.

As a result, marketers need to engage in digital PR exercises that facilitate positive sentiment among consumers.

One of the things we’ve witnessed specifically is the growth in website outreach activities to build relationships with influencers in order to earn publications and citations to their audience. This can drive additional qualified referral traffic, and act as a citation reference for your website. Outreach tactics through email, Web publications and social media have worked well to open up discussion.

Guest blogging can expose your business to a completely new audience that can generate you more awareness and the perception of authority or expertise in specific subject matters. It also works as a cross-promotional activity.

Activities such as link building and website outreach have been used as a springboard to create the opportunity for earned media among influencers. All of these are about facilitating an increase in brand mentions and impressions across the Web.

A great example is where Saatchi & Saatchi London successfully engaged with YouTube invisible driver prankster, Magic of Rahat, when promoting the brand values of the Toyota Aygo in 2014. Saatchi & Saatchi gained access to a younger audience by promoting a prank-style campaign that portrayed the vehicle’s image as playful and dynamic, which was complementary to the influencer’s virtues and fan base.

Any brand that does not include earned media as a part of their 2016 will lose their competitiveness against brands that are taking action. After all, consumers are becoming more advertising averse, but are still willing to spend with brands that they trust.

In Ad Age’s recent article, ‘Who’s winning the battle between Paid and Earned Media’, Sarah Hofstetter mentions how brands are paying to interrupt the audience experience, which has led to a disdain in paid media and actions such as ad blocking.

Ultimately, this comes back to marketers starting to think more like publishers to facilitate the engagement and actions of their target audience in a digital and social context.

Tags: influencer marketing, social media marketing

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