Earned Media Value in Marketing – Are You Ready To Lose Control?

The term earned already indicates what the earned media value is about: It revolves around the value your brand or company earns by being mentioned by clients, brand advocates, and fans of your brand. In this article, we will discuss how the earned media value is composed and how it differentiates itself from paid and owned media.

What is earned media?

Earned media describes every form of communication around your brand. This includes mentions, reposts, shares, and reviews. To put it simply: The earned media value is created by the buzz that is going on around your brand.

Why the Earned Media Value is so important for brands

But in contrast to paid media, earned media is unpaid. Your brand’s customers, brand advocates, and fans talk about your brand willingly without being paid for it. Thus, earned media is a form of word-of-mouth. This form of media value is particularly important for brands because it shows how many people talk about you apart from your paid marketing efforts.

earned media valueExample of a brand’s earned media value (green columns) © InfluencerDB

We came across this quote which describes earned media as a tool which boosts your marketing strategies:

“If owned media sites are the destination then earned media is the vehicle that helps people get there.”

And if your brand has a high earned media value, this indicates that your owned and paid media efforts are successful and you were able to create awareness around your brand.

Additionally, you managed to attract people who feel connected to your brand and convinced them of your products.

Earned media equals credibility

Earned media is oftentimes described as the most trusted form of content for a brand. Sure, you can tell potential customers how well your product performs and why it is the right choice for them, but in the end, they know that you want to sell your product.

Existing customers or brand advocates, on the other hand, can provide their honest opinion about your product without any strings attached. Thus, it is simply a question of credibility.

One of my favorite brunch spots in NY ?

A post shared by BRITTANY XAVIER (@thriftsandthreads) on

Social media, in particular, facilitates the spread of word-of-mouth messages. 83% of participants of Nielsen’ Global Trust in Advertising study say they trust the recommendations of friends and family and 66% say they trust consumer opinions posted online. Thus, these two forms of (online) word-of-mouth are valuable instruments for brands to have opinions, reviews, and recommendations of their products spread on the internet.

How controllable is earned media?

Earned media is extremely valuable, but it also holds certain risks.

Owned and paid media can be controlled easily, as owned media is composed by the brand itself and paid media emerges according to the brand’s conception.

Earned media, on the other hand, is completely disconnected from the brand’s space of action. As a brand, you have hardly any to no control over the evolvement of this medium.

It is highly desirable for your brand to be mentioned in a positive way, but of course, it might happen that negative reviews of your products emerge, which need to be handled wisely. This was the case for automotive manufacturer Toyota when the company got into a crisis due to several car model recalls.

The brand received extreme backlash online and offline, but instead of pulling back from social media, Toyota used loyal and dedicated brand advocates on Facebook to help rebuild the brand’s reputation.

Toyota fans were called upon to share their memories and stories of vacations and adventures they experienced with their Toyota car. Not only did the brand increase their earned media with this strategy, but also made use of emotional connections to facilitate rebuilding the trust of (potential) clients.

Which factors affect the earned media value?

In our previous article, we explained that the media value per post describes how valuable a single posting on Instagram is. Each posting has a certain worth which originates from a combination of factors, like its reach, the number of likes it attracts, and the CPM for Instagram ads.

We will focus on a few factors which affect the earned media value of a brand in the following. In addition to the mentions which we will describe here in more detail, shares, reposts, and reviews also add to your brands earned media value.

If a brand is tagged in a posting, the brand receives a certain percentage of this posting’s media value. This value depends on different factors which impact whether the earned media values for a brand is rather high or low.
For a brand, it makes a difference whether the brand is mentioned in the post description, tagged in the photo, or both. The weighting of text to photo mentions is about 75% to 25%.

Example of text mention only

In this posting, influencer Pilot Maria tags the brand GoPro in the post description, but not in the photo. Due to the immediate visibility of the text, this is still a valuable mention which adds to GoPro’s earned media value.

Airport mode ✈ Time for Spain! ??

A post shared by Erik Forsgren (@erik.forsgren) on

Example of photo mention only

This posting illustrates that Swedish influencer Erik Forsgren only tags the brands in the picture but does not mention them in the post description. Though this is still a valuable mention for the brands, it is of lesser value than a text mention.

The reason is simple: Post descriptions are always visible on Instagram, both in the feed and when you open the picture. Photo mentions, on the other hand, are only visible when you click on the picture directly. Thus, making the tag visible requires an action which not every user is willing to execute for every picture.

Exploring Kyoto with @louisvuitton. Just a few more hours before their cruise show. #lvcruise

A post shared by Negin Mirsalehi (@negin_mirsalehi) on

Example of both text and photo mention

In this posting, model Negin Mirsalehi tags the brand Louis Vuitton in the picture and mentions the brand in the post description. This form of being mentioned more valuable than either text or photo mention, since it ensures the best possible visibility of the mentioned brand.

Example of single brand mention vs. multiple brand mentions

Another factor with impacts the earned media value is the fact whether a single brand is mentioned or if the posting includes several brands. The postings above illustrate the visibility of brands for both cases.

In the posting to the left side, the focus is put on a single brand which increases the visibility and awareness of the brand. In the posting to the right, numerous brands are tagged which decreases the visibility of each single brand.

The Takeaway

Earned Media is difficult to control, but it is extremely valuable for brands! To leverage earned media, as a brand you should aim at creating brand advocates which support your brand willingly because they like your brand and NOT because you pay them to do so.

Thus, they will automatically create awareness and increase your trustability by connecting your brand and potential customers. By building relationships, these customers can then be turned into advocates again. Also, according to AdAge, conversion rates are significantly higher for companies which focus on earned media rather than paid media.

Investing time and putting effort into identifying brand advocates and building relationships with them will pay off for your brand in the end.


This article is part of our current series which concerns media values in the digital marketing world. Curious about other articles? Read more here: