The most effective way to gain a loyal following

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Earned media value is ultimately a measure of how effective your social media efforts are.

With the introduction of easily accessible and popular social media platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. -- consumers are becoming a larger part of the marketing process. Brands now have to tailor content to what consumers want and need -- and doing that might not always be easy. The focus can no longer remain on simply making a sale, but on gaining a loyal following and taking action at every opportunity. That's why it's important to remember the various types of media available to social media marketers.

Ultimately, there are two main types of media value: paid media, which is value gained through advertising on the radio, purchasing a billboard, Google AdWords, or anything else you pay for,  and earned media, which is value obtained through other people talking about your brand, business, or product.

While both forms are valuable in their own ways, when it comes to social media marketing, earned media can be incredibly valuable because it is third-party validation of your business or brand. It can cost substantially less to obtain than typical paid media value.

For example, a study by Wishpond found that social media marketing increased a business' exposure by around 92 percent with as little as six hours of work per week. That's huge -- and it means more people are talking about your business, brand, and product. As well, the same Wishpond study found that among marketers using social media -- over six hours a week -- saw reduced marketing expenses, with the same amount of exposure. That means you can experience the same amount of exposure for less money. And if you use your earned media correctly, you can gain new customers just as with paid media value.  

Customers are more likely to trust person-to-person contact, rather than business-to-person. If they see one of their friends or someone they follow talking about a great brand, they're more likely to accept that information as accurate. That's earned media value.

You might wonder how you can measure earned media value -- how do you know someone is talking about you or spreading the word? How do you know how many people are talking about you? The short answer: You can measure earned media value through shares, retweets, comments, favorites, and "likes" -- the stuff social media is made of!

It's true, conversion tracking is more complicated for social media -- and earned media value -- than with traditional paid media value. It's easy enough to track if say, a customer clicks a link on Facebook and buys the product. But what if the customer clicks the link and doesn't buy, but opens your website independently a few days later and buys? Or what if they go to a physical store to buy your product? There is no direct way to track those kinds of paths, but don't let that determine whether or not you decide to focus on earned media value. The true value of earned media is the number of new people talking about your business, brand, or product. The focus is removed from actually making a sale and instead, gathering a following.