What is Social Media Optimization?

The first step in social media marketing is optimizing your site for inbound links

If you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimization, let us introduce you to its new-ish and rather popular sibling, Social Media Optimization. Likely, you’re less familiar with the term than you are with what it includes.

In short, Social Media Optimization is the process of optimizing your site for social media. For example, adding buttons for digg.com, del.icio.us, technorati, etc. is the smallest step in social media optimization. After this, the process gets more involved but the inbound links will build even faster.

The purpose of this blog bling-bling, which includes buttons, links, tags, etc. is to let anyone who wants to link to you, link to you. In the process, you are increasing your rank in Google with every inbound link you receive.

Rohit Bhargava writer of the Influential Marketing Blog and the blogger who coined the term Social Media Optimization, gives his three reasons why these networking tools have taken off:

1. SMO connects search marketing to social media. Over the past few years, search marketing has been the darling of the interactive marketing community, with more and more time and sessions at just about every online marketing event dedicated to search. Yet recently, the new darling of this same community is social media and viral/wom marketing. SMO bridges the gap between the two, and so far has been primarily driven by those in the search marketing community.

2. SMO is about optimization. Part of the reason why SEO is so popular is that is focuses on a site or blog that already exists. For many organizations or individuals, the concept of SEO offers an attractive alternative to conducting a redesign, rebranding, or more hugely involving activities. Optimizing a site that already exists makes sense. SEO makes sense. SMO offers the same appeal.

3. SMO is actionable. This could easily be first on the list, but all the initial discussions about SMO on several blogs were centered around “rules.” Though conversation has gotten much broader, the fact remains that there are tangible things that webmasters, bloggers and just about anyone else can do to implement SMO on their sites. This makes SMO a concept that can be easily understood and used by anyone who has a site online – and not just web marketing pros.

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Terri Wells from SEOChat describes three types of social sites used for Social Media Optimization:

The first kind of social site I think of as a social networking site. These are the kinds of sites where users usually have profiles (such as LinkedIn) and sometimes have blogs as part of those profiles (such as Yahoo!’s MyBlogLog, MySpace, and other sites). You could become known on such a site by building a profile for yourself and/or your company, writing a blog, commenting on the blogs of other users, and so forth. Becoming part of such a site means becoming part of a community.

The second kind of social site is also community-based. You become noticed mainly by posting links, voting on links, and making comments on links other people have posted. Typically these are sites like Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, Fark, and many others. You need to spend some time reading these sites to get a feel for their quirks and what interests their readers. You wouldn’t post a story on home decorating to Digg, except possibly if the home decorating article talked about someone who made their apartment over into a reproduction of the U.S.S. Enterprise (and even then you’re likely to get a yawn and an “it’s been done.”). These communities are usually hypersensitive to spam, so you want to be really careful about what you post. As you would with an online forum, you want to get a feel for how they work before you put up your first link. It’s usually a good idea to lurk for a while with these sites before posting.

The third kind of social site is similar to the second kind, but the focus is a little different. Users post links as bookmarks for themselves and to share with others; these sites may be a little less news-focused than the second kind of site. Often the site is built around a search engine that is fed by the bookmarks. Users tag their bookmarks with keywords to help the search engine determine the relevance of particular links. As with the second kind of social site, you’re likely to see users voting and making comments on particular links. Good examples of these kinds of sites include del.icio.us and Searchles.

On Friday, we’ll go over the most popular Social Media Optimization tools and show you how to use and implement them on your own site. We’ll also let you know when you’ve gone overboard and which sites generate the most inbound links so that you can skip the unnecessary glitter and bling-bling.

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