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Tracking Earned Media Impressions, Digitally
By: Mike Krass
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How valuable is it to your client that their message is passed along to other interested consumers?

Made popular by print media, the pass-along rate helps indicate how "sticky" your publication is by showing how interested consumers would literally pass along the content to another interested party.

But how is this measured in the world of digital media?

It's called earned media.

There are three basic schools of thought to measure media performance:
  • Direct response: A user clicks on an ad. Simple as that.
  • Latent response: A user doesn't click on an advertisement, but still ends up finding their way to the brand's website.
  • Pass-along response (or earned media): A user doesn't click on an ad and also doesn't end up on a brand's website, but they end up passing the information along to somebody who might be interested.

You are officially welcomed to the world of earned media.

Made popular by the sudden explosion of social media, earned media began to rise in popularity when marketers realized they could measure the "pass-along rate" of a brand's message in the digital sphere.

But how does one actually track earned media results?

Well ....
  • Meteor Solutions: Meteor Solutions asks their participants to append a JavaScript snippet of code to their creative units as well as place this code on their websites. Once in place, they're able to monitor pass-alongs through their Tag & Trace Engine, which tracks the sharing process every step of the way. They also sweeten the pot with their Activate product, which is a social-sharing platform that rewards users for passing along content.
  • Sharethrough: Enter Sharethrough, a unique new video advertising platform that is built on advertising content, not a brand message in front of the actual content. They've plugged themselves into well-known social-sharing communities like Reddit and Digg and only charge brands for users who go out of their way to engage with the video content.
  • Flite: A cloud-based advertising platform, Flite does a fantastic job of building social-sharing tools built into their standard display units. By adding these sharing icons to standard banners and video units, they encourage users to actually pass along the message the brand is delivering to an interested party.

So there you have it...

Earned media is a valuable metric to deliver to your client as long as it is served up in the right context. More often than not, the pass-along rate is not the key performance indicator of a campaign, but for those campaigns with a heavy social component, earned media impressions, clicks, and actions can become a valuable metric to measure success against.

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About the Author
Mike Krass is the founder of MKG Media Group,  a Bay Area digital media shop that specializes in measurable media solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. When not walking his puppy or sky diving around the US, his personal musings can be read on Twitter at @mikekrass.
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