First there was social content. Then, when brands started to leverage content from social media or other forms of customer content to increase sales, it got the title of User Generated Content (UGC). Now, we’re hearing the term earned media casually thrown around. With a few different ways of saying similar things, it’s understandable that you might want to take a second to ask…
“Wait what is earned media? Is it different from social content, customer reviews, or even UGC? And how, as a brand, should I be using this kind of media to improve my eCommerce performance?”
A lot of brands are currently using earned media to increase both engagement with their brand and conversions within their online store – and you can do exactly the same. First things first, let’s clear away any of your confusion on what is considered earned media.
Earned media defined
As the name implies, earned media is content that a brand acquires from a third party, rather than creates themselves. While someone else always creates this content on the brand’s behalf in order for it to be considered earned, there are still many ways for this content to be leveraged by the brand themselves.
Before we get into those strategies, it’s important to answer two questions:
- Why is earned media so useful for eCommerce brands?
- How and where do people create this content for a brand?
Starting with number one, let’s think about the name earned content.
This kind of media is given the title of “earned” because it gives a brand an edge that self-promoted content simply cannot achieve. When someone writes something positive about your brand or validates one of your products by posting a picture of it on Instagram, they are saying that your brand is deserving of their praise. You are earning their trust and, moreover, are exciting them enough to feel confident in putting their stamp of approval on your brand for their friends, family, and – with social media in the picture – the world to see.
This means a whole lot in a world that’s all about curating the perfect online persona. For example, VOX is a furniture brand that is increasing its eCommerce conversions by 18.76% with the help of earned media.
Something important about earned media: this kind of content does not include any kind of media that you pay for. Paying a publication to write a piece of content featuring your brand, while still a useful strategy, is paid media – not earned media. That kind of strategy requires a completely different focus and plan of action.
So for now, let’s focus on all of the different kinds of earned media that you can acquire and where you can acquire it.
Earned media in action
When thinking about earned media, there are generally two formats that we can consider: written and visual. These days, we have very different spaces for finding both. Let’s start with earned media that is written down.
Written earned media
The most common form of written media is what we find in a newspaper, magazine, podcast, or online publication. When your brand gets featured in a piece of content written by a well-established or esteemed publication, this can mean a lot in terms of buzz worthiness and press.
However, it isn’t always easy to get your brand featured in such a publication without a paid execution or a huge story surrounding your brand to announce. There are still ways though!
One very useful tool is HARO, or help a reporter. With this tool, you can sign-up to receive lists of journalists who are looking for specific stories. If you’re lucky, one day you’ll find the perfect HARO post to answer that could just get your brand featured in a major publication or podcast.
While you did a little bit of work, it’s still earned media because it gives the brand that authentic edge that makes this kind of content so powerful.
There’s also industry blogs and interviews that will help make a splash in your sector. Some big benefits of getting featured in industry blogs include…
- Publicity: if a publication is big enough, you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to massive audience of buyers
- Establishing your brand’s credibility: the ability to say you were published in a major industry publication is a branding plus
- The SEO benefits: last but not least, backlinks back to your ecommerce store are always welcome
Although social media is undoubtedly a powerhouse for eCommerce brands, don’t underestimate the influence behind blogs. The endless array of boards of Pinterest made up of eCommerce round-ups signal why brands should have a presence in the blogosphere. This is especially true for those in the fashion space.
This brings me to our next form of earned media: a content or product round-up.
HARO is also the perfect tool for getting yourself featured on a round-up that makes sense for your brand. Publications are constantly calling for brands to share information for them to feature on their newsletters and round-ups.
The best part is: you’re not bothering people to feature you who you aren’t sure are even looking to feature brands. They are asking specifically for you. So you know you have a high chance of being selected!
When we’re talking about written content that can be spread about your brand, our minds usually come to customer reviews. They are one of the most important buying features for a lot of people today, and they’re another crucial form of earned media.
Services like Trusted Shops can help give your products the stamp of approval that a lot of consumers look for before making any decision online. While you are giving customers the space to give their input, this would still be considered earned media because you’re not paying for their comments, and it’s extremely authentic.
Even better, use a tool that will verify your reviewers to ensure that shoppers now just how authentic they really are.
Finally, social media can still be a solid place to find written earned media. Especially when you turn to Twitter!
Twitter is an active playground for short form “writers” (meaning your customers) to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas with an engaged audience. So when someone mentions your brand in a positive post, it helps to garner public engagement naturally.
Those are the most popular forms of written earned media, now let’s shift over to the other side of the equation: visual earned media.
Visual earned media
Written earned media can be great for a brand, but what if you’re more interested in consumers seeing your products? That’s where visual earned media comes into the picture.
The place to turn for visual earned media is Instagram.
While Instagram influencers are normally paid or given a gift for sponsored posts, there are ways to get earned media from this network. Instagram is a hub for happy customers to share moments of their life – where they also happen to be enjoying your product.
That means normal users sharing authentic content with their friends and family. Not to leverage this kind of earned content would be a disservice to your brand.
Plus, it’s super easy to collect this kind of User Generated Content to integrated into an embedded Instagram feed in your eCommerce. So not only are customers sharing this kind of content for their followers to see on social media, you can also use it to enrich your online shopping journey like this example from fashion brand, Omoda.
When you leverage this kind of earned media, it can also help improve your eCommerce performance. By connecting images to products to make them ‘shoppable,’ brands see a 15% increase of conversion rate on average.
And it’s not just Instagram photos and videos that you can collect. Facebook, the original photo and video sharing space, can also be leveraged in the same way as Instagram.
If you’re having trouble inspiring users to post images and videos featuring your products, we understand. That’s why we spoke with eCommerce brand thredUP to learn out how they encouraged users to share content.
Similarly, we can turn to YouTube for longer videos that feature your products. While YouTube is generally a space for paid promotions, it’s possible to get users talking about your brand by connecting with them in a more organic way.
Follow their work, let them know that you watch their videos by commenting, liking, and mentioning them on other social media channels. This will also help you a lot when you reach out to them via email or meet them in person.
Once they start mentioning your brand, use this content on your site or on social media to enhance and promote your brand.
Now that we’ve gone through the types of earned media, let’s look at a real life example and how well it worked.
Increasing conversions with earned earned media
If you play your cards right, you can actually leverage this earned content into increasing both eCommerce conversions and engagement in one fell swoop. If you’re wondering how, let’s look at an example from Polish furniture brand, VOX.
VOX has always been at the top of their game when it comes to eCommerce innovation, so when they wanted to make a few updates – adding more photos to the site and including a customer review feature – they realized they had a big opportunity to do both at the same time.
Since they had already put in the work to get customers interacting with them on social media and posting content featuring the brand’s products, they had an onslaught of earned media that was waiting for them. That’s why they collected it to turn into visual customer reviews on their website.
Displayed in galleries and carousels across their homepage, product pages and more, the brand is able to demonstrate to shoppers that their products are used and loved by other, paying, customers.
Plus, by attaching products to each image, they actually attribute sales to each piece of earned media that they post.
With this feature in their eCommerce store, they’ve seen an 18.76% conversion rate increase and an 18.18% average order value increase. All thanks for their authentic earned media!
If you want a more in-depth explanation of how they did this, read on here.
How do you plan to leverage it?
That’s everything you need to know about earned media. The final question is: how do you want to leverage it?
My advice: make a plan, then stick to it. The impact of earned media can potentially skyrocket your brand’s engagement and sales if you plan well and commit.
But if you’re not sure how to plan it, you can always reach out. We’d be happy to give a few pointers!
Written by Charlie Brook, Content Marketing Manager. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.