Of the three types of media – owned, earned, and paid – earned tends to be the most effective, but elusive variety. Earned media consists of any type of promotion, sharing, reviews, or discussion of a brand or branded content by its audience. Earned media is effective because consumers have a greater tendency to trust the opinions of their peers. It can be elusive because, unlike the other forms of media, it can’t be bought or created in-house. Earned media relies on your audience wanting to evangelize for your brand.
Sharing is arguably the most important aspect of earned media. Sharing is a catalyst for the value-adding activities associated with earned media. As viewers share content, the reach of the content grows exponentially. Sharing helps to put content into the hands of engaged users who will create prized brand conversation (reviews, discussion, forum activity, etc.). Even if the content isn’t interacted with, the feed impressions are a great boost to brand awareness. Share numbers themselves are used to indicate content quality – by both people and search engines.
Sharing – and, by extension, earned media – is driven by key channels. The chart to the left outlines the top channels B2B buyers use to share content with colleagues. For each network, respondents ranked their sharing regularity from frequently to never.
Each of the listed channels has its own needs and nuances. Optimization takes dedicated attention and strategy. Understanding the most effective channels and their strengths/weaknesses will help you to choose the best places to focus your efforts. We’ll go into detail on each channel and its best practices below.
Email was the far and away winner in this study. 88% of respondents reported sharing frequently through email – more than double the percentage of the next best channel. Moreover, 97% of respondents reported sharing at least sometimes via email.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Email is still the preferred form of communication in business. Almost universally, employees are given a company email address. Generally, email addresses are made available to coworkers through a company directory or the like. Similarly, email addresses are usually some of the first information exchanged between business associates. Where I might not friend my coworkers and business contacts on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, I almost certainly have access to their email addresses.
Email is a unique sharing option because it’s entirely one to one. Unlike a social network, you send an email to a specific address (or addresses). Emails are targeted. You share a piece of content through email because you think that a particular colleague will derive some sort of value from it. In this way, email is instrumental in getting content in the hands of decision-makers.
With email as such an important facet of sharing, it baffles me how many times it’s absent in sharing tools (button sets, linked calls to action, etc.). The most important factor for success in email sharing is making it accessible.
Remedy this by featuring email as a sharing option. Streamline the sharing process with a simple pre-filled message and subject line. In general, simply give email the same attention that you would give any other major sharing option.
The numbers put LinkedIn as a strong second in terms of B2B sharing. Like email, it’s probably not much of a surprise that LinkedIn ranks well. LinkedIn is billed as the B2B social network. In a lot of ways, it lives up to this expectation. Most people use it to connect with some subset of their coworkers and contacts – even if it’s just for networking sake. More and more business is happening on LinkedIn. Time investment in the network is beginning to reflect this trend.
As far as sharing goes, LinkedIn provides a few interesting options. It offers the ability to post to an individual, a group, or your entire network. Recently, LinkedIn has also rolled out a publishing feature that puts updates directly into your network’s notifications tab. Between these options, LinkedIn sharing provides a variety of opportunities for marketers. Sharing to individuals has one to one capabilities similar to email. Sharing to groups is useful to tap into concentrations of similarly interested individuals. Publishing and updates expand content reach and improve brand awareness.
To get the most out of LinkedIn sharing, make sure you offer all three major sharing options. You should keep track of shares (using social listening if need be), making sure to engage when your content is shared. This is particularly important on LinkedIn because, by default, posts are sorted by engagement rather than recency. A well timed comment and a couple of likes can bring your post to the top of the heap. In smaller groups, this can be enough to provide extended exposure and, possibly, secure a spot in the digest email.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, along with LinkedIn, make up the core of a typical company’s social networks. Unlike LinkedIn, the other three sites tend to fall somewhere between personal and professional networks. As such, they tend to be featured in a more prominent role for B2C, rather than B2B. These perceptions are evident in their sharing numbers.
Though not as exclusively professional as LinkedIn, each of these networks provides interesting value. Twitter offers a potentially massive, albeit momentary reach. Facebook, the most personal-life-oriented of the three, offers the ability to jump outside business networks. It’s funny how often a friend’s cousin or a sister’s brother-in-law can lead to new business. Though generally considered to be dying, Google+ still offers a demographically tight network with potential SEO benefits.
Each these networks has its own best practices, though some general trends exist. For example, on any of the three, you should schedule your posts to appear at optimal times. Incorporating quality imagery in posts can help to fuel sharing, as well. Engagement is another driver of sharing across all three networks. If you’d like more information on optimizing social sharing, check out our past post on the subject.
4. Slideshare / Pinterest
At the moment, Pinterest and Slideshare aren’t typically considered “must have” B2B social networks, though these sharing numbers might help to change that. Slideshare in particular performed more or less on par with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Both Slideshare and Pinterest offer some unique benefits in terms of sharing. Both allow you to reorganize content into a more shareable format. Slideshare presentations are hosted on the Slideshare website, with a handful featured every day. The presentations are searchable, helping to drive sharing on their own. Slideshare boasts fairly extensive LinkedIn integration, allowing presentations to be imbedded in posts or profiles. These elements are sharable within LinkedIn or through Slideshare. Slideshare also offers additional sharing options including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, and HTML snippet. Pinterest allows you to repurpose graphics and other visual content. On hover “Pin it” buttons can be integrated directly into a blog or website. Pinterest also offers the ability to proactively drive sharing by creating a group board and inviting others it pin.
As for optimization, Slideshares should be kept short, text-light, and visually appealing. Use interesting fonts and imagery to gain attention. More importantly, provide value. Useful Slideshares are much more likely to be shared or featured. For Slideshare, it’s also important to use the provided tools to embed shares across channels (blogs and LinkedIn pages are prime candidates). Pinterest does well when mixing various types of visual content – images, videos, charts, infographics, testimonials, graphs, and so on. It also thrives on boards that provide value. Aggregating popular content, like infographics, makes your board useful and gives you an opportunity to link back to your own analysis. Similarly, a board with your own how-to Slideshares and videos would also provide value and drive sharing.
Generating earned media requires sharing. With specific techniques, sharing can be fostered through a variety of channels. For B2B, email and LinkedIn are the standouts. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ provide value when strategically employed, while Slideshare and Pinterest provide offer unique opportunities and a less cluttered environment. Overall, channels should be selected to align with campaign goals and available resources.
Let us know what you think:
- Which sharing number surprised you?
- Which channels do you plan to improve?
- What channels would you add to the list?