Is SMO (Social Media Optimization) the Next SEO?

Having a strong long-term SEO and social-media marketing strategy in place will help strengthen your online presence.
Chief Story Wrangler, UserGrasp
July 31, 2012 Social media optimization (SMO) and search engine optimization (SEO) are powerful techniques for building your brand. Content-driven, both strategies function as pull-mechanisms to attract new audiences, boost Web traffic, and generate tangible leads. 

The two strategies differ, however, with respect to user experience. When people come to your Website through search engines, for instance, they're likely looking for a specific product or piece of information and have a clear objective in mind. With social media, the opposite is true.

"People log in to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to discover content, connect with people, and build community," says Renee Warren of Onboardly, a boutique consulting firm that helps early stage start-ups acquire customers through PR and content marketing. "They don't necessarily know what they are looking for but hope to find something worthwhile when they do arrive."

When planning your long-term SEO and social-media marketing strategies, think of the two approaches as complementary, yet distinct. 

Begin at the end. Warren emphasizes that the goals should steer a company's marketing direction. "Start out by defining your marketing objectives and work backwards," Warren says. "Where is your audience, how do you reach them, what are they like? Ask yourself how they might like to be introduced to your brand or small business before you commit resources and start engaging."

Instead of jumping in blind, know exactly what you want to ensure that your time and money are well-spent. Pursue a revenue-generating company objective.

Be real about your resources. To thrive, social media and content-driven SEO needs more than half-hearted attempts. "Content marketing is excellent for SEO and social media, but it must be done correctly," Warren explains. "Social media is most powerful when you take the time to build the right relationships."

If you're considering hiring an agency vendor, make sure that you do your research for the most cost-effective option. "Don't always go with the lowest bidder or the highest one for that matter," Warren recommends.

Regardless of what you decide to invest, make sure that you're focusing on your ROI, because without the right strategy, you won't achieve any value. "Whatever you do, don't leave this in the hands of your unpaid interns," Warren says. "They are great for execution, monitoring, and follow-up, but never for the high-level strategic planning that is involved."

Be data driven. When evaluating successes and shortcomings, choose data points that best complement the results that you want to achieve. When people find your site through search engines, are they converting into registered users and leads? Is your Facebook page creating a community of dedicated, loyal repeat visitors?

"The reality is that basing your social media success on vanity metrics like your follower or fan count will get you killed, for lack of a better word," Warren says. "All of your online efforts need to track back to a company goal. Is it sales, newsletter sign-ups, or increased Web traffic? Figure out how social media can contribute to increasing a certain company objective, and go out and own that channel."

Think in terms of people. Don't forget that you're dealing with people rather than specs of data and aggressive sales quotas. "Social media and SEO are more about people than they are about key terms," Warren said. "Social media and content marketing are about creating communities for like-minded people to gather. It's not about cross-selling and pushing sales onto unsuspecting individuals or groups."

Trust, dialogue, and sharing are aspects of social media that people care about most. Build your brand by embracing the community.

Do you have a SMO strategy in place?