Introduction to Social Media Optimization

SMS Text

Social Media Optimization (SMO) is a new term that was recently coined by Rohit Bhargava and has since been taking on life of its own. In his introduction to SMO, Rohit draws similar comparisons to SEO. SMO tactics can drive huge amounts of people to a website and can also determine whether a startup, website or idea will make it or not. It involves driving traffic to a website through new channels because search engines aren’t the only sites that drive big traffic anymore. While it’s not taking over SEO yet, it has the potential to someday soon.
First of all “social media” is a buzzword that has been thrown around a lot lately. But what exactly does it really mean? Wikipedia describes social media as…

the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. Popular social mediums include blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs.

Also, social media can be considered anything that can help build a community to rally around. Companies/websites such as Digg, Delicious, Facebook, and Revver all fit the bill. These are all websites that can now be used as places to put out your marketing message. Spreading messages through blog posts and blog search engines also fits the bill. It is all about making something easy to spread, which, by the way, used to be called word-of-mouth. Buyer beware though, you can’t force SMO. This is pull marketing; it is not “push your message onto someone marketing”.
With SEO the goals are clearly defined, you’re trying to make a website visible in the search engines. Is SMO really as simple to define as making your site visible in the social media? Does that entail anyway possible and include buying banner ads on MySpace?
Rohit defines the goals as…

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.

… and then he lays out 5 rules for SMO
1. Increase Your Linkability
2. Make Tagging and Bookmarking easy
3. Reward Inbound Links
4. Help Your Content Travel
5. Encourage the Mashup
…Jeremiah Owyang gives us a couple more rules
6. Be a User Resource, Even if it Doesn’t Help You
7. Reward Helpful and Valuable Users
In way it sounds a whole lot like Marketing 2.0. It is pretty much includes all the new marketing techniques that are becoming popular rolled into one, techniques such as; Linkbaiting, Usability Design, Buzz Marketing, Community Building, and anything that can be considered “pull marketing”.
Here’s a few more possible rules…
8. Participate – Join the conversation. Social Media is a two way street, lets not forget that. By conversing with the community you are creating awareness and prolonging your buzz. You are keeping it going and this often results in a snowball effect. Participating helps your message spread further and faster.
9. Know how to target your audience – If you don’t even know your target audience you are in trouble. I would love to have everyone using my product too, but you need to be realistic. There is always going to be a certain audience you can appeal to and others that you can’t. So know your appeal and who it is appealing to.
10. Create content – There are certain kinds of content that just naturally spread socially. It does not matter what industry you are in and what boring products you sell, there is always some kind of content that can be created that will work. Whether it is creating widgets, making people laugh, or writing a whitepaper, it can be done. Know what type of content can work for you and create it.
11. Be real – The community does not reward fakers.
While social media optimization is becoming very important you can’t forget about good old SEO either. Google and Yahoo still drive mass amounts of traffic and you ca not ignore them. It is all about leveraging new mediums and riding these waves. Even though you might be getting dirt on the white glove you still have to take advantage of these powerful channels.
I’m hoping these articles will encourage discussion and new rules that develop from others. As Rohit says

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.

Update (8/17/2006): Loren Baker from Search Engine Journal chimes in with rules 12 and 13. Lee Odden from the Online Marketing Blog gives us rules 14, 15, and 16.

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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  • Jeremiah Owyang

    these are great additions. I’ll be sharing the “Community Marketing” program that I’ve lead at Hitachi at Ragan PR conference in Chicago this Sept 20-22 if you’re in the area. It relates and applies many of these tactics.

  • Cameron

    Jeremiah, That looks like an interesting conference, a lot of good sessions. At this time I have no plans to attend but you never know. Good luck!

  • Rohit

    Cameron – these are very strong additions, especially your point about participating and being real. This is shaping up to be a great conversation worth being a part of – and I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to add to the debate. To that end, I will be tagging posts that reference the concept of SMO with the tag “socialmediaoptimization” on I’d love to suggest that others use this tag as well so we can keep the ideas on this flowing …

  • Cameron

    Rohit, I’m enjoying this conversation myself, thanks for starting it. I’ll definitely use the tag.

  • Matt Ambrose

    Social media sites are also going to be the big ad revenue generating sites. Murdoch didnt buy MySpace a year ago just as an online experiment but because he realised he would have to evolve his business model from the pen and ink industry.
    Google buying themselves into social media to the tune of $900 mill to splash adsence all over the site shows that they know they have to evolve their model to match how people are using the net as well.

  • Cameron

    Matt – Ya, social is really the way everything is headed right now and you’re right about ad revenue. You want to know what’s interesting about Google + MySpace… I heard a rumor a while back that Google had the chance the buy MySpace for less than Murdoch paid.

    Greg – Yep, Flickr is definitely another one that can bring good traffic. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Michael Martine

    These are all websites that can now be used as places to put out your marketing message.
    No, they’re not. They’re places where you can contribute something that is truly valuable by participating and engaging. That is something that marketers still don’t understand. Marketing as you used to know it is dead. It has been reborn in a new form in the new participatory culture. There is no “marketing message.” There is only relationship, reputation, and conversation.

  • Cameron

    Michael, like it or not this is a medium that you can use to bring people to your website.

  • Michael Martine

    Like it or not? I love it! I think you may have misunderstood the point of my comment (or I didn’t communicate it clearly enough). Of course this is a medium I can use to bring people to my website. But am I “marketing?” to you (at you) or are we conversing?
    Would anyone here at Pronet like me to think of this blog as simply a place to put out my marketing message? Do you feel special now?
    See, I don’t think marketing is messaging, anymore. You do not construct a message. You speak your mind. You be yourself. You engage. How is that marketing? It isn’t! Except… it’s better than any marketing could ever be, and that’s the really amazing thing about all this.

  • TagMan

    Hi Cameron, as a possible extension to your rule #11, I’m suggesting: Make it fun! Just blogged about that and referenced your post.
    BTW, I think Michael Martine has a good point but your rule #11 addresses his concerns to some degree. In a recent post about traffic from StumbleUpon, I mused, “The question, then, is how to cultivate traffic from sites like these? Or, perhaps it’s better not to do so and to simply continue to create good content, tools, games, etc. and presume that the various social bookmarking sites will eventually drive traffic.” I had this response from an anonymous Stumbler:
    “I think most people react negatively to the thought of being ‘cultivated’… SU is almost like word of mouth…”
    So, there will certainly be some friction between rule #11 and putting “out your marketing message.”

  • Cameron Olthuis

    Rich – maybe just make that a new rule. Interesting points.