By Adam Stillman
Much like everything else that is earned, earned media is the best kind of media. When people publish content about your brand in a positive manner, it is much more effective than when you talk about how great you are.
How much more effective?
Word-of-mouth (aka earned media) is 92% more effective than all other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen. But the fact is, not everyone has the creative mindset to look at a box of cookies and think, “The world needs to see this.”
So, how do you get customers to take out their phone, take a picture or video of your product, and share it with their network — and beyond?
Contests are a great example, but they exist for a limited time only. Instead of exclusively thinking about running a promotion because Arbor Day is coming up, strategize about how you can get customers creating brand content 365 days a year. One type of business that excels at generating earned media is monthly subscription box services. Customers of brands like Birchbox, Ipsy, Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox and others are churning out high-quality content showing their passion and excitement.
So, how exactly do they do it?
1. Monitor organically created trends. While not everyone is Spielberg with a smartphone, some people can really attract an audience. Subscription boxes curate content from the social web to see what behaviors are occurring with their products. Subscription box customers open their package like a birthday present, review the goodies and broadcast the excitement to their network and beyond. This trend began organically with no instruction, but soon brands recognized its power and began focusing efforts on increasing this type of content creation.
2. Give your customers a nudge. Once this kind of behavior was discovered, subscription services integrated messaging into their product. They use their packaging, social media channels, email marketing and more to provide instructions on how to share the content, which hashtag to use or even offer a creative brief, among other things. They provide all necessary information without being too pushy.
3. Make sharing simple and satisfying. We live in a time where everyone possesses the technological equivalent of a rocket ship in their pocket. There are a LOT of other things someone can be doing. There are videos to vine, chats to snap and birds to anger. But the barrier to creating content must be minimal to maximize participation. Creating an “unboxing” video is very easy and low tech. There is also no need for the customer to call a wingman, change location or purchase any fancy equipment; all they need is their phone or laptop. But most importantly, this experience is inherently enjoyable. Who doesn’t like opening up a present?
4. Give strong incentives, like referral codes. Giving new customers their own unique referral code with a special offer increases social sharing in a quality, non-spammy way. Subscription box customers can include their personal referral code in their un-boxing videos, transforming them into affiliates. When customers are presented a strong incentive, they will create client-acquiring earned media that is more authentic and trustworthy than anything the brand can create itself.
5. Showcase reactions on your web properties. Once the content has been created, it is important to turn it into a marketing asset — otherwise, the content will be lost, forgotten and effectively useless. At SparkReel, we help brands harness this content and turn it into direct traffic for their own site, but there are a variety of ways to repackage great earned media yourself too.
So go ahead, step up your social game and start guiding the user experience with desired messaging and recurring engagement. This creates revenue-generating outcomes for every brand.
Adam Stillman is a serial entrepreneur currently focused on SparkReel, a photo and video engagement platform designed to transform user generated content into marketing & customer acquisition assets.