Earned media has already emerged as the key social media strategy in 2014. Marketers recognize the premium value of earned media, whether they discuss it as viral content, advocacy, conversational marketing, or audience sourced content.  In fact, two of the major social media platforms, Facebook and Google+, signaled this shift with December ’13 announcements.

Facebook undermines owned content

  • Facebook acknowledged organic content posted on organization’s pages will see decreased viewership unless they actively pay for increased exposure. ln short, organic content by a brand purposefully gets low exposure by Facebook.
  • Research shows the magnitude of this change. As reported by Inside Facebook, Komofo did a study that showed a 42% decrease in reach for organic posts.
  • Facebook’s changes intractably tie together paid media and organic/owned media. Facebook’s changes may drive increased ad revenue, but it devalues earlier efforts to build fan communities for pages and efforts to generate content on those pages. It highlights the volatility of social platforms, especially if your organization’s goals don’t align with Facebook’s.
  • Key Takeaway: earned media and its reach remains constant. In fact, the natural conversations started by fans and followers take on increased value. In short, these pieces of audience generated content now provide the only viable alternative to paid promotion on Facebook.

Facebook placed an increased emphasis on earned media by weakening an organization’s owned content. On the other end of the equation, Google explicitly highlighted earned media’s value by incorporating it across their ad platform.

Google+ leverages earned media

  • Google announced the trial use of +Post ads in early December.
  • Toyota USA, Ritz and Cadbury UK were among early beta clients. This story shows an example of a +Post ad.
  • The ads  pull earned media from Google+ into other Google properties via the Google Display Network which includes search and YouTube.
  • Note that Google+ remains ad free, but repurposes that content elsewhere. This avoids Facebook’s issue of having paid content showing up directly in the social conversation, ala ads in Facebook’s News Feed.
  • Studies have shown a huge lift in engagement levels with this model, 50% higher expansion rates, another proof point for the power and desirability of earned media.
  • Key Takeaway: Google has launched a solution that incorporates the power of earned media into paid content without diluting their social network. This allows authentic and natural conversations to occur on Google+ but still benefit organizations via paid campaigns across other Google properties.

Whether you focus on Facebook forcing organizations to combine paid content to support their self-generated content or Google validating the power of earned media with its +Post ads, it all points to the importance of earned media. As you start your social media strategy in 2014, make sure you take heed and incorporate earned media and measure it as part of your 2014 campaigns.