Dave Chaffey - Insights Director at ClickThrough Marketing, The Search Conversion ExpertsSocial media optimisation or SMO isn’t a new term or a new approach, far from it.

The term SMO was first coined in 2006 when the search engine marketer Danny Sullivan first used it.

With many companies now having different forms of social media marketing in place, SMO is a logical next step to improve the effectiveness of social media marketing.

So what is SMO and what is it’s purpose?

People have different views on what SMO involves depending on whether their background is more in SEO or social media marketing.

I recently asked readers of the Smart Insights blog about this and there was a split between those who felt it had the narrow aim of “using social media marketing to support SEO goals” (31%) and a broader aim “analysis and improvement of all social media marketing activities to results” (40%).

I think this all this is shows that you have to decide for your organisation the main emphasis of SMO activity. The Wikipedia entry for SMO is quite apt where it describe it as:

“The methodization of social media activity with the intent of attracting unique visitors to website content”.

This suggests that the core of SMO is having a rigorous approach of test, learn, refine is the main benefit of this approach – not just experimenting, but being systematic. We need to use social media to help people find our content, participate in conversations about it and then share it.

So my definition is:

A systematic approach to improving content effectiveness in attracting visitors and leads and engaging existing audiences through testing techniques to increase the visibility, participation and shareability of content.

SMO activities – The 5 rules of SMO

So what does SMO involve? I think it’s useful here to look at the 5 new rules of SMO developed by Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy New York. These are:

1. Create shareable content. This is fundamental to social media marketing, so in SMO it’s about determining the content that your audience prefers to share across different social media platforms. In Rohit’s original post, this activity was about encouraging links: the two go together.

2. Make sharing easy. This is the embedding of buttons and other widgets to encourage sharing, recommending or bookmarking within your site and blog. SMO analyses the best placements, formats and messages to do this.

3. Reward engagement. It’s commonplace now to reward “Liking” or “Tweeting” through a promotional or content offer, so this can look at the best offers to do this. Rohit also says this should look at a longer-term of encouraging deeper engagement and conversations.

4. Proactively share content. This covers the process and format for sharing beyond your central hub. This can include syndicating articles to other partners or platforms like Slideshare or Scribd. Some also create their own widgets for embedding or sharing on other sites (atomization).

5. Encourage the “mashup”. Rohit says that this is encouraging folks to take and remix your content, so it becomes user generated content. This activity can effectively be built into campaigns.

What else should you test as part of SMO?

I think these rules are really useful for reviewing your approach to integrating social media marketing into a website, but I think there’s more to it.

So, what’s not included in the 5 rules. Well other options which we’re looking to test and refine through analytics and AB/multivariate testing include:

1. Which sharing activities and types of promotions lead to business results, leads, sales or changes in brand preference?

2. Determining how social media can support SEO activities now we know it’s a ranking signal and through encouraging backlinks.

3. Preferences of different audiences using different social media platforms to share different type of content and offers.

4. Optimum frequency for initiating sharing.

5. Best methods for identifying influencers and seeding content.

6. Approaches to integrate sharing of content through different social platforms, web, mobile and email channels.

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.