Advertising is a huge part of any interactive marketer's budget. Banner, search, video, and mobile ads cost a bundle to purchase.
But expensive "paid media" is becoming less effective as consumers turn their back on ads that blatantly try to "sell" them something. (A recent Deloitte & Touche study found that three-quarters of US consumers consider Internet ads intrusive, and more than one-quarter would be willing to pay for advertisement-free online content.)
The good news is that a new marketing category—"earned media"—is emerging. It costs next to nothing and has an increasingly powerful impact on branding, consumer engagement, and return on investment (ROI).
Unlike paid media, which, as its name suggests, requires a significant financial investment, earned media is generated by the news, tweets, blogs, videos, and more that companies create for free.
In today's socially connected Web, people pass along informative, entertaining, and useful brand content through email, blogs, and social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter—spreading a brand's message authentically and driving valuable traffic to its websites and paid campaigns.
The main problem with earned media is that it has been difficult to measure and track its effect on traffic volumes, engagement, and conversion. But several new inexpensive tools are now available that allow marketers to accurately track the effect that passed-along links and word of mouth have on a campaign's overall ROI.
In our research that tracked the flow of shared content for brands, we found some eye-opening data: namely, 20% of unique visitors arriving at a brand's websites or landing pages come directly from shared links.
In short, when people share your branded content via email, social networks, mobile messaging, etc., the passed-along links drive one out of every five visitors to your site.