In the last post 10 Tips to Increase Earned Media the first tip was to find and partner with brand ambassadors.

A recent report from SODA – the Society for Digital Agencies – clearly shows that earned media is king. So what, or who, are we looking for to increase this earned media? What exactly is a brand ambassador?

You need to find people or groups who already love and support your brand and would be delighted to forward your message. If you are very fortunate they could be celebrities. Breitling watches have a long list of celebs who wear their watches, including James Bond!

But in most cases a brand ambassador is likely to be someone with a decent following online, either on their blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social news sites like Digg , Reddit or StumbleUpon.

Do a social audit and locate everyone who speaks positively about your brand. Rank them according to how often they mention you and how positive their mentions are. Do they really love your brand?

The next step is to use ranking and influence tools. You can start with Peer Index and Klout. They both give an influence score based on a number of factors. If you are serious about this activity, try eCairn Conversation, which is excellent at ranking influencers and assisting you with outreach to your fans.

Once you find them, offer them exclusivity. Give them access to content no one else has. Treat them like brand ambassadors.

Mashable reports that Walmart goes the extra mile for the influential mommy bloggers they have identified: not only do they give their Walmart Moms exclusive products and experiences they also host a blog and YouTube channel for them.

Similarly, Oracle has a program called Oracle ACE that spotlights various IT pros as Oracle experts. SAP’s equivalent is the SAP Mentor Initiative, which recognizes SAP experts and gives them a forum (an SAP site plus a YouTube channel.)

Fiskars, the Finnish scissors brand, created a site for crafters with a select crew of Fiskateers, their name for their brand ambassadors who blog about their product.

The ambassador doesn’t have to have millions of fans or followers. Rather they need to be passionate about your industry or subject and be a fan of your brand. FLOR, the carpet tile company, discovered a mommy blogger who writes about DIY design who has only 50,000 readers on her blog. But she is so influential to these readers that every time she posted about their products they got a flood of interested visitors to their website.

Influence is a relative term. Not every influencer will be right for your brand. Justin Bieber and Oprah have millions of followers and fans. But are they also your fans? And if they are, are their followers your target audience?

Once you find the right fans who have an audience you want to reach, work hard to build long-term relationships with them. Provide them with valuable and interesting content that will help them provide value to their readers, fans and followers.

That’s what gets you the earned media.