From the blogosphere’s infamous exposure of CBS’ forged National Guard memos to the meteoric rise of MySpace and Wikipedia, it’s clear that the social media are a force to be reckoned with. Marketers have been quick to recognize the potential of online tools such as blogs, networking sites and wikis, giving rise to an offshoot of traditional search engine marketing strategy, called Social Media Optimization (SMO).
The term SMO was recently coined by Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations as a way of describing the strategic use of social networking tools for online marketing purposes. According to Bhargava, “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 vlogs.”
SMO is all about improving your online presence in a way that not only attracts, but also engages your audience. The goal is to enhance and promote your site so it appears frequently in online conversations, is more visible in the places where people hang out on the Internet (e.g., chat rooms, message boards), and appeals to visitors so they come back for more and share your site by word-of-mouth.
The concept recognizes that the social media can be integrated with your search engine marketing strategy to drive traffic to your site and increase awareness of your brand across different platforms. Some of the more popular social media services that can be used for this purpose include: MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Friendster, Blogger, del.icio.us, and HubPages.
Here are some tips to help you get started with SMO:
- Get in the habit of regularly updating your site with relevant, interactive content and useful resources. Try using a mix of audio, video, and written content.
- Use your site’s metrics to review which social media sites your customers are coming from and going to. These sites may be a good place to initiate your SMO strategy.
- Encourage linking by allowing visitors to “borrow” content from your site, such as special articles or videos.
- Provide different outlets for your content so visitors can decide what works best for them. In addition to offering a mix of audio, video and written content, visitors should be able to receive your offerings by RSS feed, e-mail subscriptions or other methods.
- Don’t just focus your Internet marketing strategy on your main site. With SMO, it’s important to branch out into the social media by creating wikis, MySpace or Friendster profiles, and to reach people who aren’t directly visiting your site.
- Make sure your SMO content is easy to find. For instance, be sure to submit your blog to blog search engines, such as blogsearch.google.com.
SMO and SEO easily overlap by improving search engine rankings, Internet visibility and visitor appeal, but that doesn’t mean they are one and the same. The main difference between the two is their focus: SMO places its emphasis on increasing your brand’s overall visibility in the social media instead focusing on improving your website’s rank in the search engines.
If you’re also doing SEO, here are a few things you’ll want to watch out for so your SMO strategy doesn’t conflict with your other search engine marketing strategy:
- Although you should encourage linking to facilitate good SMO, always avoid reciprocal linking because it’s a red flag for the search engines and can hurt your rankings.
- When making your site interactive, adding podcasts and other video/audio content is great for attracting visitors - just try not to get carried away. The search engine spiders can’t read this content, so be sure to keep plenty of optimized written content available on your site and in the social media.
- Remember to optimize your content. Incorporate keywords into your blog, wiki, networking site profiles, articles and other social media content. Also, include links in the content to increase your site’s search engine appeal.
- Never duplicate content because it cancels itself out on the search engines. Write fresh copy for each social media platform. If you offer articles or other content for distribution to other sites, make sure you only offer truncated versions that link back to the full text.
By integrating your SEO and SMO strategies, you can better promote your site and market your brand while taking full advantage of the Internet as a dynamic, social environment. Together these Internet marketing strategies make a powerful tag-team that will guarantee your site is fully optimized.