With any market or practice, once it has established itself, it begs to be optimized. How do you get more out of it or make it cost less for what it does? Social media optimization is not just a list of social networks, companies use to communicate their business, products or their brand in general. So, what does social media optimization mean?
SEO vs SMO
First, we have to clarify that SMO is seperate from search engine optimization, but they are related. Search engine optimization means optimizing all the content of your business around your website, to get a higher search engine ranking. Writing this content for your website and your blog is directed more towards the quality of your product, not necessarily the knowledge you have and your authority on that topic (keep this in mind, we are coming back to that).
Social media optimization means optimizing the content of your social networks, not to push your product, but to establish your brand in social networks and to connect with people and engage with them. If you build your brand properly around a certain topic, people begin trusting you and the recommendations given by you. And this is the point where social media optimization and search engine optimization meet.
By being an entrusted source for people on social networks, these social networks will now show up in google searches as topic authorities, which is a nice free plug for your business. But why is that?
In 2013 Google brought us the Hummingbird algorithm, changing the search engine landscape. Since keyword searches were being gamed by semi-shady activities (keyword stuffing, buying links, cloaking, etc.), Google launched Hummingbird, with understanding user intent becoming their top priority. Now topic authority is the name of the game (I told you we would come back to that).
Provide the most complete answer to a searcher's question, and you get ranked highest.
Are you the one with the best content (most detailed information and depth) around puppy foods? Congratulations, your brand will rank high when people are searching on how to feed their Pitbull pup. This has fundamentally changed how marketers approach social media marketing.
Three approaches to SMO
There are three principal forms of social media optimization of outlets and content for a business. Technical optimization, editorial optimization and linking.
The technical part of SMO is mostly self-explanatory. It's how a website is coded, how it is hosted, how fast the loading speed is, the URL formats and a wide variety of more technical aspects. However, it just optimizes how fast the spider can get to and through it. It doesn't mean, it is going to rank it high, yet. As mentioned before, you can change those things in and on your website, not in Facebook.
The second is editorial social media optimization. And this is the interesting part of the SEO/SMO endeavour, because this is where you can make the greatest impact. Editorial social media optimization is like a Tesla. Looks simple, sleek and sophisticated, but is a bit more complicated under the hood. What you are creating for your channels is to inform and interact with people at the 'Awareness' stage of the funnel. The content you are creating needs to be related to what people are looking for. That means, that if your content is awesome, but lacks depth and expertise, people are just not going to find you. It also means, that you need to be aware of what you DON'T want to be associated with. This is where you can leverage the 'negative keywords' function, which is the incredibly powerful from a targeting perspective.
Since Google is trying to get behind the user intent and which content they are searching for, so should you. If you don't take care of this, you will have poor relevance and a bad ranking. Topic authority means being a master of your domain, but not everything. But where does that leave the content? Or to be more exact, where does it leave the writing?
Your topic authority has made you a reliable source for information. Which will result in an increase of members in your audience. You have been entrusted with an audience relevant to your authority, which means you have an opportunity to connect with them and engage them. Social media optimization means to increase your presence, to build reputation, which now you have to live up to.
The third member of the social media optimization party is linking. Don't just post the same content on all your outlets at the same time! You know that each of your audiences on the individual social media platforms are different, so they need a unique approach. If you can link your content around itself, cross-promote and link articles to other sources, you will create a large spider web of relevant content and thus, have content relevance. Your website stands at the center of that web, where you want the traffic directed to. Having built topic authority, you are most certainly exposed to a larger audience, as they seek your wisdom for the topic. It is now your job to engage with them and strengthen the trust placed in you. This will have them seek your brand first, whenever it comes to buying a product or service that you may offer.
SMO is not SEO. However, they do work together. You can't change what social platforms like Facebook or twitter give you, regarding their newsfeed. So you need to optimize as much as you can within that realm. Look at the rules and use them to your advantage.
Secondly, getting your keywords/topic authority in order and optimizing your content doesn't mean you are relinquishing your right to creativity or a certain style of writing. Your content and its impression on your following will create the search engine ranking as a bonus. The most important piece is to provide value for the people looking for that topic. If your content isn't up to spec, the person will leave just as quick as he found you, no matter how high you ranked.
Connecting with your audience and engaging with them will teach you about their preferences and give you a chance to have a better relationship in the sales process with them. The search engine ranking is an added benefit, but you are doing this to put your best content forward to engage and interact with your audience and have them interact with you. You will benefit much more from that, than ranking high.
And lastly, linking. Be present. Meet your brand audience to connect on their preferred platform and serve them the content they are looking for. Get to know which content of your brand works where, for whom, and use that to tailor each channel to serve the audience that's there.
Optimizing your social network and your content will most certainly help you generate inbound traffic, but don't mistake it for a freebie. You can only gain that trust by actually gaining a certain level of authority. It’s a powerful but fragile trust you develop with your audience, so continuing to deliver is key.