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How to Use Paid Social Media Ads to Boost Earned Media

Michelle Garrett

Jan 19, 2020

Earned media is getting more attention these days, as trust in paid ads continues to decline. While a brand talking about itself in an ad may not win the trust of buyers, an editorial piece that appears in a reputable publication can add major credibility.

However, when brands do score that media hit, it’s no longer enough that the story appeared. PR pros face a new challenge. Now, they must work to ensure that it’s seen by the right audiences.

So, what can PR pros do to extend the reach of that earned media win, making sure to maximize the benefits it brings to the brand?

In the past, those in public relations tried to distance themselves from advertising. Now, they’re beginning to see it differently. Some are turning to paid social media to help earned media have more of an impact.

“It’s about making sure the press coverage you’ve already earned works harder for you,” says Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman.

Why is paid social an effective way to boost earned media?

Even before buying a product, consumers often follow a brand on social networks. This gives brands a chance to reach those consumers using paid social media ads. And while following isn’t everything, 62 percent of those surveyed by Sprout Social said they’re either “likely or somewhat likely” to buy from a brand they follow online. It stands to reason that using ads to reach these audiences can only help persuade them to buy.

Paid social media boosts trusted third-party content to those that benefit from the information,” says Abel Communications. “For example, a great hit in the Wall Street Journal for a B2B brand should be repurposed on LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform and amplified through a sponsored update.”

And how much can paid social media ads benefit your earned media hit? “By supplementing our highest priority content with paid dollars, we see organic and earned reach increase by 10 – 20x,” says Melissa Wisehart, managing director of digital strategy at Moore Communications Group.

Want to try incorporating paid social into your earned media strategy?

Here are some tips to follow:

1) Be selective: As with promotion of blog posts and other content, be selective when choosing which earned media to promote with a paid social ad. Chad Pollitt, co-founder of Relevance, believes social media isn’t a good channel to promote all your content. Instead, he recommends promoting only those pieces that have already attracted higher levels of engagement.

 2) Be sure to tie the paid social effort to a goal: For example, if you want to increase sales, you can target specific groups or industries with your ads. Then, you can see if that results in new business leads.

Larry Kim of WordStream regularly uses this approach to earn widespread news media coverage for his content. On his blog, Kim cites an example of using paid Twitter ads targeted to a tailored audience which led to him to an opportunity to appear on Fox News. That then led to coverage in high-profile publications. Kim says Twitter’s tailored audiences and Facebook’s custom audiences open up new doors for brands to reach untapped customers or influencers.

 3) Choose the right network: When selecting which social media platform to use, consider your demographics. Facebook ranks at the top of the list for all age groups, from millennials to Baby Boomers, with Snapchat and Instagram coming in second and third.

 4) Don’t expect it to break the bank: Advertising on social media needn’t be expensive. According to Pier Communications, “Facebook’s Boosted Posts (which you can also set to run on Instagram) and LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content are the fastest and most affordable ways to drive traffic back to your website or a recent article.“For Facebook or Twitter, start with a small test of $100-250 to promote a great hit,” suggests Abel Communications. “With an average cost per click of $0.27 on Facebook, that’s almost 1,000 more views on your story.”

Amplifying an earned media hit with a paid social media ad can spell success for brands. Experiment by starting with a small budget to see what makes the biggest impact on your audience and works for your clients. If you’re ready to get started download our ebook to learn how to grow your social media program into a full-fledged business.