Why should I care about Social Media Optimization?
You should care about Social Media Optimization (SMO), because you care about your company's image. There's an old saying that goes something like, "A happy customer will tell one other person about his good experience. A disgruntled customer will tell ten people about his bad experience." Good or bad, that's powerful marketing. Social Media Optimization gives you the power to take an active role in managing your brand by interacting with your current and potential clients by discussing your products, their comments and concerns and continually promoting your brand.
Social Media Optimization Defined
In its most basic form, Social media optimization is any method used to raise your website's online visibility through meaningful communication. SMO opens a dialogue between you and your clients, using the power of popular opinion to fuel your marketing campaign. The open format strengthens your search engine optimization efforts by fostering a mutual connection with your clients through the myriad of online communities, also called social media sites. Current examples of SMO include:
- Creating profiles in social media communities such as MySpace, Facebook, and VIRB.
- Participating in and/or creating blogs.
- Disseminating your blogs or articles using RSS feeds.
- Creating and sharing content through community based sites like Flickr, YouTube, and more.
Not to incorporate unnecessary buzz words, but SMO is a very Web 2.0 approach to Search Engine Optimization. Of course, Web 2.0 merely refers to the perceived second generation of Web-based communities and hosted services - the social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies, which facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. SMO allows you to become an active member of your online community, quite an important aspect of marketing your brand. Through participation, you establish yourself or your company as an industry leader and improve your online visibility.
As you can imagine, Social Media Optimization is most effective when the viral nature of the technique and its communities are utilized in a positive manner. Creating legitimate content, building relationships and instilling trust in your community is the very backbone of SMO. You may initiate the process, but effective SMO will take on a life all its own. A true forum is bred through the act of continual communication between your company and your online audience.
Of course, not everyone plays by the rules. In every aspect of life, you will find those who would cheat the system to receive short term gains. Like most schemes, the underbelly of SMO may seem attractive to anyone looking for a quick fix, but don't make that mistake. Just as it's true with SEO, erroneous SMO will backfire. Using questionable techniques will very likely yield the exact opposite results you were hoping to see.
Legitimate SMO techniques are centered on sharing information and exposing your community to your interests. As such, you want to focus on promoting proper SMO etiquette. The MySpace super fríend, the guy or gal who adds anyone and everyone, would be a good example of improper Social Media Optimization. The whole concept behind Social Media is to create a community with similar interests for meaningful discussion and let the power of popular opinion grow your online visibility. Of course, you may belong to several different communities and you may even have some of the same friends in those different communities. That's perfectly fine. The idea is to remain active in your communities by adding friends and contributing relevant content. Adding friends in bulk, for no reason, is no way to optimize.
Communal sites like MySpace and Facebook, or even YouTube and Flickr to some extent, are indeed popularity contests. However, simply trying to catalog massive amounts of unrelated, uninterested "friends" is totally counterproductive. Let the high school kids worry about who's got the most friends. For the purpose of SMO, you should concern yourself with quality, not quantity.
Using unsavory SMO techniques is the Web 2.0 equivalent to spam. Unfortunately, we're all far too familiar with spam. Unsolicited bulk messaging and link heavy advertisements instead of useful comments are two of the more prevalent methods of Social Media spamming. However, Social Media spamming is even more atrocious than email spam, because the offending text is visible to everyone on the site. It doesn't hide in your inbox, so it can really dilute the appeal of the site. Your kindergarten teacher was on the right track. If you don't have something relevant to say, don't say anything at all.
Is SMO right for my firm?
There are many different types of Social Media sites currently available. To put it in perspective, think about all the different interests you have in life. Now, consider the possibility that there's at least one Social Media site for each of your interests. Of course, you're not the only person on the Internet, so it's a safe bet there are literally millíons of sites dedicated to countless interests around the globe. Believe it or not, there's a group out there looking for your company, product or service. You just have to make it available. Therefore, understanding how to submit to and maintain your content on each community is absolutely crucial when developing a successful SMO strategy.
A few examples of the different Social Media genres include:
• News - These sites allow users to submit news articles. Once an article is published, users can submit their comments and vote to promote the story and/or author.
Examples include: Digg, Propeller, Newsvine
• Media - These sites allow users to upload and share a variety of different media files. The overwhelming majority of these sites are dedicated mainly to photo and video files.
Examples include: YouTube, Flickr
• Wiki - These sites allow users to add and edit informational articles as determined by the individual users.
Examples include: Wikipedia, WikiHow, Million Dollar Wiki
• Networking - These sites allow users to create profiles and network with others according to similar traits, tastes, and interests.
Examples include: MySpace, Facebook, Virb
• Bookmarking - These sites allow users to compile public bookmark collections of sites they find interesting, informative, or helpful. The more a site is bookmarked, the higher the ranking.
Examples include: Stumble Upon, Technorat, Del.icio.us
When executed properly, Social Media Optimization can be quite a beneficial marketing tool. However, SMO may simply not be the right fít for your organization. Some questions you might like to consider before launching your SMO campaign are:
- Most SMO sites share very specific information. Would your products benefit from this type of content specific market?
- The audience for most Social Media sites is more of a young, tech savvy group. Would your company, product or service appeal to their fickle nature?
- Does your web site contain a blog, or similar media outlet, you can regularly update with relevant content?
- Given the fact that community based sites focus on individual profiles and commentary, are you comfortable with developing unique profiles across multiple sites?
Social Media Optimization has become a successful marketing tool for one simple reason. It works. The gap between old media and new has gotten smaller and smaller with the majority of the prominent television and print media outlets finally embracing the Internet by launching sites of their own. The different Social Media sites, like MySpace and Facebook, have exploded with profiles for everything from 8th graders discussing their favorite bands to full scale ad campaigns for Blockbuster movies.
If done correctly, SMO can expose your brand to markets you didn't think possible. Whether it's used alone to drive a campaign or in conjunction with your current interactive marketing strategy, Social Media Optimization offers you a significant advantage.
About The Author
Brian Easter is the CEO of NeboWeb. As CEO, Easter has led NeboWeb to explosive growth, attracting Fortune 500 clients and driving strategic partnerships which have fueled NeboWeb's expansion.