Will Social Media Optimization become mainstream?

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A couple of days ago I was asked the following question; What do you see as the main obstacles that Social Media Optimization needs to overcome in order to become a more mainstream marketing strategy? Social Media Optimization is still very much in its infancy. Although most of the concepts have been used for awhile, the phrase was just recently coined and through the community, the rules and concepts are just beginning to take shape.
I am not even sure that corporations fully understand and appreciate SEO yet and it’s been around for a good 10 years now. I think SMO will be different though, ‘social’ everything seems to be taking off right now at warp speed and the companies that don’t start participating will be left behind. The whole marketing ideology of corporations needs to change and it needs to happen quickly.
Here are a few of the obstacles that I came up with that SMO is facing.
1. User adoption of social media – Sure, MySpace and YouTube have hit the mainstream but social media as a whole is still unfamiliar to most people. Most marketers will follow the crowds and they aren’t yet adopting social media.
2. SMO is not yet a proven model – We need to see more examples that show SMO works, not only that, we need to show how it works and why.
3. Companies aren’t prepared for the feedback – The old way of marketing is to push a well crafted “message” onto people based on what the company thinks people should hear. It is a purely one way communication with all the control lying in the hands of big corporations. This needs to change, two way communications need to be enabled.
4. Companies need to be ready to let people have some level of control over their brands, products and messages – Are corporations ready to give people this type of control? What about some control over their products and services? Companies are not yet ready to create products with their customers.
5. Better tools and methods – Better tools need to be developed to help marketers reach these audiences, there also needs to be better analytics and tools developed to help them measure and track the activity.
Lately we have seen a number of examples of companies that have tried to embrace social media, but it is obvious they don’t quite get it. Look at what Facebook did the other day, it’s pretty obvious they don’t even get it, but they are learning from their mistakes. Instead of letting their users help shape the features they pushed them on people without fully understanding the implications. We need to find a way to teach these companies exactly how to participate. Dell is trying to but they keep messing up as well, and this just scares other companies away. GMC is another example of a company that doesn’t get it. When they tried with their consumer generated SUV commercials they got torn apart and it completely backfired on them. Don’t they know that a lot of people hate SUVs? And that these people are activist that will take action when thrown such an easy opportunity.
There are just some things that I could come up with, if you would like to contribute I encourage you to leave more ideas in the comments or blog about it on your own blog, we need to help companies better understand the power of social media.

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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  • http://www.deepjiveinterests.com Tony

    The evolution of social media optimization will take some time in coming, I agree.
    The hardest part, I think, is embracing the fact that it will be hard to keep things from your customers.
    Crap will happen. People will talk. The prevailing attitude must be “we have to begin participating in this discussion” — not: “How can we spin this to our advantage?”
    Its a complete change in your point of view as a marketer — but for those who raise their sails into those winds, they’ll have windfall profits, I’m sure.

  • http://corvillus.com/ Corvillus

    As you said, one thing that scares companies away from using social media is the fact that they might get trashed publicly for it. What a lot of companies don’t realize though, is that this can actually be useful feedback. Take viral video sites like YouTube and Google Video for example. One thing that you’ll find that’s often really popular on these sites are advertising campaigns. Users will often submit TV rips of commercials they enjoyed and they’ll get a lot of other users in agreement with them, praising the commercial. Now, what’s to stop companies from doing the same thing? They could submit an ad for free and get feedback on it which they could use to measure it’s effectiveness, plus get a lot of free brand recognition before even having to make any investment in advertising deals with traditional media outlets for the ad, and potentially save a lot of money if the ad is deemed ineffective.
    You have the same kind of free testbed with print media and software applications on the social bookmarking/news sites like digg, reddit, Newsvine and del.icio.us. And of course, with MySpace, we’ve already seen a lot of independent musicians make a name for themselves for free.
    To summarize, I think that social media marketing is a very cost effective solution for advertisers. However, it’s worthless if you either ignore your users, or are afraid of user backlash. If you’re willing to listen to the user feedback (both positive and negative) and use it in an effective manner, it can be a very powerful tool. Much like anything else though, companies are going to take a while to learn how to use it to their advantage.

  • http://www.adirondackbasecamp.com TourPro

    At least in my industry, the landscape is evolving so fast it is hard to identify where the center of gravity will be. It’s hard to committ resources to a strategy which is based on a medium which in in flux – especially when your talking about organizational behemoths committed to old-style marketing. In our case, your 5th point is on target, we need reliable and consistent metrics to justify going into this medium. Excellent post.

  • http://www.britopian.com/blog Michae.Brito@comcast.net

    Cameron. Great post. Sorry I am a little late to the conversation.
    I completely agree that many corporations still have yet to understand and embrace SEO. I have direct experience with two fortune 100 companies that I have worked for in the past that are barely starting to build out SEO strategies across their organizations today; sure, ten years too late but better than never.
    In regards to Social Media, I think it will catch on much faster because of the publicity and growth of this channel. Of course, as you already mentioned, I think the biggest challenge that many corporations will face is the fact that they can?ج