What is SMO? Develop Your Social Media Strategy in 8 Steps

Most publishers have only completed 1-2 of these 8 crucial SMO steps

Social Media Optimization (SMO) is what we call the process of optimizing your content and your business for social media.

Typically, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes first. This is the process of creating content that has been optimized for some set of keywords that our target audience is looking for.

SMO is what we do with that content after it has been produced, and it’s not easy. If you want to be successful in social media, and you want your content to be read, clicked, and shared, then it takes as much work as any other task. To get the most out of your social media efforts, keep reading.

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1. Create a social media style guide.

Before anything, pull down your editorial style guide and highlight anything that might apply to social. For example, don’t just look at, say, how you capitalize words, but also look at how you handle competitors. Some brands are happy to ReTweet and comment on the Tweets of their competitors, or share a recipe from an unknown blogger. And some simply are not OK with that one bit.

2. Pick a platform.

We like CoSchedule. It’s a WordPress plugin that allows you to schedule Tweets directly in WordPress, on the same page as the article itself. If you’re a Mequoda client, you either have, or will soon have Haven Social, which is powered by CoSchedule. Hootsuite is another option which works great for businesses because they offer reporting and it allows you to assign different tasks to team members.

3. Assign responsibilities.

As you know, the age of the Internet has turned editors into marketers who are responsible for their content. This applies to social media, too. Unless you are a powerhouse publisher that can afford a room full of social media specialists, like the Chicago Tribune (@ColonelTribune is totally worth it, FYI), then your editors will most likely be running your social media. First of all they know the content best, second of all, they’re already grammar savvy and probably won’t let out any typos.

If you have an online marketing team though, they might have secure jobs in social media. For example, maybe your Managing Editor just writes the Tweets, and your marketing team is responsible for editing the Tweets, scheduling them, sending out promotional Tweets, and brand building beyond just content marketing. Or maybe your Managing Editor does it all. Anyway, use this step to determine who does what, and especially, who hits the “send” and “schedule” buttons.

4. Create social media formulas.

What is SMO without structure, right? By now you know we’re all about the 12x12x12 method. Write twelve unique Tweets for each article. Schedule them for 12 days. Then schedule them for 12 months. For an entire year, your article will be promoted and you only have to do it once. For Facebook, LinkedIn, and G+, write two unique posts. Schedule on the first day, then again in six months.

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5. Create a series of non-promotional posts.

What else will you publish as part of your SMO strategy? For example, on “Throwback Thursdays,” People posts old covers of their magazines. Martha Stewart sources ideas from their Facebook fans for future issues. Be creative and come up with a series of images you can share, that will provoke comments, likes, and more shares. These will be the keys to increasing your Facebook visibility.

Smo strategies - smo social media

6. Decide what to do with premium content.

Does your content sit behind a paywall? That’s cool, you’re already used to forgoing search traffic anyway. But if you decide that you want to drip out tips with links back to some kind of access challenge page (see below), just be clear on that strategy out of the gate. Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz) allows social users to read five articles for free, then they get this paywall. And it’s OK because they’re not getting it the first time.

HBR access challenge page - smo social media

7. Integrate social media into your advertising packages.

Another use for social media is advertising. Publishers are beginning to include sets of social media posts, or co-sponsored posts as a part of their ad packages. If you decide to do this, remember that advertorial guidelines still apply and you must add #ad or #sponsored to your post or make it abundantly obvious that the post was paid for. You can see examples from Vogue, People and Allure below.

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8. Create a social media calendar.

Once all of the above is figured out, it’s time to create your social media calendar. This will be your structure and it will look a lot like your editorial and email calendars combined.

  • Editorial posts get posted on the same day they’re published (plus scheduled out into the future)
  • Promotional posts get posted on the same day they’re emailed out to your email list
  • Branded posts will get posts on the days you determine
  • Ad posts will also get posted on the days you determine

Set your editorial and marketing teams up for success by creating this calendar. It will give them a checklist of sorts, so that they know exactly what’s going out and when. There are a lot of balls in the air at all times when it comes to social media, so structure will turn it into a more enjoyable process. One where your editors and marketers look forward to creating social posts that get clicked, rather than just trying to get social off their plate while they attend to other duties.

In fact, set your team up for success by following this entire list in order. Social media optimization gets a bad rap for being easy, which is a joke to anyone who has ever done it. It’s only easy if you’re doing it wrong. Do it right instead.


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