Anatomy of a Natural Mention: The Benefits of Earned Media in Digital Marketing

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Key Points
  • Stimulate natural mentions to effectively and positively guide your brand’s web presence.
  • Ensure an audience is well-aligned and will be able to genuinely connect with and care about your brand.
  • Retain all one-to-one relationships and expand upon them to create a reliable larger network.
  • Harness the power and support of your community to both leverage and protect your brand’s reputation.
  • Avoid forced, spammy and out of place mentions to follow SEO best practice.

Think about politics: the more people singing your praises, the better candidate you’re perceived to be. The politician who spends big on TV commercials and other impersonal advertisements without taking the time to campaign in a grassroots fashion often loses to the one who takes the time to build genuine relationships with voters.

Well, it’s the same for your brand’s presence on the internet — the more positive mentions you earn from credible sources, the more digital success you’ll see. The more natural the mention is, the better.

Naturally earned mentions can come in the form of a recommendation, a call to action, or any positive reference to your brand, company or products and services, and they reside in a space that aligns well with your target market. Ultimately, these types of natural placements come without any financial cost and provide valuable return.

Let’s break it down:


Social exposure

Gaining maximum traction on social media platforms can be a challenge, but one way not to do it? Trying to be talked about on the web where your brand straight up doesn’t make sense. It’s unnatural, it’s awkward, and nobody can scroll down fast enough to avoid wasting time on irrelevant content.

That’s why making sure an audience is well-aligned and will be able to genuinely connect with and care about your brand is a crucial first step in earning a valuable placement. Then, when people are interested, and when they can tell the author themselves is truly interested, the call to action is inherent. That’s when the social shares roll in, because why wouldn’t you tell anyone and everyone you know about this new brand that influencers are ranting (in a good way) about! If all these pieces fall into place, clicking those buttons to share content on all social platforms would be a no-brainer for another reader, and another, and another…etc.

The advantages in sparking positive social engagement can be best explained with the domino effect (the Ice Bucket Challenge, for example). These connections made on Facebook are almost never one-to-one, as the interaction and shares then lead to more and more impressions. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all, a natural mention of a brand on a social account provides exposure to a trusting audience. Facebook is all about friends and networking. Having the ability to choose who you follow and what you see on your feed takes the guesswork away, no need to wonder, “is this mention legit?” Brands can rest assured that the friends and followers of a social account who shares on their behalf make up a qualified audience, because if they didn’t want to hear or didn’t believe in what the account is sharing, they could unfollow or unfriend at the simple click of a button.

Exposure to a dedicated niche readership

Earning a mention on a given site puts your brand center stage for that site’s audience to see. With the right engaging content, establishing this type of connection can help solidify a unique and reliable relationship. And that’s just the beginning.

The biggest opportunity lies in the potential growth for single relationships to multiply. The long-term scalability and expansion of relationships results in a large network of trusted friends to rely on. In politics, you need a coalition of supporters and collaborators to help you get out your message, and the same is true when building your brand online. Building relationships with niche communities is basically like coordinating your brand’s very own grassroots campaign.

Opening the doors of the brand to new people

You know who also sits in that audience? People who have never heard of your brand. One mention of your brand on a site could open the door to numerous new and interested consumers. That open door could additionally lead to qualified referral traffic. If these new audiences like what you have to say, and they recommend and properly source your brand, the referral traffic will flow in.

However, a simple increase in referral traffic doesn’t necessarily mean success for your brand. It’s quality referral traffic that you need to attract. Are your visitors engaging, purchasing, subscribing, and making multiple visits to your site? This is where it all comes full circle: If the initial relationships you’ve built for your brand are well-aligned, genuine, and formulated organically, you can be certain that any secondary aggregate connections that develop as a result are intrinsically qualified, and ultimately, the referral traffic will be qualified, too.

Creation of a trusted brand advocate and a network of future allies

So, you’ve solidified a network as a result of earning a series of natural placements on a well-aligned, desired sites. The trick is to now retain the interest of these individuals. Give this network all the TLC they deserve in order to turn them into your customer advocates, or brand evangelists.

Inoculation against future reputation problems

Every personal relationship built online provides immediate value, that’s for sure. But in the unfortunate case of a future reputation issue, your trusted network can (and should) be leaned upon. If your brand is around long enough, you’re likely to face some sort of issue that threatens its reputation at some point. Having protective measures in place by harnessing the power and support of your community will help rescue your brand’s digital presence in the potential event of a crisis.

Not only will there be an existing conversation to help combat negative press about your brand, your network can be called on to fight back with positive promotion. They’re your allies who have your back no matter what, like your own personal caucus of like-minded legislators who will back your bills when everyone else shies away.

SEO value

Google is like the elections board of the Internet, constantly overseeing who is talking about what, in what way – and how the money is flowing. It’s mission is to decipher the genuine from the fake.

The opportunity to gain SEO value from a natural mention is enormous; on the other hand the risk of losing SEO value from an unnatural mention is also just as real. When Google’s algorithm crawls the web, one thing it’s doing is determining what is organic and what appears forced, spammy and out of place, and that determination will be reflected accordingly in the rankings.

Conclusion and Takeaways

What can you do?

There are things you can do to spur online conversation in the right direction for your brand. By leveraging opportunities in digital communications, from engagement marketing strategies to content marketing to social campaigns, there is the ability to guide your presence on the web in a positive way, and spark positive natural mentions. Again, these naturally earned mentions themselves will need attention, because once established, maximizing the value of those placements will most definitely require work to make those relationships evergreen. By putting in the time and work necessary to earn natural mentions, your brand can begin your climb to the top of all the polls.