Social Sharing: The New Earned Media Culture

The holiday season traditionally brings families and communities together to share food, gifts, music, and general good cheer.

They also share stories. They talk. They catch each other up on the can’t-miss moments from the past year. Maybe they share funny videos, great podcasts, or heartwarming holiday ads. When more than two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone, holiday gatherings become the ultimate union of offline and online sharing.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers worldwide trust this kind of sharing far more than any other form of advertising. Decade after decade, word-of-mouth is ranked by businesses as the top source of new clients; and consumers rank personal recommendations as the most valuable source of information in finding and choosing goods and services.

Increasingly, though, consumers are also turning to the second most trusted source of brand information: online reviews. The rise of the internet has opened up communications between consumers, in some cases cutting businesses out of the conversation entirely. Worse yet, after a sharp decline since 2009, less than half of consumers now trust traditional paid advertising.

This can be a terrifying prospect, but bolder businesses have seen an opportunity in the cultural shift. Instead of your biggest fan talking about your product or service to the three people sitting closest to her at Thanksgiving dinner, she’s sharing her passion with an average of 634 online connections. (Not to mention, her glowing review can be seen by thousands or millions of other potential clients when they search the web to learn more about you or your industry.)

Businesses can thrive in this new earned media culture by shifting the focus to relationship building. By claiming space online and forging personal connections with consumers on social media, brands can encourage allies and ambassadors to share the good news with their networks – online and off, with all 634 followers and the other 10 people at their Thanksgiving table.

This approach is not about drawing in a small percentage of consumers who have seen a particular ad; it’s about developing lifelong customers over time, like making good friends. It’s about becoming a family tradition, about creating something worth crowding around, something worth sharing.

If you do it right, your community could be crowding around your heartwarming holiday video next year.

What will you be sharing at family gatherings this year? Share it with us in the comments.

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  • Bridget Paverd (@BGPInc)
    Posted at 20:20h, 17 November

    Word-of-mouth is subjective but powerful, and an invaluable promo tool for a good product, service or experience. Paid advertising could never replicate that authentic “shared” feel.

  • Clara
    Posted at 21:30h, 17 November

    The penguin ad is great! My family shares stories and videos of events or moments we were a part of, and things we have created; sometimes magazine or newspaper articles. Movies and movie trailers also make up a big portion of our media. Overall, though, we’re offline people.

  • GillespieHall
    Posted at 15:20h, 20 November

    Readers: no comments so far on whether technology has a place at the Thanksgiving table at all! Thoughts on that?

    • Nan Ciuffetelli
      Posted at 14:43h, 24 November

      As far as texting or watching videos, I would prefer that be done prior to and following the actual meal. I would like to have a serving of eye contact to go along with my turkey and mashed potatoes. That being said, I have a nephew that lives too far away to attend. My hope is to prop him up to a place at the table – via ichat on my lap top.

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