social media optimization
Similar to Search Engine Optimization, a practice which seeks to increase the likelihood that people will find your site through search engines, SMO seeks to increase the probability that people will pass along your message, product or website through online social networks. SMO is often used synonymously with the larger practice of Social Media Marketing, which refers to the overall strategy of marketing through social media. "Optimization" refers to making your site more linkable and your content easy to pass along, and "Marketing" includes not just optimization, but actively participating in social media to spread the word. A Jupiter Research study released in March of 2007 found that 48% of brand marketers intend to use mySpace as a marketing channel in 2007. The most common tactic will be to set up a profile page, with the hope of building a network of "friends" who will become "brand advocates" and who will influence their own friends. This influx of marketing profiles will increase the already high level of noise in the space, making it more difficult to get noticed. Musicians already know this. In response to the huge number of friend requests users receive from bands trying to be heard, mySpace provided users the ability to prohibit requests from artists. As people feel increasingly besieged by others who seem to have ulterior motives, they filter friend requests the same way they do spam.
Social networking takes constant work, and just setting up a profile page is not enough. You have to find a particular niche where you can provide something valuable, you need to actively engage with people in a way that shows a genuine interest, and you must regularly attempt to identify and connect with new people who might be interested in what you have to say. Social networks, cliques, and niches have unwritten norms of behavior and rules of engagement which are constantly evolving. In order to understand these, you have to be an observer for a while before trying to join in. Once you do join in, you have to contribute more than you ask. The problem with using social networks for a particular purpose, of course, is the very fact that you are 'using' them, rather than simply being social. One has to think of ways they can use you as well. One example of a mutually beneficial mySpace relationships between an organization and its audience is The Scottish Ballet. Not only does the ballet's profile allow it to engage a new generation of potential ticket buyers on mySpace, it provides a glamorous place them to be seen, for free. This is especially effective for young dancers and other seekers of stardom. It is a perfect match, and the Ballet shows a true interest in its friends. On its profile page, It offers first glimpses of its upcoming productions, and interviews with dancers, along with other things its friends are likely to find truly valuable. In its printed programs, it exhibits a full-page thank you note to its mySpace friends, complete with a mosaic of their photos. What many people new to mySpace fail to understand at first is that it is all about the comments. Essentially, being someone's friend allows you to put your message on their page, and in fact, this is the only way to get noticed, because the 'friend' link to your profile will usually be buried deep in their collection of hundreds of other friends. Using comments to get noticed is a well-known tactic in the blogosphere, and those who use it successfully have learned that quality counts, and that it is about 'pull' not 'push'. Leaving an insightful or interesting comment on a blog post can bring traffic to your blog, leaving a thoughtless or transparently promotional one hurts your image.
Optimizing your content for content sharing Sites, such as youTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, and de.licio.us requires a bit of buzz marketing savvy. Your content has to be in a format that is easy to pass along. It has to be genuinely compelling, intriguing, surprising, interesting, or funny. You have to get it in front of the right people, and they need to get something out of passing it along: the social capital of being "in the know"; the enjoyment of surprising or entertaining their friends; the reinforcement of some part of their own identity or image, such as being cool, or being smart, or being concerned about an issue; or the feeling of being part of something greater and taking action in an important campaign. In order to get your content in front of the right people, you need to actively engage in the social networking features of social media Sites by seeking other users with similar interest and making connections.
Approaching Social Media with a purpose is tricky, but it's hard to ignore the success stories of bands and films becoming huge seemingly overnight. The simple fact is that you have to go where your audience is, and mySpace, Facebook, Bebo, and the many others launching as you read this, are where a rapidly increasing number of people spend their time, each with her own little, but highly connected, place to hang out. But these aren't places you can just broadcast your advertisement or post your flyer. You have to be their friend first. Of course, the best strategy is to attract people to you, to have something they want, and that you are willing to give away. But you have to be easy to find, easy to link to, and your content has to be compelling, and easy to pass along.