Social Media Optimisation

A few weeks ago, in an article called Man verses the Machine, I wrote about the search algorithm (as used by search engines, for example Google) verses digital curatorship (whereby the people using social media like Facebook drive the information and content delivery, through posting, sharing and liking). Here are some more thoughts on the subject

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a critical strategy for driving people to your website, but it is only one aspect of the modern digital strategy. With social media there are more meaningful and effective ways of bringing in audiences. The term for this is social media optimisation (SMO.)

SEO uses algorithms to rank top search results. SMO uses audience behaviour to determine what’s important. SMO differentiates and distinguishes individuals, making sense of their specific content wants and needs. Real people articulating real interests eliminates the algorithm as middleman.

The social network is starting to replace the search engine as the average web user spends more time on Facebook than Google. We need to reengineer our approach driving traffic to our content and building our digital brands. Here are some elements of an effective SMO programme.

Find out and evaluate what the audience wants

SEO is based on pandering to search engines to bring you more audiences, by using key words and metatags. But with social media, the new formula is to grab people’s attention in such a way that they will bring you more audiences.

The first step is winning the attention of the audience and knowing what it wants. The key question is, who are they, what do they want from you and when and how do they want it? Fortunately, this data is abundant. You can find it in your social media sites, analytics system, in customer research, in your competitors’ wins. The trick is to make use of that data and experiment to find these insights.

Knowing what the audience wants means asking and observing them and then delivering value that they want to be associated with. Then track what gets consumed when and by whom.

By asking the audience you also get people immediately engaged in the conversation.

Build your community

The tactics of SMO will change over time, in much the same way that social media will change. Today, Facebook and Twitter are the two significant social media platforms.

An effective SMO strategy is about getting the community started. Set up a marketing drive to bring your fans to your community page. Use Facebook’s advertising platform to help make potential friends aware of you. Use viral networking to get people to invite their friends. Build a base of influencers to a size that approaches critical mass, so that you are fully connected within the social network from the beginning, rather than sitting outside just looking in.

Create content worth spreading

Once you know what your audience wants, and you have a community to appeal to, now comes the part that great marketers are good at. Designing for sharing is much more than just designing for consumption. In some instances the practices that help marketers succeed in SEO are deadly in SMO. If you stuff a page full of keywords, match the URL to the keywords and keep the content readable by algorithms, you will that find a boring website which falls flat on your users and they will not distribute.

Instead, publish content that is worthy of being shared and wrap it in experiences that your users can’t wait to share with their friends — with pride — which is the emotional fuel that powers the “Like” button.

Package to get attention

These days you’re competing for attention in a Facebook feed or Twitter stream.

Facebook and Twitter are networks and so their value is to be found in quantity (the more there is the more value to each user) but for successful marketers it’s about quality. Standing out in the crowd puts the focus not just on what you say, but on how it’s said. What are the iconic images and headlines that appear in a Facebook feed?

Design for virality

Viral distribution is about much more than the content itself — it’s also about an experience that promotes sharing. Your site, your experience, and your Facebook page all need to be designed for virality. Turn content into interactive features with sharing. It starts by making sharing easy:

  • Include the familiar “like” and “share” icons;
  • Place them in obvious places next to the article you want them to share; and
  • Pull social conversations relevant to your content in as a live feed on your website. Let people see what other people are saying on your Facebook page and Twitter and let them participate in the conversations right from your site.

Previously I have written about The Porous Web where your audiences seamlessly osmosises from areas of low value to high value. Doing all of these things provides a tightly integrated social experience.

Engage and reward your audience

Get involved in the conversation to stimulate dialogue, talk alongside your users and ask them what they want. Engage your audience like a community member not a marketing executive.

Validation is all about appealing to people’s emotional desire to look and feel good. Rewards for these people are intrinsic to the sharing itself.

Measure and experiment

On every page measure how many people viewed it and shared it, and how many more people that brings. You can test and vary every element, from the tools that promote sharing, to the content itself. Test rigorously and learn what works for your website, community and your audience.

These are just some of ways that SMO can be effectively deployed. The most important thing right now is recognising that SEO is important but that social media is changing the rules.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit or contact Kate Elphick on




Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Facebook, Google, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

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