Most marketers are familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on some level. Using the reach of search engines such as Google, Bing or more recently Duck Duck Go to fuel your marketing campaign has been a strategy that’s been successful for years. But as social media has grown to become one of the top platforms to reach consumers, new approaches to digital marketing have started to emerge. One of the top strategies being used by businesses looking to maximize their reach online is Social Media Optimization (SMO).
What Is Social Media Optimization?
Social Media Optimization is essentially using social media as a catalyst to grow your company’s online presence. Where some companies tend to just set up a Facebook Page, Twitter Profile or Vine because it’s the “cool” thing to do, SMO is about strategically creating, building and maximizing your social media plan to connect with your target audience. SMO allows you to:
- Strengthen your brand
- Generate leads
- Get more visibility online
- Connect with your audience
Why SMO Is Important
The lines between social media marketing and search engine marketing are becoming increasingly blurred. In the past, they’ve been looked at as two separate and distinct aspects of marketing. But the reality is that they’re more intertwined than you might think.
While Google hasn’t stated that social media directly influences its search algorithm yet, there’s evidence to suggest that it does. One survey found that 50% of companies that aren’t succeeding with SEO aren’t integrating social media marketing.
Aside from that, the benefits of social media marketing have been well documented. If you want a solid overall approach to online marketing, you need a healthy balance of SEO and SMO.
Now that you know the “why,” let’s talk about the “how.”
Optimize Your Strategy
A lack of social media strategy has been a roadblock for companies for a while now. Partly because it’s still fairly new, and also because social media is always changing. 28% of companies feel that a lack of strategy is the top barrier keeping them from becoming a social business. In order to optimize your social media marketing campaigns, you have to have a strategy with clearly defined goals and objectives.
A social media strategy should focus on growing your presence, and achieving measurable results. This post outlines how to setup your strategy in seven steps:
- Ensure Your Social Goals Solve Challenges
- Extend Efforts Throughout Your Organization
- Focus on Networks That Add Value
- Create Engaging Content
- Identify Business Opportunities Through Social
- Engage Instead of Ignore
- Track, Improve and Market Your Efforts
When you have a documented strategy in place, you’re able to measure where you stand and make improvements wherever necessary. We’ll touch on that topic more toward the end of this post.
Optimize Your Profiles
Creating your profile seems like a pretty simple task, yet it’s one of the first areas of SMO where businesses fall short. Think of your company’s profile page as your foundation. If it’s weak, it’s hard to build anything on top of it. Here’s what it takes to build a strong foundation.
- Username: Use your company name. Social media username availability is starting to become a big factor for companies when they’re choosing a business name. Use Knowem to check if your company’s name is available on different social media channels.
- Profile photo: Your profile photo should be your company logo. You can use a head shot of yourself if you’re a freelancer, consultant or personality.
- Cover photo: Use a photo or graphic that represents what your company does or showcases your core message. Refer to this post for up-to-date social media image sizes.
- Bio: Clearly state what your company does. If possible, place a trackable link back to your website within your bio to drive more traffic. Using relevant keywords in your bio will also give your page more visibility in search.
Most importantly, fill out your profile completely. Sites like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn give you the ability to enter a lot of information about your company. Unfortunately many businesses leave these fields incomplete because they rush through the process. But the more complete your profile is, the more your page will stand out.
Pro Tip: Dedicate a block of time for completing your social media profiles 100% so you can give it the attention it deserves.
Optimize Your Content
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Content Is King” when it comes to SEO. Well the same thing is true when we’re talking about SMO. Content drives social media. You can’t succeed with social media marketing without sharing quality content.
There are two types of content that you can publish on social media:
- Original content
- Curated content
Ideally, your strategy should have a mix of both.
Original content is content that’s specifically made for social media, and is usually part of a campaign. For instance, the cast of the movie “The Interview” hosted a live Twitter Q&A.
Curated content is content that’s shared from various sources around the web. Content curation is more than just tweeting out links. In order to optimize it for the best results, you should only share content that’s valuable and relevant to your audience. Quality always beats out quantity. Determine what content your audience finds the most relevant by measuring the clicks, Retweets and favorites each post gets. Guy Kawasaki is one of the top Twitter users/experts in the world, and his Tweets largely consist of curated content.
You can use Sprout Social to monitor which content of yours gets the most engagement, then start sharing similar content.
When you’re publishing to social media, here are some tips to keep in mind.
When you send out a Tweet or Facebook post, don’t just use the same headline each time. Some headlines will work better than others.
— Dominique J. (@djthewriter) July 9, 2015
— Dominique J. (@djthewriter) July 13, 2015
A study from B2B Marketing Mentor found that images were the most important tactic for optimizing content for social media.
Include high quality images in your social media updates whenever possible. You can use Canva to make sure that all of your images are sized correctly for each social media site. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of pixelated stretched out images in your Twitter feed.
Pro tip: Include a featured image in all of your own blog posts. Whenever people share your content on social media, the image will automatically be included. Check out this post on how to use Twitter cards.
Hashtags have become synonymous with social media marketing. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and all other top social media sites integrate hashtags now. They make it easy to track trending topics, categorize social media posts and they can be entertaining.
