Corporate Eye

The Value of Earned Media Should Not be Ignored

emarketer_social_media_advertising_spending_2008-2011Through the social Web, brands have more opportunities to earn media mentions from both traditional online publishers and new social Web publishers such as bloggers, Twitter users, Facebook users, and more.  In fact, according to a study by eMarketer, social media advertising is expected to reach nearly $3 billion by 2011, which demonstrates the intense focus companies are giving it as part of their overall marketing strategies.

There is a reason why earned media is so powerful, and it’s rooted in trust.  Consumers are more likely to act when marketing messages come from sources they trust.  When consumers hear positive reviews about products via a Facebook friend, they trust the authenticity of that review more than they trust an ad on TV or on a billboard.  It’s a fact that researchers have proven time and again, and it’s the reason why companies invest large sums of money into building word-of-mouth through social media marketing.

A study by Nielsen Online conducted in July 2009 offers an excellent breakdown of consumers’ feelings toward different types of advertising and marketing tactics.  Consumers were asked to rate each marketing tactic presented in the study survey by stating whether they trusted each.  The percentage of respondents who stated they either “completely” or “somewhat” trusted a tactic presented to them are shown below:

  • Recommendations from people I know: 92%
  • Consumer opinions posted online: 72%
  • Editorial content such as a newspaper article: 70%
  • Brand Web sites: 69%
  • Emails I signed up for: 67%
  • Ads in newspapers: 66%
  • Brand sponsorships: 62%
  • Ads in magazines: 62%
  • Ads on TV: 61%
  • Ads on radio: 61%
  • Ads before movies: 53%
  • Billboards and outdoor advertising: 53%
  • Ads served on search engine results: 37%
  • Online video ads: 33%
  • Online banner ads: 24%
  • Text ads on a mobile phone: 18%

Given the results above, it would seem that shifting a portion of your marketing budget to tactics that boost earned media would be a wise decision.  However, how much of the $3 billion that companies plan to spend on social media advertising will actually go to marketing activities that increase earned media?  Earned media is hard to track, and companies like to take the safe route and invest in tactics they can analyze for months.  Without hard numbers, many companies find themselves at an impasse — completely unable to make a decision.

Until hard metrics can routinely be applied to earned media results, the bulk of the marketing budget will continue to go into more traditional online advertising tactics such as banner and text ads.  Not that there is anything wrong with those tactics.  They still work quite well, but the allure of earned media is hard to resist.  What do you think?

Read more about branding and trust in these articles here on Corporate Eye:

Image: eMarketer

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.