All marketers have the same goal: expose your brand to as many of your target consumers as possible.
With limited time and resources, of course, you can't do it all. And you shouldn't. Which is why you're not buying Super Bowl ads. You're out in search of earned media impressions-- the foundation of a smart marketing strategy-- because they're more cost-effective and more meaningful to your audience than just about any other kind of brand exposure.
But making little ripples isn't going to do you any good. You've got to make a splash.
Earned Media Is...
Well, earned media is a lot of things. In fact, this amazing post by Heidi Cohen on her way-too-awesome marketing blog points to 38 expert opinions on it. Read them. Know them. They're all right in their own way. And they all agree on one common denominator:
While some folks in the field do consider any unpaid exposure to be earned media, including me mentioning your awesome new product to my friend in conversation, I'm going to draw the line a little higher up the funnel.
To be clear, word of mouth matters. A lot. You want your target consumers talking about you. But to make that happen, you can't start a whisper campaign in a coffee shop. PR is about scale; it's about reach. And I don't consider my mouth to be a broadcast medium-- not unless the words I speak make it to this blog, or to our YouTube channel. By that rationale, Heidi didn't acquire any earned media when I talked about her post with my co-worker, but now that I mentioned her article on this blog she sure did.
Last weekend, when I was dancing on the bar with my tie around my head, I wasn't earning media because people in the room were gawking at my impressive moves. I earned it when they started posting my performance to YouTube.
I'm kidding. I don't wear ties.
Media Impressions Are...
Views. Actual views from real people. That's a media impression. Forget what you might hear about "ad impressions" and how unreliable they are. While the display ad industry is finally catching on to the notion that an ad served is not necessarily an ad viewed, PR folks have known this since forever. That's why they focus on getting brands inside the content their target consumers already enjoy... not the ads that interrupt the viewing experience.
You'd never consider your advertising strategy complete just because you bought an ad no one saw. The same is true of earned media-- your efforts don't much matter until you're capturing beaucoup impressions from people in your target audience.
So when we're talking YouTube placements, you gain a media impression every time a new viewer watches the video that includes your product. The likelihood that one video is going to score you the impression counts you need is very low, however. Which is why it's best to seek out as many placements as you can.
Ripples? No, You Need to Make a Splash
Your target consumer's world is a busy place, so by focusing on including your product in the content they choose to engage with, you have a much better chance of elevating above all that distraction. You have to do more than throw a few little pebbles in the pond, however. Any single placement isn't likely to make that splash you need, unless a big rock star like Bethany Mota is doing it for you. (Get it? ROCK star? Big splash? ...nevermind.)
Tribe Dynamics discussed just how much impact YouTube star Bethany Mota's completely serendipitous mention of NYX Cosmetics' blush had on the success of their company. Bethany's single effusive product mention was worth at least as much as a $100,000 paid placement in Glamour magazine.
And that's a very conservative estimate. Many believe that YouTube impressions are worth as much as $0.38 each, making Bethany's mention worth over $650K. But it didn't cost NYX a thing to capture over 1.7 million media impressions of their product.
It's not clear whether the 1.7 million view total also includes the additional reach NYX would have gained through Ms. Mota's Facebook, Twitter and Instragram accounts. NYX may have gained much more value than was even captured here-- YouTubers nearly always share content across their social media accounts. Whatever the case, NYX scored big. And it's going big that matters.
No one would study how NYX got their product onto one small channel that earned 145 views. We all want that BIG result. But NYX got lucky. Maybe you'll get lucky like NYX did. Too bad getting lucky isn't a repeatable strategy.
The good news is, you don't need that one big hit like Bethany Mota. You just need the result: lots of impressions of your product to your target audience. Thankfully, there are countless mini-Motas out there with their own loyal followings, ready to talk about your stuff.
How Big Do You Want Your Splash to Be?
Note in the graphic above the cost equivalent of spending $100,000 on a Glamour magazine placement vs. the thousands of influencers who could be reached simply by sending out free products. Seems like a mighty fine deal.
Chances are, you don't have a $100,000 PR budget. So how big IS your budget? Do you have one? If not, consider working backwards from the number of media impressions you think you'd need in order to have a successful campaign.
Let's suppose you want 20,000 impressions for a trial campaign. That's probably the low end for reach that would be worth the effort. If your product costs $25 (your cost, not retail value) + $8 shipping + $20 for Content BLVD's placement fee, and you secure 20 videos that average just 1,000 views each. Your total cost is $1,060, and your cost per impression is just $0.05. Pennies per impression. If YouTube impressions are worth $0.38 each, you're getting a great deal for that exposure.
The average views of videos YouTubers make working with brands through our platform is 2950 views per video. So your impression costs are likely even lower than $0.05 each, depending on your own product cost and shipping. Let's bump up the goal to 100,000 impressions using a more accurate impression count:
$25 product + $8 shipping + $20 Content BLVD fee = $53 cost per video. At a still conservative 2,000 view average, you'd need to secure 50 placements for a total cost of $2,650. That's still under three cents per media impression.
Are there other ways you can quickly secure thousands of media impressions for $0.03 each without relying on luck to get them? Or dozens of media pitches that don't go anywhere? We don't have to tell experienced PR folks just how labor-intensive it is. You already know.
Playing the Numbers Game
It's simple: the more placements you get, the more opportunities you have to create high quality media impressions with your target consumers. Remember, even if true word of mouth is the goal, you'd never consider your PR campaign complete because a few people had a conversation about your product. You want thousands talking; you want your product to be top of mind.
According to McKinsey, as consumers actively evaluate their buying options, they don't rely on brands. They reach out to get information and consider new options. You already know this. But what you might not know is the extent to which consumers have turned the historical buying cycle on it's head.
When consumers begin to actively consider products to purchase, two thirds of the influence on their decision-making comes from consumer-driven resources: friends, family, and trusted internet sources, like YouTube personalities. Which means you don't get to control your brand message nearly as much as you'd like. It just doesn't work that way. But if you give your products to the right people, your message will get out.
To make sure your products are even considered, you've got to get more impressions. So put them where they belong-- in the hands of dozens of the influencers your target consumers trust most.