Social media is earned media

One of the effects that the “increased pool of potential producers” (see the answer to question 1) of Web 2.0 is having on business is that it is opening up a wide variety of ways that consumers – your customers – can help each other.

And let’s face it – they’d rather get the information they need from each other than get it from you. Don’t be shocked on this point. The PR business has long used a minimum 3x multiplier to quantify the value of earned versus paid media, recognizing that consumers value the information they get from other channels more than what they receive from your company. Making matters worse, consumers have been handed plenty of reasons not to trust business anyway.

The opportunity you have is that most businesses (your competitors?) are better at serving customers than supporting community. They’re better at it because they’ve been doing it longer… and they’ve figured out how much control they have in the process of serving customers and how to exercise it. For example, the server at lunch yesterday exercised a level of control when she told my client that she couldn’t get chicken on her salad, even though it was available as an add-on to another dish on the flip side of the menu.

Your PR person would never attempt to exercise this level of control over a reporter. Instead, they…

– invest time and money into nurturing a relationship
– respond promptly and with courtesy to inquiries
– execute interesting and surprising MPR events to spark interest
– deliver helpful / useful information
– etc.

When everybody is a ‘potential producer’ of ‘earned media’, the rules change. It’s not simply word of mouth anymore, but something more. Whether they use their own channel, one that already exists, one you build, or some combination of the three, they have a remarkable capacity to help one another. And when they do, as an added bonus, they do your marketing for you.

Previously posted on

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