Why seven again? Alliteration my darlings. I’m sure I could chalk it full, but let’s start with the basics of SMO, social media optimization.
There’s a disturbing lot of nonsense flying around about check-ins, that they’re dying out, that they’re worthless, that services like Facebook Places are especially pointless. Ok, I may have to concede that one, I’m not a big Facebook Places person myself.
Check-ins aren’t, of course, the definitive component of social media optimization, but they have become a prominent case example of how a small hospitality business can increase its brand awareness in a very organic, word-of-mouth way. “Word of Mouth” itself is increasingly being used as reference point for social media adopting marketers who have moved from converts to strategists.
I personally prefer the example of a branded t-shirt or a shopping bag. These visual reference points “advertise” our actual purchase decisions. The same cache which appealed to Midwestern prep school kids in Abercrombie & Fitch’s moose, appeals to check-in elitists today who covet being “seen” checking-in at the hottest club, most exclusive restaurant or hipsterist brunch. For more about how check-ins can optimize content see my post on AOL and the HuffPo.
SMO is really easy. It’s about driving traffic to your site through social media. You spend a lot of time creating that content for your site, so you want to maximize it’s potential. Remember: You can be the greatest singer in the world, but if no one hears you, you’ll never make it out of the shower. WordPress has an autopush for bloggers, but I also recommend TwitterFeed, which allows you to keep a constant push of both blogposts and comments from any RSS feed. (Comments usually have a separate RSS feed.) TwitterFeed pushes to both Twitter and Facebook.
1. Website Hub
Probably you already have a website, or a maybe your “site” is your blog. If you don’t, make one. For SEO purposes having a unique domain name ($10 a year at GoDaddy.com) helps you push all your traffic to one unique source. It’s also useful if you suddenly want to “go dark”. You can unpoint the URLs suddenly making your website disappear. A couple free options for private sites or social network hubs are “About Me”, http://flavors.me and http://www.wix.com.
Totally obvious way to make sure your content is shared is to pop buttons on your pages. Ok, so first we have the individual codes:
- LinkedIn’s Share button: http://www.linkedin.com/publishers (just insert the URL in the code and recopy)
- Facebook’s Like button: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like (have to make a new one for each post)
- http://help.tweetmeme.com/2009/04/06/tweetmeme-button/ (just insert URL in each link)
These are all a pain because they have to be pasted into every article or post you put out. Each code set. I actually do this, every time I post news content on my company’s antiquated site. (Yes, they’re aware.) A better buttoning option is either to have a multiple share button, or a share bar.
- Add Any share button: http://www.addtoany.com/buttons/ (lets you customize which social sites it shows)
- Share This: http://sharethis.com/ (my fave! shows the services your users most frequently share with!)
- Hootsuite Share Bar: http://blog.hootsuite.com/htly-owly/ (if you’re a big Hooter this is great for analytics on links!)
- Wibiya Bar: http://www.wibiya.com/ (use this on my Tumblr. very customizable and simple to update!)
3. Choose Correct Social Sites
Of course your fans aren’t going to be the only ones doing the sharing. You need to be out there too! I’m sure some famous person said this, “Go to the people!” This is why I think PR people are really best at social media. Choosing which platforms to be on is about finding out where your community is and going to them. My community’s Facebook page is weak right now, because it’s not where they feel comfortable discussing topics. They love forums though! They also love LinkedIn and keeping their own blogs. You have to do some research and find out where your audience is already congregating. Or where would have the resources they need. For “news” Twitter is great, but for reference heavy content, blogs and websites are better.
Once you have your “hub and spokes” (Edelman) ready to go, it’s time to send out the messages. Everything you put up *can* be pushed out, but not necessarily. You want to optimize the way you share to drive traffic or some “action”. If you’re looking to get followers on Twitter, you need to offer fresh content everyday, like specialized or super current news, incentives, like free stuff or deals, or entertainment, like nonsensical tweets about your insane life.
The purpose of this article is to address sharing content though, so “news” is your content. If you’re trying to get people to read it, you may resort to tactics known as “link baiting”, making up headlines that sound like the Inquirer. You can report articles on your other blog/sites, “cross-posting” it’s called, or on Facebook, or send them out via the “hidden social network, email! If you’re posting on LinkedIn or Twitter though, or leaving comments in forums (hint hint), you need to think of the magazine style of posting. Have short catchy titles and small grabbing bits of copy which make readers want to open “magazine”. Some people also call this linkbaiting. I call it “copywriting”.
There was a recent study which I’m not going to try to dig for for you, sorry, which said links on Twitter which are not shortened are actually clicked more often than links which are. The reason being most computers don’t let you hover over a shortlink to see the URL, and most people don’t trust the shortened links. When you have long links though, and most of us do, there really isn’t another choice.
Hootsuite’s shortener is my favorite as a Community Manager, because it keeps analytic tags on all your links which you can use to see what content is getting the most clicks. Tweetdeck will automatically shorten your links and you can tie it to Bit.ly. Bit.ly also gives you a login so you can go back and see the analytics for your links, say how many clicks per week aggregate and individual link clicks. You can even see how many clicks a link is getting for overall shorteners compared to your own. This is great for comparing if your “linkbait” or copyline in your tweet is appealing to clickers.
Links which have photos are more likely to be clicked on. Photos are more likely to rank in Google. The percentage of tweets with video is skyrocketing and the TwitPic App just added video to compete with Yfrog. Users spend almost as many minutes on Youtube as they do watching TV or streaming video. People not only have increasingly short attention spans higher standards for content, content providers are competing with an SEO driven overload.
No article should ever be without a picture. WordPress’s iPad layout, Facebook, and LinkedIn all pull the “top photo” in the article to feature. Video will make your site dynamic and keep boring people (because boring people get bored) entertained. And yes I just dropped the iPad. (My iPad2 courtesy of my company is due in a week.) It’s hard to read content on a phone so video is great for mobile, and for people at work who can be listening while they do another task. Photos look amazing on the iPad. Don’t ignore audio files or music. Just don’t over do it or your slow loading web page will lose my attention!
7. Share Friendly Copy
Snipey tags or snipey remarks may get clicks, but they might not be the best for sharing. Make sure your content isn’t going to say lose your agency their Fortune 500 client. You have three goals in SMO:
- To get people to read your content, on your site.
- To get people to comment and discuss on your content.
- To get people to reshare your content.
Resharing can mean “share this” on a Facebook post or LinkedIn, or retweeting. It can mean they visit your site and then use your share button. When they retweet your exact words pop up in their stream, but when they share from your site they can write whatever taglines they want. Be clever, but keep in mind polarizing statements spark as many negative feelings as they do positive.
When you tag, use highly used tags. For Twitter, you can search “What the Hashtag?” or do a Bing search of hashtags to find out which are in common use. Be careful, you might pick a hashtag with a double meaning! You can also search WordPress for common tags. For other sites, use Google Analytics which has keyword suggestions for your site. Google Analytics will rank these hashtags. (For more on SEO, my other post.) Tag EVERYTHING. Photos, videos, posts, whatever. Keyword stuff your copy. Think of each social networking site like a miniweb, with a mini world of people. Learn their native language. Find out what they like and how they interact. Optimize your content for their individual world, and then reel them back to your homepage.
Bonus: Make *Good* Friends
We know social networking is about “friends”, but to emphasize this in SMO, make good friends, the kind who like to share and will share your content. This will be the subject of my next post, and I’ll relate my personal experiences in both networking through social sites and in promoting my company’s work and community by leveraging “super sharers”.