Social Media Marketing & Optimization
Wouldn’t it be great if your articles could be found easily with search engines like Google, Yahoo! or MSN? That’s not always the case. In fact, being found is about the biggest challenge any ‘blogger is going to face. But, there are ways around this problem, which is itself a way around the search engines…
In this featured article, I’ll be outlining SMO & SMM tips, tricks and tactics you can put to use on your ‘blog and get yourself known.
1. What is SMO & SMM?
Let’s start by getting the terminology out of the way; SMO stands for Social Media Optimization, while SMM stands for Social Media Marketing. SMM is about making your content more appealing to the likes of Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Reddit et cetera.
1.1. SMO explained
Social Media Optimization is about making your articles ready for websites like Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Reddit and more. Typically, this is about including things like buttons in the footer of your articles, which will allow your visitors to more easily submit your articles to those Social Media venues mentioned previously.
1.2. SMM explained
Among other things, Social Media is about sharing the things you find with other people, family, friends and colleagues. Here, people can potentially find your articles, share them with friends and colleagues, vote on your articles, comment, or subscribe to your ‘blog via something like an RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed or by email.
Done right, a structured Social Media Marketing campaign can help your articles become vehicles to increased traffic to your ‘blog or website, without relying on traffic from the search engines.
1.3. Social Media & Social Networks
Key to the success of your articles is getting other people to participate.
If you’re looking to share websites and ‘blogs with people, then StumbleUpon, Digg, del.icio.us, Reddit, Slashdot, Sphinn, Furl and Ma.gnolia are the places to be. They’re all free to join and pretty simple to sign up to. These social media portals let you share websites and ‘blogs with people, as well as comment, review and vote on them.
But if you’re wanting to meet people and become part of a community, then StumbleUpon and Facebook are good places to begin, while Ecademy is ideal for businesses. Additionally, these social networks offer you the option to share websites and ‘blogs with people, as well as comment, review and vote on them, too.
Alternatively, there are micro-blogging platforms like Pownce, Twitter and Jaiku, which would help you keep in contact with the friends you’re going to make on the web. Put simply, micro-blogging is a way of posting simple, short messages to friends, which can include links, files, and events among other things. These services are free to join, too. However, some require an invitation to join, so ask around.
And finally, there’s also specialist forums, which are often ideal for sharing ideas and finding solutions to common problems. These are mostly free to join, but some tend to require fees to access additional services, such as email, storage et cetera.
1.4. Search Optimization & Marketing working with Social Media Optimization & Marketing
However, I’m not condoning you abandon the search engines all together. SEO & SEM and SMO & SMM can quite happily coexist side by side. In fact, they get along really, really well together!
To get the very best out of your ‘blog, you need to work to a structured plan. But first, you’ll probably need to get your ‘blog search engine optimized, which will form the foundations of any success your ‘blog is likely to enjoy.
1.4.1. Use “Linkbait”
Sometimes, a great article is a simple article. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a simple numbered list of items that highlight something no one else knew at the time.
At the beginning of 2007, I wrote an article which was a transcript of a Podcast, highlighting 15 things about Adobe Apollo, which is now called Air. This one article attracted the interest of a writer an technology ‘blogger for ZDnet, who managed to throw a lot of traffic my way.
The key Linkbait ingredients were:
- A numbered list of new, interesting information — I offered up something no one else knew about at the time.
- A simple title which featured the “[n] things…” format, which tends to work well.
- The article was brief and easy to read.
- The article was timely and topical.
There are other factors involved in creating strong Linkbait, such being an active social networker.
1.4.2. Syndicate your content via RSS, email
Most modern ‘blogging platforms like WordPress, Google’s Blogger, Movable Type et cetera support RSS feed (depending on who you speak to either stands for: Rich Site Summary or: Really Simple Syndication) which is a method of collecting all of your content into a type of file that other people can subscribe to and read through software other than their web browser.
Similarly, if you’re using a feed service like Google’s FeedBurner, you can allow people to subscribe to your content via email instead.
Speaking of FeedBurner, by using such a service, you have at your disposal various methods of managing and tracking the number of people subscribing to your ‘blog.
For the serious ‘blogger, this kind of service is essential — the people who subscribe to your ‘blog are those that value your content the most. And it’s those people who are the most likely to submit your articles to Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon et cetera.
Additionally, the number of subscribers to your ‘blog is a metric — a means of measuring the value or success of your ‘blog, much in the same way as the amount of visitors you receive.
1.4.3. Reward those that link to you
As your recognition grows, you’re going to get links coming in from new people. It’s as well to recognize their kindness by thanking them.
When someone links to your content, it’s an indication that they trust your content enough to associate it with their own content.
This isn’t always the case, though. Sometimes you may get a link from someone who is criticizing you in some way.
However, if the website or ‘blog that is linking to you is visited by many people and ranks highly in the search engines, you and your article will gain extra trust and recognition.
So if you’re able to track those people down via a Social Network, a simple thanks would be a start!
Also, some people have a weekly or monthly round-up, whereby they discuss the week or month in review and give thanks to those that linked to them by linking back!
And if you’re going to link back, make sure you make that link count by using strong keywords, for example:
“And a warm thanks to Kate Carillo, marketing blogger and copywriter…”
Another example would be:
“With praise to David Bradley, science writer and ‘life hacking’ blogger…”
Notice those links? They’re to specific articles, not just the ‘blogs themselves.
