What is better for a brand?
A.) 25 million Facebook fans
B.) An article in the New York Times
Ideally, you’d like both.
But if forced to pick, I’d probably go with A. Facebook fans are a constant – a set of people who have opted into your content. While they don’t all receive your content all the time – they have made a commitment. They are interacting and sharing your content on an ongoing basis. They want some kind of relationship.
An article in the New York Times is definitely valuable. The New York Times is one of the most influential media outlets in the world. It’s circulation and online reach is enormous. It’s point of view can change minds. But a single article is fleeting. It’s impact in this noisy, fast-moving world is, well, questionable.
In the end, the impact of the article depends on how it was written, how it was displayed and shared. In other words, its impact is out of the hands of the brand.
Have we reached a point where a brand’s digital communications audience is more valuable than third-party coverage from traditional media channels?
It may be a simple matter of mathematics.
A company with a modest social media footprint – 50,000 Facebook likes, 5,000 Twitter followers, 1,000 LinkedIn followers and a YouTube channel with 1,000 subscribers consistently reaches more people than a sporadic program dedicated to generating news articles in the traditional media.
The social media audience as outlined above is a consistent and reliable subscriber based of more than 6.5 million. Every time this brand releases news or information it is guaranteed to be pushed out to this audience. And this doesn’t count tweets or videos that have the potential go viral beyond the core audience.
The same company would have a difficult time reaching 6.5 million people using just traditional media, especially since those audiences are shrinking.
However, complicating matters is that it has become difficult to cleanly divide social media from traditional media. For example, the New York Times not only has its print edition, but a huge social and digital presence: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, interactive applications, etc. So scoring coverage from a newspaper isn’t just about the “print” article, but how that content is pushed out on all of a newspapers channels.
That said it is becoming easier to argue that brands with strong social and digital networks no longer need to invest as much time and energy in traditional media relations to reach their audiences.
What do you think? Are a brands’ “owned” channels a better way to reach audiences? Does “earned” media still do a better job?