How social data is revolutionizing earned media

March 1, 2018

Written by Benedict Nicholson

PR has been the backbone of getting information in front of the eyes of the public and helping companies keep the reputation they want to keep for a considerable time now. We look at how social data could bring even more insight into the industry.

PR is still a crucial industry for companies and there are countless examples that prove that, especially for niche topics. Press releases rewritten and published in the right outlet will often reach a far wider audience than the original release itself, which is just one of the reasons why the industry is so important.

One important aspect then, is measuring the impact that going through the PR formula has on content, and there are a number of ways to do that.

How social data can add to traditional PR metrics

Two metrics that are often used in doing this are Reach and Advertising Equivalent Value (AEV), and while they have their uses, they can fall short when it comes to looking at data at the granular level.  

The traditional metrics show you relative successes at a publisher level, and show you the audience a publication has relative to others. What they can’t do, however, is provide you with the full picture on a story by story basis within the publication.

Social engagement data can show you how individual stories performed for those publishers, and where the true success stories were in a way that reach and AEV simply cannot. This will also be increasingly important with Facebook algorithm changes, as part of what will make a story visible in future will be its engagement level.

For example, looking at the two Adweek stories below, one about Burger King’s new net neutrality ad, one a sponsored post about OTT.

Data via NewsWhip Spike

At the publisher level, these stories would have the same values for Reach and AEV, but one is very clearly more successful, 153x more successful in fact, than the other in terms of social performance. One story very clearly has more value than the other, and this is the sort of advantage social data can give beyond the traditional publisher-level focus that other metrics provide.

Earned media: A new approach

The temptation for PR professionals to reach out to big publishers that they know have a certain Reach, and they would concentrate on getting coverage of their clients in those outlets, which would normally be traditional publishers or the big digital media players.

And why not? It’s obvious why that’s a tempting tactic. You only need to look at the total engagements for Q4 alone for the top English language outlets to understand why this is often still thought of as something of a panacea in the PR and marketing spheres.

Fox News has an engagement of over 80 million for the period, and all of the top ten had a minimum of 50 million engagements for the three months in question.

Top publishers Q4 2017

While there were self-evidently impressive total engagement numbers posted by the traditional publishers, digging in a little deeper to the data shows all is not as cut and dried as it may seem.

Aside from Bored Panda, which had the highest average engagement of any publisher we looked at, the average engagements per article did not stand out for even the biggest of publishers. The likes of the BBC, Fox, NBC, and the Daily Mail all had under 1,000 engagements per post on average, which, considering the size of their audience, is surprisingly low.

This is in part due to these publishers’ incredibly high output, especially for Fox and the Daily Mail, both of which published heavily in the quarter. It’s easy to get lost in all that noise.

What is obvious here is that it’s not always about getting in the biggest publications is not the be all and end all, as we can see with this analysis of the biggest publishers around machine learning for Q4 2017.

For more information and more detailed analysis, you can download our report here.

In conclusion, using social data to find where the engaged audience for your product or brand is going to be crucial moving forward. With the market flooded with millions of posts every day, it’s the content that makes people stop in their tracks that is going to be key.

To do that, there are a number of data points you can go after, but here are some general pointers:

  • Use average engagement data to find where publishers are abnormally successful
  • Identify authors to pitch by finding their niche, how often they post, whom they write for, and how well their posts do
  • Find whitespace by identifying the topics people aren’t talking about, and then make sure you are ready to fill that gap
  • Don’t get distracted by the big players. Niches are the future for many industries. It’s great to get in a big legacy paper, but not if everyone scrolls past it on the page
  • Find your audience. Engaged audiences will reward you for getting your content in front of their eyes by reading, engaging, and sharing with their online communities. Data is the best way to help you do this

For more insights into how social data is revolutionizing earned media, download our full report here.

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