Virality is a desirable phenomenon in the social media world. It is an effect caused by the rapid circulation of a content piece like a photo, video, or blog post. The more a piece of content is shared, the more attention it gets. In social media, every share and every mention of a channel add to the channels earned media value. Thus, the more virality a channel causes, the higher the channel’s earned media value gets.

In this blog post, we will examine the ripple effect: How do current events in politics, sports and the world of celebrities reflect on the earned media value of the affected channels? And how do these events impact the Instagram channels beyond this? Does a rise in earned media automatically lead to follower growth? We will discuss this interdependence in the following.

The 2016 US Presidential Elections and their impact on politicians’ earned media values

The US Presidential Election has been the most talked about political event in 2016. The candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received extensive media attention which directly reflects on their Instagram channels’ earned media values.

Donald Trump

The first graphic down below displays the earned media value and follower growth graph of Donald Trump.

Earned Media Value Donald TrumpEarned Media Value of Donald Trump © InfluencerDB

It is interesting, but not surprising to see that two columns stand out prominently which indicate important events for the affected person, while the overall earned media value of his channel is rather low in comparison:

On November 8, 2016, Trump was elected President of the United States. During this week, his Instagram channel accumulated an earned media value of 955,587$.

When Trump assumed office on January 20, 2017, his earned media value even increased to 1,193,473$ that week.

This example suggests that there is a direct connection between an increase in earned media value and rise in follower numbers:

On those days around Election Day as well as those of Trump’s inauguration, he gained an over-average amount of followers. The graphic below also shows how often his channel was mentioned by other Instagram channels on the concerned days.

Follower Changes TrumpDaily Follower Changes of Donald Trump © InfluencerDB

Hillary Clinton

The channel of Hillary Clinton also shows a strong growth in earned media during the time of the election.

Earned Media Value Hillary ClintonEarned Media Value of Hillary Clinton © InfluencerDB

Clinton managed to gain an earned media value of 2,644,838$ during election week, which more than doubles Trump’s earned media value in the same timeframe. Thus, Clinton was able to generate more mentions than the elected president, which shows that the interest in Clinton was huge even though she did not win the election in the end.

Stronger together.

A post shared by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on

Additionally, her channel also gained a significant amount of followers, which supports our theory about a correlation between an increase in earned media and follower growth.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s presidency ended on January 20, 2017, with the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Earned Media Value Barack ObamaEarned Media Value of Barack Obama © InfluencerDB

Remember: The new president accumulated an earned media value of 1,193,473$ in the week of his inauguration. With an earned media value of 2,704,432$, Obama managed to more than double this value.

And while Trump gained 152,858 followers on inauguration day, Obama increased his followership by 327,758, which highlights that the support for the outgoing president did not end with the end of his presidency.

Sports events make for skyrocketing earned media values for athletes

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki, professional basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks, is rather inactive on Instagram and only shares posts from time to time.

Earned Media Value Dirk NowitzkiEarned Media Value of Dirk Nowitzki © InfluencerDB

Nonetheless, his earned media value skyrocketed in March 2017 when he scored 30,000 career points. This makes him one of only six players who reached “one of the most amazing accomplishments in the history of sports”. In addition to this accomplishment, Nowitzki’s channel accumulated an earned media value of 854,676$ and gained more than 40,000 followers that week.

Russel Westbrook

NBA star Russell Westbrook, who plays for Oklahoma City Thunder, experienced a similar increase in earned media value when he averaged a triple-double as the second player in NBA history in April 2017.

Earned Media Value Russell WestbrookEarned Media Value of Russel Westbrook © InfluencerDB

While his highest earned media value revolved around 1 million Dollars in the past, Westbrook reached an earned media value of 3,020,744$ in the week of his triple-double – this even beats Obama’s end-of-presidency value!
Just recently, Westbrook won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. We are curious to see how this event will reflect on his earned media value.

Golden State Warriors and the NBA Championship 2017

In mid-June, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA finals of 2017.

Earned Media Value WarriorsEarned Media Value of Golden State Warriors © InfluencerDB

During this time, the Warriors managed to generate an earned media value of skyrocketing 3,767,113$!

‪Larry is back in the Bay! ? #DubNation ‬

A post shared by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

These extremely high values highlight the significance of sports in general and basketball specifically in the United States and beyond.

Going viral – with long-lasting positive effects?

All these examples displayed channels which clearly benefitted from their virality: Increases in their earned media values were accompanied by a rise in follower numbers and had long-term positive effects for the channels.
But does going viral always come with these benefits?

In September 2016, high school junior Hannah Talliere became known on social media when a video went viral which showed her performing a dance after winning a volleyball match.

The video was shared more than 150,000 times on Twitter and was liked more than 280,000 times.

Although the video went viral on Twitter in the first place, her sudden fame also impacted her Instagram channel: After the video, Hannah suddenly assembled more than 400,000 followers on her channel. Additionally, she accumulated an earned media value of 228,785$ after the video was shared all over the internet.

Earned Media Value hannymtEarned Media Value @hannymt © InfluencerDB

Now, months after the event, Hannah’s channel loses followers day by day, resulting in a negative growth of -3.0%.

Follower Changes hannymt

Daily Follower Changes @hannymt © InfluencerDB

This example illustrates that virality and a sudden increase in earned media value due to one event can be beneficial for a channel for a while. Additionally, it highlights the interdependence of owned and earned media: Without high-quality content (owned media), followers will jump off after a certain time if the channel offers no additional value for the followers.

Instagram channel hannymtInstagram channel of @hannymt

Hannah’s content quality is rather mediocre and apart from the viral video, her channel does apparently not offer enough entertainment to attract new followers or retain existing ones.

The Takeaway

For political campaigns, earned media is a valuable means for driving traffic to a channel. All three politicians’ channels benefitted from an increase in earned media regarding their follower growth. The same goes for the channels of the atheletes and sports clubs.

Current events can have an extremely high impact on the earned media value. Even for channels with an otherwise rather low earned media value, a viral event can result in suddenly skyrocketing earned media values. This can be beneficial if the content goes along with it. Thus, earned media acts as a driving force, while the owned media has to consist of interesting content which offers additional values for the followers.


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

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