Hashtags help with social media optimization by giving your posts more reach, and making it easier for your content to be found even by people who aren’t following you.
Even though hashtags can seem kind of random, there’s strategy involved in getting the most out of them. Here are some tips to use hashtags effectively on social media:
- Look at what hashtags influencers in your industry are using. Use these tools to help.
- Search for trending hashtags, and see if you can relate them back to your industry or brand.
- Create your own hashtags to track specific social media marketing campaigns Just avoid fails like these.
Post Length Matters
Twitter gives you up to 140 characters per Tweet, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Knowing the ideal status update length can increase the likelihood of people engaging with your content. Here’s a breakdown of the ideal post length for the top social media sites:
- Twitter: 100 characters
- Facebook: 40 characters (anything less than 80 characters)
- Google+: 60 characters
- LinkedIn: 25 words
Optimize Your Posting Schedule
When you post is just as important as what you post. What’s the point in crafting great content if nobody sees it?
Best Time to Post on Social Media
The optimal posting time depends on your audience and the social media site you’re using. Luckily, tools like Sprout Social are able to make this process a lot easier by calculating the best time to post on your social media accounts for the highest engagement. Quicksprout made a handy infographic that outlines the best days and times to post for the most engagement on each social network. Here are some of the highlights.
- Facebook: 1–3 p.m.
- Twitter: 12–6 p.m.
- LinkedIn: 7–8 a.m. and 5-6 p.m.
- Pinterest: 8–11 p.m.
- Instagram: 3–4 p.m.
- Google+: 9–11 a.m.
How Often to Post on Social Media
The second part of timing your social media posts is choosing the right frequency. You want as many people to see your posts as possible, but you don’t want to completely bombard your followers’ streams and timelines. Here’s a breakdown of the optimal social media posting frequency for different social networks according to research from Constant Contact:
- Facebook: 3-10 times per week
- Twitter: 5+ times per day
- LinkedIn: 2-5 times per week
- Pinterest: 5-10 times per day
- Google+: 3-10 times per week
Stay organized by making a social media editorial calendar for your business.
Track and Improve with Social Media Analytics
Just like with SEO, you should track your SMO efforts with social media analytics. Some of this can be done through Google Analytics using UTM codes. UTM codes and shortened URL’s allow you to attribute the traffic your website gets from social media to a specific channel or campaign. In addition to that data, use the reports you get from your social media marketing tool to get a full picture of the impact your campaigns are having.
Aside from tracking traffic, tie in social media specific metrics too. A great place to start is Avinash Kaushik’s four social media metrics. Kaushik’s metrics are good because they’re straight forward and focus on the key aspect of of social media—engagement. They answer the question: Do people like what you’re sharing?
- Conversation Rate: The average number of comments and replies your posts get
- Amplification: The average number of shares and retweets your posts get
- Applause: The average number of “votes” your posts get (+1, favorites, likes)
- Economic Value: You social media ROI
Social Media Optimization can drastically improve the way you approach marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Start taking a strategic approach to social media marketing and amplify your results.
To your point about images being the most important tactic for optimising content, even Facebook is testing out alternative handling of text with images by eliminating the 20% text rule: (http://www.jonloomer.com/2016/04/07/facebook-20-text-rule-changing/)
As a new tactic to keep text in the text box and eliminate from the ad images. I have used Canva before but find that I need something mobile friendly when I am on the road. That's when I discovered a new product still in beta called Desygner (https://desygner.com) that can be used on any device - particularly for me was it's performance on mobile.
Excellent article. One thing I would question is something you quoted . . .not something you said. In my opinion, 5 times a day on Twitter will leave you buried in the noise - especially if, like too many organizations, you fail to attach images for higher visibility. Twitter is the one social network where the greater fault seems to be posting too infrequently instead of too frequently. The key to avoid being spammy on Twitter is not to post less. It is to make certain that your posts are not bundled t0o closely together and that they are not annoyingly repetitive. Other than that, I would suggest at least once an hour, and preferably once every 30 minutes.
@JohnHornbeck1 Thanks John. I think tweeting frequency is something that you have to toy around with a lot to find your sweet spot with your audience. You're right, with the speed that Twitter moves at it's easy to get your messages buried in the noise. The "While you were away" feature is helping out with that a little bit.
My wife and I own a small restaurant in a suburb of Chicago. We are trying to figure out ways to market our place with a small budget. Free would even be better. Which social marketing tools would you recommend to us with this in mind?
@bart johnson Don't underestimate the value of offline techniques. Getting out in the community and getting your faces known is powerful, particularly when you're on a small budget.
As far as social media, I'd take advantage of some of the more advanced features of Twitter. For instance, you can find people who are tweeting locally, which could be powerful in a city like Chicago. Here's an article with more info on that:
Thanks for reading!
Hey Dominique, this is really god list of tips on how to optimize your social media. I would also emphasize to have in mind a building of community, and strengthen them... and not capitalize them immediately.
On of your pics are not working...
@Jacob_MarketingFYIcom Thanks Jacob! You're right, community building is crucial when it comes to social media. Growing an audience of loyal followers gives you an army of people that voluntarily promote your account and content. But just like you said, the key is to strengthen them and not exploit them.