Here’s an outline of what I see as the prerequisites of being a good social networker:
1.5. Be an active social networker
As a ‘blogger, you’ll have to decide on a topic or a group of topics you want to discuss and write about. You’ll have also noticed that there are probably others out there writing about the same things.
These guys aren’t your enemy, they’re probably your allies! Find out where they hang out, what ‘blogs they’re likely to be seen commenting. Also, look to the social media and social networking portals to meet people and share the things you find.
Whether you choose to write about a small, well-defined niche, or something larger is up to you. But it’s essential you establish who and what you’re up against — you don’t want to be a small fish in a big ocean, or a loud voice in an empty room.
However, it’s more than likely that you won’t be on your own. Actively seeking out those with similar interests, tastes, styles et cetera will put you in good stead.
The thing to remember is that everyone who’s ‘blogging probably wants to succeed in some way. By collaborating with those in your niche, you can build a strong social network of people who will often quite happily help promote your articles.
Your social network can be a great source of new information about issues related to your industry or niche — use this knowledge.
Additionally, being active in your social network can move you into the position of being an influencer, the kind of person that sets the agenda for others. In such situations, be generous towards those that influence you.
By giving someone a worthwhile, quality link in any article that you feel they have helped you in the writing of, you’re endorsing them as a person, which not only adds credibility to them among those in their social network, but the same credibility and recognition is seen by the search engines too, having an appropriate affect on their ranking.
1.6. Commenting on ‘blogs
When you comment on a ‘blog somewhere, you’re leaving a calling card. Through your comments, you say a little about yourself. How you comment — such as the tone and style — is as important as what you actually say.
Think of your comments as an extension of your personal “brand”, which is how you’re going differentiate yourself from the other guy commenting.
And managing your personal brand takes time and effort — just like in the real world, how you present yourself to people will influence their perception of you. So of the things you can control, control them wisely.
Also, on most ‘blogs, there’s the option to leave a link to your ‘blog. Some ‘blogs have house rules about what links you get to put in there.
For me personally, I nearly always leave a link to a related article of mine, which re-enforces either the article I’m commenting on, or my own comment. Some ‘blogs take exception to this practice, so make sure you check first.
In turn, people will inevitably comment on your ‘blog, and from time to time, those comments will become heated and angry. Here’s where you need to take a back step and plan your responses. Knowing how to manage bad comments is essential, and feeds back into your efforts to build a positive and consistent image of yourself.
But what happens to all of those comments out there? If you become a regular commenter, people will begin to click on those links, following you all the way back to your own ‘blog.
If you’re able to build a rapport with your fellow ‘bloggers, the chances are good that they will want to read your stuff, too.
Don’t be afraid to contradict someone, or tell them that they’re wrong. Again, a good approach is essential, but it’s all about providing demonstrable evidence of your knowledge and expertise to your peers.
But don’t forget to offer praise, too! Thanking someone for their time commenting on your ‘blog, or someone for a good article can only do good.
An additional benefit of all of those comments out there is that you’re increasing the chances of being seen by people and by the search engines.
1.7. Managing your social profiles
To establish a presence in any social network, you’re probably going to need to be a part of one website or another, such as Pownce, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon et cetera. Here is where you create for yourself a personal social profile, detailing those things about you that you feel matter.
Managing your personal social profile will inevitably include sharing some information about yourself with others. What information you choose to share is important.
In the same way you wouldn’t tell a complete stranger your home address or telephone number, you might not want to share with other those details on the likes of Facebook, for example.
“In less than five years the office Christmas party photos have gone from being printed at the local chemist and shown to everyone through being e-mailed and shared on the office servers all the way to being blogged and Facebooked.”
Is this the kind of thing you want potential or current employers, or even clients to see?
Additionally, there are more worrying repercussions, such as identity theft, which can be accomplished with some very simple details about yourself.
By choosing carefully what information you would prefer to share, with whom and where should be a prior consideration, not one after the fact. The search engines tend to have very long memories and what was once in plain sight but now hidden can be found again, retrieved from the cache of Google, or some other search engine.
A compliment often paid to me is the consistency of my presence on the web. I often use my full name as my username on various websites. I also use pictures of myself for my avatar.
Additionally, I use the same tag lines, type of message and style of dialogue wherever I happen to be.
Sameness can easily be seen as being boring, but look at how the likes of Sony, Apple, Nike or even how Jaguar and Audi manage their brands:
“Everyone is an individual in one way or another. And one of the goals of Personal Branding is to accentuate those unique, positive and luminous characteristics of yourself. In fact, truly unique personalities are in many respects like top marque car manufacturers.
So are you a Pinto or a Pontiac? Maybe an Austin Allegro or an Audi? Or are you a Reliant Robin or a Rolls Royce?”
By emulating the efforts of these guys, you’re adopting their carefully-crafted and well-funded branding efforts, which often cement them in their niche and help them stand above their competitors.
Think of your profiles as being adverts. From these adverts, you’re attempting to sell yourself, through which you will ultimately be selling your ideas, knowledge, experience and expertise — all of which resides on your ‘blog.
2. Beyond SMO & SMM
Once you’ve become familiar with the basics and make friends, you will begin the process of building your sphere of influence.
Being a major contributor to your field or industry is your ultimate goal. By stimulating debate and setting the agenda, you’ll be the one everyone is talking about — your thoughts and words will be the very thing people are sharing in their own Social Networks via the Social Media websites you’ve become so familiar with…