Will 2013 be the year of earned media for brands?

2012 was the year that saw content marketing truly come into its own. Brands started to take notice; publishing blogs, news, webinars, infographics and creating educational, responsive websites. They began combining owned media (websites, social media accounts and content platforms, like blogs) with paid media (advertising of all kinds, sponsorships).

In short, brands discovered the power of content – in all its forms.

What’s left for 2013, then? This is the year wherein brands’ owned and paid media strategies will take a back step; making way for the big daddy – earned media.

What the deuce?

Earned media is that which is not generated by the brand or its PR agency. This media is generated by the audience itself, off the back of a well-crafted strategy that combines paid and owned content.

It is arguably the most powerful type of media, as prospects are more likely to trust it. Why? Well, their peers have no vested interest in selling to them. Brands do. Therefore, earned content/buzz/media – whatever you want to call it – is inherently more trustworthy than that created directly by a brand.

The beauty of earned media goes far beyond its trustworthiness though. It counts as ‘evergreen’ content (i.e. it will stay relevant for months to come), can provide key collateral for brands’ sales teams and dramatically increases a brand’s audience reach.

…but what actually is it?

Earned media can take many forms, including:

1. Brands or associated hashtags trending on Twitter

2. Viral videos being passed around on Youtube/Facebook/Google+

3. Blogs from devoted or newly-converted fans

4. Testimonials placed on independent review sites

5. Forum entries discussing a brand

6. Shares, likes, re-tweets, +1s on social media

Of course with the advent of promoted tweets on Twitter and sponsored stories on Facebook, the lines are blurring between paid, owned and earned media. However clarifying them isn’t too difficult – just remember that it is organic tweets, mentions and shares etc. that count when it comes to earned media… not those which have been paid for.

There’s very little way to gain this critical exposure (and the influencers themselves) without doing the legwork first. Most brands recognised this in 2012 and now, in 2013, are ready to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

What about your brand? Has it had great success with earned media, or is it just starting out? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so do share your story!

Deborah is a campaign delivery manager for Red Rocket Media, a social content marketing agency based in Portsmouth.