If you, like me, find yourself receiving the majority of news via social media such as Facebook or Twitter and through friends’ referrals (likes, recommendations, shares) before resorting to a Google search on any given topic, you have already been introduced to SMO: Social Media Optimisation. Metamorphosis of marketing via mass viral communication has altered not only the ways in which we get to new information, but also what kind of information we consume.

Why wouldn’t your business want to harness this shift in information distribution and vastly improve its online marketing efforts in the process?

Although there is a continuous discussion whether SMO has replaced SEO, it is still difficult to predict the future of online marketing. One thing is sure though: the marketing matrix is continuously evolving, with social media maturing into an essential part of any forward-thinking company’s marketing strategy.

There’s currently a huge buzz about the benefits of social media for business, with the more established networks luring executives in by offering more business-friendly options (e.g. the latest Twitter’s introduction of user analytics orPinterest’s introduction of rich content options for business-related Pins) and the general trend of social media learning how to make money for themselves and their customers.

While it is easy  to dismiss those trends as fads that entertain the younger parts of the internet, and with the ROI (Return on Investment) side of things still remaining elusive to many, it would be equally foolish to completely ignore the combined (and growing) power of such networks as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. With this post we hope to give you some pointers as to how to harness the energy of the social and translate it into increased sales and brand awareness.

 

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What is SMO, exactly?

Even though an increasing number of businesses readily acknowledge the need for digital existence – to complement and sometimes even drive their marketing efforts – the methods of approaching the consumer digitally are still in many cases in early stages of sophistication, with a staggering 62% of surveyed public finding online ads ‘annoying’, according to the latest quarterly AA/Warc report.

Even though gone are the days of ubiquitous infuriating pop up ads (mainly thanks to clever adblocks), online marketing is still shrouded in an air of mystery, partly because it exists in such an open and fluid environment – internet, where innovations happen on a daily basis, and it is difficult to keep up with all the latest trends and developments.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that a mere presence in social networks, in addition to having a website, is enough to leave their unique mark on the digital landscape and expand their client base.  Improved SEO relies, however, on a complex interplay between a well written and optimised website on the one hand, and active and effective social media presence on the other. Though SMO isn’t an exact science and, just like with SEO, no one can boast possessing the complete knowledge of the mechanics of the search engines (they are secret for a reason), digital marketers have, through diligent practice, discussions and implementing various theories, agreed on a set of principles they recommend companies wanting to be visible online follow.

According to technologist Danny Sullivan, the term ‘social media optimization’ was first used and described by marketer Rohit Bhargava in 2006, and comprises five rules:

  1. Create shareable content
  2. Make sharing easy – i.e. avoid putting any restrictions on who can view and share your content, and include ‘share this’ and ‘like’ buttons.
  3. Reward engagement – acknowledge your audience that participates in your posts, engage in conversations with them etc.
  4. Proactively share content (seeding) – help your content travel by submitting it to relevant bookmarking sites and sending it to social media influencers.
  5. Encourage the mashup – let others use your content to encourage creativity and ultimately help you grow.

origin_6344437057So, how do you do it?

 1. Stay informed

How many times have you seen an article posted on Facebook or Twitter that has made you click on it, or urged you to suddenly research the topic? Many commentators agree that we have entered the era of sharing quality content. While SEO dictates that information must be found through keywords, links and clever SEO strategies, SMO relies upon key personality traits. You choose what news gets to you by choosing your friends who then share what’s important to them, and, of course, by ‘liking’ and following pages (interests, news agencies etc.). News becomes fully personalised, and users are much more likely to actually consume what comes their way.

2. Have a strategy and keep it simple

Choose the right social media for the content and learn basic rules of engagement (adapt your content to the medium and keep an eye on changes and updates, such as the recent addition of hashtags to Facebook). Use analytics to track post quality and measure user engagement; learn how to encourage it by, for example, link sharing and photo tagging. Over time the quality of your posts will increase as you learn what makes your audience tick and you will be more likely to achieve the ultimate goal of not just greater visibility, but also a deeper understanding of your message that will inspire your target audience to action.

3. SEO isn’t dead

Don’t be too hasty to abandon SEO just yet. People still search for keywords online. SEO and SMO should complement each other rather than compete. Marketing on that level has good and bad sides, as your Facebook network can influence search results as well as audience response to what the crowd ‘likes’ on Facebook. Learning to define SMO and SEO in the marketing campaign you’re developing will maximise your campaign’s efficiency and ROI.

4. Keep your audience interested and engaged

Two words: quality and frequency: post frequently, stay relevant, but remember to keep your posts interesting and as high quality as possible. If you flood your followers’ feeds with tons of poor quality updates, they will be quick to ‘unlike’ you (and not likely to ever ‘like’ you again).

5. Link!

Linking is one of the most important SMO activities. Show you know what is happening in your area of expertise while helping others become more visible, and chances are they will eventually link back to you too!

Above all, try not to get too hung up on the technicalities of SMO; the most important element of any digital strategy is still listening to your clients in order to identify their needs and ensure the social media strategy is a tailor made fit and will thus yield desired results.