Social media optimization (SMO) is the use of a number of outlets and communities to generate publicity to increase the awareness of a product, service brand or event. Types of social media involved include RSS feeds, social news and bookmarking sites, as well as social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, video sharing websites and blogging sites. SMO is similar to search engine optimization, in that the goal is to generate web traffic and increase awareness for a website. In general, social media optimization refers to optimizing a website and its content to encourage more users to use and share links to the website across social media and networking sites. SMO also refers to software tools that automate this process, or to website experts who undertake this process for clients.
The goal of SMO is to strategically create interesting online content, ranging from well-written text to eye-catching digital photos or video clips that encourages and entices people to engage with a website and then share this content, via its weblink, with their social media contacts and friends. Common examples of social media engagement are “liking and commenting on posts, retweeting, embedding, sharing, and promoting content”. Social media optimization is also an effective way of implementing online reputation management (ORM), meaning that if someone posts bad reviews of a business, a SMO strategy can ensure that the negative feedback is not the first link to come up in a list of search engine results.
In the 2010s, with social media sites overtaking TV as a source for news for young people, news organisations have become increasingly reliant on social media platforms for generating web traffic. Publishers such as The Economist employ large social media teams to optimise their online posts and maximise traffic, while other major publishers now use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to generate higher volumes of web traffic.
Social media optimization is an increasingly important factor in search engine optimization, which is the process of designing a website in a way so that it has as high a ranking as possible on search engines. Search engines are increasingly utilizing the recommendations of users of social networks such as Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram to rank pages in the search engine result pages. The implication is that when a webpage is shared or “liked” by a user on a social network, it counts as a “vote” for that webpage’s quality. Thus, search engines can use such votes accordingly to properly ranked websites in search engine results pages. Furthermore, since it is more difficult to top the scales or influence the search engines in this way, search engines are putting more stock into social search. This, coupled with increasingly personalized search based on interests and location, has significantly increased the importance of a social media presence in search engine optimization. Due to personalized search results, location-based social media presences on websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Foursquare, and Yahoo! Local have become increasingly important. While social media optimization is related to search engine marketing, it differs in several ways. Primarily, SMO focuses on driving web traffic from sources other than search engines, though improved search engine ranking is also a benefit of successful social media optimization. Further, SMO is helpful to target particular geographic regions in order to target and reach potential customers. This helps in lead generation (finding new customers) and contributes to high conversion rates (i.e., converting previously uninterested individuals into people who are interested in a brand or organization).
According to technologist Danny Sullivan, the term “social media optimization” was first used and described by marketer Rohit Bhargava on his marketing blog in August 2006. In the same post, Bhargava established the five important rules of social media optimization. Bhargava believed that by following his rules, anyone could influence the levels of traffic and engagement on their site, increase popularity, and ensure that it ranks highly in search engine results. An additional 11 SMO rules have since been added to the list by other marketing contributors.
The 16 rules of SMO, according to one source, are as follows:
- Increase your linkability
- Make tagging and bookmarking easy
- Reward inbound links
- Help your content to “travel” via sharing
- Encourage the mashup, where users are allowed to remix content
- Be a user resource, even if it doesn’t help you (e.g., provide resources and information for users)
- Reward helpful and valuable users
- Participate (join the online conversation)
- Know how to target your audience
- Create new, quality content (“web scraping” of existing online content is ignored by good search engines)
- Be “real” in the tone and style of the posts
- Don’t forget your roots; be humble
- Don’t be afraid to experiment, innovate, try new things and “stay fresh”
- Develop an SMO strategy
- Choose your SMO tactics wisely
- Make SMO a key part of your marketing process and develop company best practices
Bhargava’s initial five rules were more specifically designed to SMO, while the list is now much broader and addresses everything that can be done across different social media platforms. According to author and CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, Lee Odden, a Social Media Strategy is also necessary to ensure optimization. This is a similar concept to Bhargava’s list of rules for SMO.
The Social Media Strategy may consider:
- Objectives e.g. creating brand awareness and using social media for external communications.
- Listening e.g. monitoring conversations relating to customers and business objectives.
- Audience e.g. finding out who the customers are, what they do, who they are influenced by, and what they frequently talk about. It is important to work out what customers want in exchange for their online engagement and attention.
- Participation and content e.g. establishing a presence and community online and engaging with users by sharing useful and interesting information.
- Measurement e.g. keeping a record of likes and comments on posts, and the number of sales to monitor growth and determine which tactics are most useful in optimizing social media.
According to Lon Safko and David K. Brake in The Social Media Bible, it is also important to act like a publisher by maintaining an effective organisational strategy, to have an original concept and unique “edge” that differentiates one’s approach from competitors, and to experiment with new ideas if things do not work the first time. If a business is blog-based, an effective method of SMO is using widgets that allow users to share content to their personal social media platforms. This will ultimately reach a wider target audience and drive more traffic to the original post. Blog widgets and plug-ins for post-sharing are most commonly linked to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They occasionally also link to social media platforms such as StumbleUpon, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Many sharing widgets also include user counters which indicate how many times the content has been liked and shared across different social media pages. This can influence whether or not new users will engage with the post, and also gives businesses an idea of what kind of posts are most successful at engaging audiences. By using relevant and trending keywords in titles and throughout blog posts, a business can also increase search engine optimization and the chances of their content of being read and shared by a large audience. The root of effective SMO is the content that is being posted, so professional content creation tools can be very beneficial. These can include editing programs such as Photoshop, GIMP, Final Cut Pro, and Dreamweaver. Many websites also offer customization options such as different layouts to personalize a page and create a point of difference.
Above is a brief about Social media optimization Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in Technology.