The benefits of social media optimisation
We've all heard of SEO, the practise of optimising a website for reasons of attracting targeted search engine traffic. But a similarly important practise of website optimisation is taking shape. What am I talking about? SMO or social media optimisation, of course.
In short, SMO is the process of optimising a website so that its content can be easily spread on the Net by the website's own visitors to off-site social and online communities - basically making it "socially friendly". The most common example is adding social bookmarks, trackbacks and widgets to a site's page, such as "add to del.ici.ous" links and the MyBlogLog widget. But it doesn't stop there.
While the above is definitely a first step, alone it serves no purpose at all. You see, in order for these social bookmarks or widgets to be of any benefit, the page containing them needs to have compelling content; content that is of interest to the user and, most importantly, content that said user will want to share with his or her online community whether they are strangers or personal contacts.
What's the difference between SMO and social media marketing (SMM)?
Some people like to refer to the creation of social content as SMM. While I agree somewhat, I think there is a fine line. You see, like SEO, SMO is an ongoing process. It's about making your site' "distributable" to the social web, which includes creating socially interesting content on your site.
Having said this, SMM on the other hand is similar in concept (creating compelling content) but the difference is that the content usually has a marketing angle - at least in the business sense - and it generally happens off-site. The best way to describe SMM is to compare it to viral marketing; create something that gains a lot of interest and that gets spread to other users quickly.
Is SMO taking over SEO?
SMO is not about building incoming links and associated traffic only, nor is it about only increasing your search engine rankings (search algorithms are evolving to include social media weight in defining a search-relevant site). When we look at the above description of SMM, its focus is on the marketing mainstream and on building buzz online, and then generating website traffic from these interested parties (what we call targeted traffic).
What's really nice about off-site SMM-specific activity is that it becomes a good partner to SEM (search engine marketing). You see, while search engine traffic will remain one of the most important long term traffic generators, SEO takes time. In the past, the best way to get traffic to your site for specific campaigns was SEM and PPC (pay per click) campaigns.
With SMM, website owners can now supplement their campaign-specific traffic with "free traffic" that social media affords them. Adding a video on YouTube, as an example, might attract more targeted traffic for a popular brand instead of spending money on other online advertising, such as PPC.
More talk online
Social media equals more talk about your brand online.
Something very important that works hand-in-hand with social media activity is reputation management. Opening yourself to SMO means that more people become aware of your content and are inclined to discuss and use your content on their own sites and community portals.
In order to plan any marketing activity that incorporates social media activity, one has to monitor all associated social activity. Reputation mManagement addresses this (and other online activity) by keeping us informed on what the community is saying about us and prepares us for ongoing social media work.
While reputation management is another discipline anddeserves a separate article altogether, the point I would like to emphasis is that one mechanic alone could be dangerous when it comes to fulfilling your eMarketing objectives. The key here is to harness as much complementing eMarketing activity as possible, and then integrate them in a holistic fashion. SMO is no different.
As with all online mechanics, social media is a constantly changing practice. If we are to be successful at its implementation, we need to keep up to speed on new tools and trends in the social arena. Also, as with any eMarketing discipline, developing a strategy is pivotal to its success.
In the context of a SMO strategy, this needs to outline the desired objectives that social media activity must meet. You see, SMO has the possibility of delivering many outcomes (traffic, sales, credibility, etc.) and it's important to focus on those that are relevant to our business or campaign.
Today, SEO and SEM have become mainstream activities. Soon, SMO and SMM will join them as being important aspects of any site owner's eMarketing activity. Sticking around to see how other sites have benefited from it could take time, and by then something else would have evolved as the "next best thing". Start experimenting today and develop your social media activity accordingly.
About Gino Cosme
Gino Cosme is an independent eMarketing consultant who specialises in the development and implementation of online marketing and new media strategies. Aside from consulting and reading his always full news aggregator, he works for a global corporate as the head of online communications. You can read his blog at www.cosmedia.co.za/blog
or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.