Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Developing a Winning Social Media Optimization Strategy

social media strategy
Social Media Optimization, the SEO of social media, involves implementing changes both on-site and in social accounts to make content more visible, liked, shared and linked to via social networks. It's no doubt that creating content that can easily be shared throughout the web is vital to the success of a social media campaign—but did you know that having a solid social media optimization (SMO) strategy can actually improve your SEO performance and organic rankings too? A winning SMO strategy will drive traffic from social sites, search engines and shares, effectively leveraging the power of social sharing to create profound benefits for your website.

Google's Very Own Matt Cutts on Social Signals 
While there are no confirmed cases yet that Google will rank a page based on social signals, Matt Cutts has pointed out some specific benefits to using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to share content. He says:
“Both of those services [Facebook and Twitter] represent a fantastic avenue, it's a way to drive visitors and traffic to your site, it's a way to let people know about news related to you or your company or website, so I think they're great ways to build you your personal brand.”
Cutts also discusses how social signals, though not a definitive factor in search engine rankings as of right now, will likely become more of a focus in ranking factors in the next 10 years. It is expected that Google will begin to treat social signals with more favoritism. Matt Cutts goes on to say:
“I think over 10 years, we're more likely to understand identity and to understand the social connections between people, but at least for the time being, we have to deal with the web as it is and what we are allowed to crawl and what we can easily extract from that and count on being able to access that in the future.”
So Why is Social Media Optimization Important?
Social networks are responsible for driving millions of visitors to websites every single day. Facebook alone has an estimated 1.4 billion active users, and an estimated 98% of 18-24 years olds are using social media—if you're not actively using social media for your business or brand then you're missing out on the potential to reach more than 73% of the adult population that has access to the internet according to a Pew Research Internet Project study.
Statistic Brain estimates that there are more than 70 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each month, 3,000 pictures uploaded to Flickr every minute, and 190 million tweets on Twitter each day. How will your business or brand stand out against all of that? A winning social media optimization strategy is the only way that you'll make a voice for your business or brand that can be heard above and beyond all of the noise that is accumulating on these social networks every single day.
If that isn't enough to a make you wish you had a winning SMO strategy, consider the following benefits of social media optimization:
  • Facebook users who are connected with a brand or business online are more trusting than potential customers who are not connected with the brand.
  • Social media marketing generates increased business exposure.
  • Businesses that use social media regularly, for 6 hours or less per day, have seen a 64% increase in lead generation according to Social Media Today.
  • Despite Google's Matt Cutts explaining that social signals do not currently influence search engine rankings, Pam Dyer reports that 62% of marketers using social media for at least two years have seen a rise in their search engine rankings.
  • According to Forbes Magazine, social media provides a clear opportunity for businesses to expose their potential customers to their brand, products or services on a repeat basis and, like the old marketing adage says, “it takes six to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to buy.” With social media, you can send signals to your customers time and again effectively shortening the sales cycle.
  • According  to a recent Market Watch study, 61% of companies that took the time to become involved in social media and to come up with a solid optimization strategy had better communication with their customers which resulted in higher overall customer satisfaction.
Don't Think Excessive Linking will Work Magic!
So, you've realized how important social media optimization is and you know that getting links and shares is vital to the overall success of your social media campaign—now what? Don't think that you can just go dropping links to your content in every LinkedIn Group or Facebook community that you can find as this will not help you! In fact, excessively sharing links in places where they really just don't fit in will build bad rapport with your viewers and may even create a backlash in the social community that will make it very challenging for you to come out on top.
Real users who see your unwarranted links in the wrong places are likely to unfollow or unlike you if you are not sharing responsibly. If your content is reported as Spam, you could gain some negative attention from Google too! Likewise, if you share content, even on your own Facebook page or Twitter feed that is not worthy of others sharing, liking, retweeting or otherwise becoming involved with, there is a risk that you will be viewed as not sharing anything of value or authoritative.
Improving your SMO Strategy
So what can you do to improve your SMO strategy and start generating some positive social signals that will produce powerful results for your business or brand?  
  • Reputation – building a strong reputation online that will have visitors viewing you as a trusted, reliable source.
  • Engagement – getting engaged with your audience, sharing valuable content and liking and sharing the content of others.
  • Authority – proving yourself to others in the social world that you are an authoritative source and that you are knowledgeable in your industry or field of expertise.
  • Leadership – becoming a thought leader that is both original and creative in the methods by which you interact via social accounts.
  • Social – getting engaged with others, finding ways to share your experience via social networks and providing your customers with ease of access to or a direct connect to you via social feeds.
  • Media – understanding each of the social media platforms and how each should be used, what works for each, how each can benefit you and the types of customers / clients that are influenced by each network.
  • Optimization – making improvements to the technical side of social media including the way that your content is shared via share buttons on your website, the display of social icons on your website, the use of rich snippets and images.
The Bottom Line
Every aspect of your social media optimization strategy should focus on solutions that you can provide to your customers via social networking. Think about how you can become involved with your customers online, how you can prove to them that you know what you're talking about, how you can improve your customer's thoughts or feelings about your brand, and how you can improve the share-ability of your content via social networks.
Whether you love social media, or you love to hate it, the fact of the matter is—it's not going anywhere anytime soon! In fact, based on recent data, and despite what Matt Cutts is currently admitting, it looks like social signals are going to continue to play a huge part in whether a site ranks highly in the search engines. Even in a recent case study by Quick Sprout founder Neil Patel, websites that received social shares, followers, tweets and likes saw a significant increase in their search engine rankings (in some cases as much as nearly 15%). Google Plus especially can influence search engine rankings and, if no other social media sites are being used, should be included in any SMO, SEO or digital marketing plan.

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