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social media marketing

What Is Social Media Optimization

Social media optimization has become the hot new buzzword, similar to the way "the long tail" dominated conference speak before that. If you're a frequent blog reader or conference attendee you've probably heard about sites like Wikipedia, Digg, and del.icio.us, but you may not know why getting there could be crucial to the success of your site. Who cares about Furl and Reddit anyway? Well, your customers might. And if they do, being there will keep your brand name in the front of their mind and could send you thousands of new visitors.

If search engine optimization is about breaking down crawling barriers to help the engines fully index your site, social media optimization is about knocking down site walls so content can be easily found, distributed and shared by the community. This process may simply mean embedding a "Digg This" button on your site blog or it may mean spending hours to create a piece of compelling content, aka linkbait, that could either drive thousands of visitors to your site or have no effect at all.

The right link magnet, presented at the right time, to the right audience can bring an unimaginable amount of traffic to your site. For a company just starting out, getting on the front page of Digg can offer instant visibility and credibility. For an establish company, it can strengthen your brand and turn you into a household name. The key to social media is knowing how to leverage it. And your ability to leverage it depends on your ability to attract, engage and convert new visitors.

What's the benefit to SMO?

The benefits of social media vary depending on what you're looking to do. For some sites, the greatest benefit to SMO is the instant exposure and influx of inbound links it creates. With any luck, a significant portion of your new links will be coming from quality sites in your field. However, if not, these effects are often short-lived and traffic alone doesn't equal conversions and increased revenue for most sites. You need to be able to capture those first-time visitors and convert them into loyal site community members.

The real benefit to optimizing your site for social media is it inspires you to create excellent, keyword-rich content, which in turn can help build your online and offline brand, increase quality inbound links over time, make you a subject matter expert, and expose your content to thousands of new visitors. It reinforces what you should be working towards through your search engine optimization campaign.

Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)

The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines such as Technorati, and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and blogs.  Here are 5 rules we use to help guide our thinking with conducting an SMO for a client's website:

  1. Increase your links - This is the first and most important priority for websites.  Many sites are static. To optimize a site for social media, we need to increase the linkability of the content.  Adding a blog is a great step, however there are many other ways such as creating white papers and thought pieces, or even simply aggregating content that exists elsewhere into a useful format.
  2. Make tags and bookmarking easy - Adding content features like quick buttons to "add to del.icio.us" are one way to make the process of tagging pages easier, but we go beyond this, making sure pages include a list of relevant tags, suggested notes for a link which come up automatically when you go to tag a site, and making sure to tag our pages first on popular social bookmarking sites including more than just the homepage.
  3. Reward inbound links - Often used as a barometer for success of a blog as well as a website, inbound links are paramount to rising in search results and overall rankings.  To encourage more of them, we need to make it easy and provide clear rewards.  From using Permalinks to recreating Similarly, listing recent linking blogs on your site provides the reward of visibility for those who link to you
  4. Make your content travel - Unlike much of SEO, SMO is not just about making changes to a site.  When you have content that can be portable such as PDFs, video files and audio files, submitting them to relevant sites will help your content travel further, and ultimately drive links back to your site.    
  5. Encourage the mashup - In a world of co-creation, it pays to be more open about letting others use your content (within reason).  YouTube's idea of providing code to cut and paste so you can imbed videos from their site has fueled their growth.  Syndicating your content through RSS also makes it easy for others to create mashups that can drive traffic or augment your content.
Syndicating your content through RSS also makes it easy for others to create mashups that can drive traffic or augment your content. There are many other "rules" and techniques that we are starting to uncover as this idea gets more sophisticated.  In the meantime we are always on the lookout for new ideas in Social Media Optimization to encourage even better thinking.  Perhaps we may even see the rise of entire groups or agencies devoted to SMO in the future ...