Social media optimization (SMO) involves using social media networks to create brand awareness by making your content more engaging and easier to share. Marketers should keep in mind that SMO shares a common goal with search engine optimization (SEO) in that both aim to generate traffic and brand awareness. Additionally, as SEO continues to be influenced by how popular content is among various audiences on social networking sites, SMO is rapidly becoming a fundamental part of SEO.
If you’ve ever been on a website that had social sharing buttons, you’ve seem SMO in action. SMO manifests itself in the degree to which your content is shareable and how well that content fits where it is shared. How shareable your content is actually is a very complicated question. It can be affected by anything from the specific needs of your readership to how your content is presented. Successful SMO works at designing content that has been optimally designed with these types of considerations in mind.
The key to SMO is this: don’t just listen to your audience, engage them on their turf. For an audience primarily composed of recent college grads, a humorous and familiar tone will be more effective in communicating a brand’s message than it would be in communicating the same message to an audience composed of parents of teenagers, for example. A large part of SMO is matching the tone (and, to a certain extent, the content) of a message to the audience who will be consuming it. Some audiences respond well to interactive marketing, like polls or submit-your-own image contests, while others will ignore them altogether. Knowing your audience, and knowing how to speak to them directly, is half the battle.
The Growth of SMO
SMO may be a relatively new phenomenon, but its widespread and rapid acceptance following the latest changes to Google has been a considerable catalyst to its growth. When Google decided to include how often content is shared as a metric for quality, the entire SEO game changed. Intentional or otherwise, those changes made it far more difficult for marketers to manipulate Google into granting them an exaggerated sense of importance and a disproportionately high page rank.
This is partially why social sharing buttons are popping up on nearly every major content distributor, including major content aggregators and news networks—sharing among the user base boosts relevance. And other businesses haven’t been far behind. After all, if you found out that 80% of your demographic used Twitter, how could you afford to ignore it? Being able to speak to your demographic on their own turf, where they’re already comfortable and where they’re establishing relationships with other people, is a huge advantage.
Thanks to personalized search results that take into account the searcher’s location and interests, as of today optimization for social platforms is imperative. Businesses need the ability to reach out to new markets, and being able to target highly niche markets without great expense affords them the ability to reach customers that otherwise would’ve never seen their message.
Winning SMO Strategies
Widgets and badges are two of the most important allies you have when developing your SMO. Before the more modern popularity of sharing buttons, widgets were a classic tool that allowed users to grab and share content. The NBA website offers a first rate example of widget use. With a few simple widgets that allow fans to share statistics and clips, the NBA sites have spread NBA branded content across the social network universe without users ever having to land on their site.
Badges utilize embed code that allows users to use your image on their own blog in a way that connects the image back to your link. While this is a little more difficult to deploy on your site than a common share button, there are significant advantages. Individual badges can have unique identifiers, so you can drive traffic to specific pages. Furthermore, badge placement counts as a backlink to your website for as long as the badge is hosted.
Social sign in is another winning strategy that’s becoming rapidly more common. Websites want to attract visitors and encourage engagement. Because you earn more engagement from users who are registered, getting visitors to register is a top priority for many sites. The more the visitor connects, the more time they’ll spend on the site, the fewer bounces you’ll have, and the more sales you’ll earn. While users typically avoid unnecessary registration, social sign in solves this problem. Users can sign in with an existing social network profile, like Twitter or Facebook, without having to set up a new account. Having users sign in through their Facebook account doesn’t just give you a closer relationship to your customers; it brings you right into their social networking circle.
Building relationships with customers is how marketing works now. It’s about starting conversations they want to be involved in, and producing branded content that’s worth sharing. It’s the wave of the future, and it’s closer than you might think.