People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.
— Mark Zuckerberg
It’s been seven years since the founder of Facebook uttered those words and it’s safe to say that they continue to ring true today. When people are considering a purchase — be it clothes, cars or a cosmetic procedure — the insights of others like them carry far more weight than any advertising message.
Such insights can take many forms but, in general, they constitute mentions of a company that are generated, not by the company itself, but by independent, unaffiliated sources. Most people think of it as word of mouth while marketers refer to it as earned media to differentiate it from paid media (advertising) and owned media (company-produced content).
Whatever you call it, earned media does more than simply spread the word about your practice. As the following three points suggest, earned media provides a wealth of ancillary benefits, too:
Earned media humanizes your practice: Of course, aesthetic consumers want doctors who are competent but they want them to be caring, as well. And, let’s face it, you can’t very well claim that you’re compassionate or a good listener without being seen as bragging. But when satisfied patients rave about your bedside manner, those who read their kind words are more likely to take it to heart.
Earned media provides SEO benefits: While the list of factors that Google, etc., use to determine search rank is long and constantly changing, incorporating others’ content into your practice website and social profiles can have a major impact. Regularly posting new reviews, for example, demonstrates that you have fresh content while answering questions indicates authority, two factors that have been shown to play important roles in search rank calculations.
Earned media provides operational insights: Is your waiting area clean and comfortable? Does your staff welcome patients warmly? Your staff, no doubt, would answer yes to both questions but it’s the people who walk in the door who can provide the best insights about your practice. Many do just that through the reviews they post on RealSelf, which can help you determine areas that warrant more attention.
Put it all together and it’s safe to say that earned media will only become more important going forward. Not only are more people are relying on it — for example, 92% of people now read online reviews — but they’re also increasingly adept at tuning out those other media channels.
The takeaway is that earned media should play a central role in every practice’s marketing strategy. You can’t buy it like paid media or control it like owned media — you have to earn it.