Earned media is when your company, product, or brand is promoted by likes, comments, shares, or organic celebrity influence. It goes hand in hand with unpaid marketing, or essentially any organic marketing and advertising effort. Every share, every like, and every click helps promote visibility and credibility online and propel a business forward—without costing anything. 

Why Earned Media Is Important 

Earned media is important for many reasons, the first of which is: it’s free! It behooves businesses to embrace their organically generated media because it’s a way to spread the word about their business without costing too much. Although unpaid social media marketing efforts (like building a following, relying on users to share content, and allowing forward movement to happen organically) can take time, it’s worth it for businesses to rely on unpaid, earned media—especially while getting a new company off the ground. Once a company finds its financial footing, it can turn to paid marketing to complement its unpaid marketing efforts.

Another reason earned media is critical for a business, product, or brand is that it’s effective. Most people trust recommendations of friends, family, and even celebrities over branded content. Not surprisingly, a recent study by Hubspot research indicated that 57% of adults in the United States trust the recommendations of family and friends more than anything else when looking into a new product. 

Embracing earned social media provides a chance to engage with followers, niche groups, influencers, and experts in your industry. Unpaid marketing offers a budget-friendly way for businesses large and small to build their online presence as well as connect and strengthen relationships with current and potential followers/clients. 

Since earned media is proven to influence users and help them make buying decisions, sharing content from people and/or other well-known companies who have used or liked your products or services, provides social capital which increases your credibility. Offering this kind of social proof makes it more likely that people will want to do business with you or use your products or services. 

Types of Earned Social Media​

There are several different ways to incorporate earned media into your social media marketing strategy.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is one of the most well-known and effective types of earned media. UGC includes content like posts, blogs, images, videos, and reviews that have been created by consumers on an online or social network. It has swiftly become one of the most popular types of content on social media. For example, when someone tags your restaurant on Instagram and adds a comment like “You have to try this place!” that’s earned media. 

Similarly, reviews on places like Amazon, Google My Business, Yelp, and Tripadvisor are all forms of UGC earned media. So are product reviews on social media sites like YouTube, social media platforms, or blogs. And while business owners and brands hope that most earned media will be favorable (hello free advertising), some reviews, shares, and mentions might be negative. Normally, however, the risk is worth the reward for the publicity.

Cross-Platform Collaboration, Influencer Posts, & Guest Spots 

Collaborating with guests and unpaid influencers is another form of earned media. Many users see influencers as everyday consumers just like them, so influencer posts come across as a recommendation from a friend rather than an ad. Influencer marketing helps you grab the attention of another follower base, promote your brand, gain credibility, expand your reach, enhance brand awareness, and drive sales. Influencer posts should be relatable, align with your company's values, and provide a chance for you to connect with your niche audience.

Showing up on friends’ platforms or having an industry expert on yours can help boost your earned media as well. Creating content with other people diversifies your social media strategy and offers viewers something new and fresh. Finding other people or channels that align with yours can be a great way to connect with viewers and gain subscribers. If the collaboration is mutually beneficial and comes free of charge, this is considered part of earned media.

Media Coverage

Another form of earned media is when your business, product, or brand is featured in the media. This can include TV spots, appearing on a podcast, or if your company, services, product, or brand are included in a gift guide or a giveaway. This organic inclusion can help your bottom line and provides publicity free of charge. 

Organic Search Engine Optimizations (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to develop a website’s online content to increase visibility in search engines like Google. In search marketing, the goal is for your website or online content to show up at or near the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) when using certain keywords. Using specific keywords to rank higher can lead to more clicks and conversions, essentially “earning” that traffic at no cost to you.

How To Use Earned Media to Help Your Business Succeed

Now that you know what earned media is, and some of the variety of forms in which it appears, let’s explore how to use it to help your business thrive. 

Use Every Platform Possible

When it comes to social media marketing, while quality will always trump quantity, the more places you post your content, the more chances you have for engagement. As your familiarity and understanding of the different platforms grow, you can expand your strategy. While exploring the various social media platforms, see what you enjoy working on or what you’re good at. 

Create & Share Engaging Content 

Producing resonant, meaningful—and most of all, shareable!—content is an integral part of earned media. It’s hard to know what might go viral, but consistently creating and posting content that your followers connect with and want to share with others will boost opportunities for earned media.

Build Trustworthy Relationships

As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says, “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” You never know what connection might lead to a future collaboration or a chance to promote your business, product, or brand. This isn’t to say you should approach every person or situation as a business opportunity, but building and nourishing relationships with other creators, business owners, or media personalities can’t hurt.

Prioritize User Experience 

When it comes to social media marketing, it’s critical to make consumers your priority. As we enter the new year, focus on offering users a satisfying experience. You can make visitors to your social media platforms feel valued by creating great content, providing a relatable, reliable, and fun experience online, and by listening to and engaging with them. Being as user-focused as possible can look like gathering feedback from consumers and tweaking your content to meet their needs. Responding quickly to inquiries, feedback, and comments can establish genuine connections with users and provide them with an enjoyable overall experience. Feeling good about a product, business, or brand keeps people coming back for more, thus leading to more earned media. 

Learn Social Media Marketing 

Those ready to learn more about earned media and social media marketing in general can check out Noble Desktop’s 30-hour Social Media Marketing Certificate. The curriculum gives participants a comprehensive overview of the industry. Hands-on training over five distinct units allows students to master various elements of social media marketing. Certificate program participants will learn how to determine the right social media platform for their goals, develop a successful social media strategy, and create content that increases engagement and drives sales. Expert instructors teach participants how to gain a following and underscore the importance of market positioning and using social media analytics to improve results. Noble even offers students a chance to retake the class for free within a year to drill down on challenging concepts or refresh their skills. 

If you want to take a shorter course or focus on a specific platform, look into Noble’s wide variety of social media marketing classes. Individuals can attend in-person classes at Noble Desktop’s New York City location or attend live online social media marketing courses from anywhere in the world. 

Noble’s Facebook Marketing class provides an in-depth look at creating targeted ads, leveraging Facebook groups, and creating business pages within the platform. The Instagram Marketing class helps students learn about advertising on Instagram as well as how to build a following by creating resonant content. The course delves into the Instagram algorithm and how to use it to develop content and posting strategies as well as increase engagement. The course’s expert instructors go over best practices and tools like Instagram Stories, marketing, and advertising. 

With Noble’s LinkedIn Marketing class, you’ll learn how to craft a marketing strategy for LinkedIn, create dynamic content, and advertise on the platform. The course also covers prospecting with LinkedIn search as well as how to use LinkedIn analytics to your advantage. Finally, Social Media Video Marketing: TikTok & YouTube teaches how to use the platforms for video-based campaigns and techniques for creating content. Students will also learn how to monitor video trends, and identify and engage their target audience.

You can also find local and live online social media marketing courses, bootcamps, and certificate programs in your area using Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool.

Other social media marketing resources offered by Noble Desktop include its blog which has detailed articles about various social media marketing topics, and the Intro to Social Media Marketing seminar on YouTube, which gives in-depth descriptions about various social media platforms and strategies.