The 18 Rules of Social Media Optimization

by on April 19th, 2011

In today’s social media driven world, just having good content is not sufficient to bring more traffic to your blog, and gain popularity in the blogosphere. Expanding your presence in the online space entails efforts towards making your content  more social media friendly, so your articles get picked by search engines, get shared by people across social networks, and your site gains more traction online.

Rohit Bhargava,the founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, the world’s largest global network of social media strategists; and author of the bestselling marketing book Personality Not Included, first coined the term Social Media Optimization (SMO) in his blog Influential Marketing. Rohit laid out these 5 rules of SMO:

  1. Increase your linkability
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy
  3. Reward inbound links
  4. Help your content travel
  5. Encourage the mashup

Jeremiah Owyang , who is a partner of Customer Strategy at Altimeter Group, a research based advisory firm and a former Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, added two more points to the list on his blog Web Strategy

6. Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you
7. Reward helpful and valuable users

Cameron Olthuis of Pronet Advertising suggested some more points

8. Participate
9. Know how to target your audience
10.Create content
11. Be real

Loren Baker came up with 2 more points on his blog Search Engine Journal

12. Don’t forget your roots, be humble
13. Don’t be afraid to try new things

Lee Odden stated 4 additional points on his blog TopRank completing the list with 16 rules of Social Media Optimization.

14. Develop a SMO strategy
15.Choose your SMO tactics wisely
16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices

Let’s look into these 16 rules and see how they can help us gain an edge in the social media space.

1. Making your blog more Linkable and Active

How often do you update your posts with fresh information and new insights? Your old blog posts can be reused by updating them with latest trends and developments. So, you create loads of interesting stuff without spending lot of time in creating fresh content from scratch. This allows people who have missed the post previously, have a chance to read it again with some latest updates and makes your site more active so people visit it often to gather some refreshing information.

Other ways to make your blog more linkable as suggested by Rohit would be to aggregate content that exists elsewhere in a format that adds more value to the content and lets readers have access to comprehensive content in one place, instead of them having to search for it on multiple sources. But, be careful when it comes to aggregation, and understand that it’s not the same as copying someone else’s content and posting it on your blog.

Here are some good examples for aggregating content:

Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop blog HolyKaw does a great job in aggregating content. The site has lot of interesting articles collected from a wide range of sources. In the articles, title is modified from its original title on the actual source, and a brief introduction is provided (the intro is original written by Alltop authors in their own words), followed by a link to the source of the original article.  This retains the credit to the original author, while letting people have access to a variety of interesting content in one place.

Rohit Bhargava’s Influential Marketing blog itself is a great example for some good content aggregation. In his blog on “5 Rules of Social Media Optimization”, Rohit has provided links to the updates made on the list of “Social Media Optimisation Rules” by other blogs, keeping the readers up-to-date with latest information. This simple step enhances the blog value to a great extent.

2. Use Bookmarking tools to increase interaction

People are more likely to share your content if you make it easy for them to share it on social bookmarking sites like Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg; and like your posts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, by adding “ Share this”, “ Like” and “ Follow us” widgets on the site. This, along with the comments section would make your blog more interactive, and encourage interesting conversations from the readers. But, having a share widget does not guarantee your content getting shared unless it is share-worthy so make sure the content quality is taken care of.

3. Encourage Inbound Linking

Search Engines rank pages based on their link popularity. Link Popularity is dependent on the number of inbound links that point to your website. Inbound links also bring more traffic to your site. You can encourage more inbound links on your site through permalinks and trackbacks.

A permalink is a permanent link to a blog post that allows for linking directly to the content even after it has moved from the front page to the archives. This way your content continues to be available for linking indefinitely. Trackbacks display recently linked blogs and reward those who link to you, by helping them gain more visibility on your site.

4. Circulate your Content Online

Do you have portable content like ebooks, podcasts and videos on your site? Submitting these to directories and other sites can help you gain more visibility online and drive more traffic to your site from those sites.

Have some great posts on your site? Why not create an ebook that discusses these topics in detail. Once you have compiled your work, you can add links to your site in appropriate places and distribute the book in free eBook directories like Project Gutenberg and eBook Freeway, or share it on online forums and blogs. Same applies to podcasts and videos that you can circulate in iTunes podcast directory and YouTube.

5. Allow  Mashup(Web Application Hybrid)

In web development, a web application hybrid refers to allowing others to reuse your content. It is a web application that combines ideas coming from two or more external page sources and creates a new page. “Websites must allow Mashup as this provides access to highly informative content on their site”, says Rohit in his blog.  Mashup brings your content before a whole new set of audience. Mashup provide back links to the original site of the content and this increases your total search rank value calculated by search engines.

6. Be a Valuable Resource

With blogosphere growing at such a fast pace, the blogs that would survive and continue to flourish are the ones that provide valuable information to the readers. If you put in all your efforts into helping your readers, then your blog would remain a first choice even when your readers have so many other options to choose from. If providing a link to an external site adds up to your content, then don’t hesitate to do that. You stand to gain as the ultimate source of information and your users would appreciate that extra effort from your side.

7. Reward your users

Your readers are like a marketing army that would promote your products and make your site popular.  There is a vast potential in the community you serve, and your community members are the ones who play a major role in spreading your message across the social media space. How often do you reward your users and express your gratitude for their kind gesture The more you make your readers feel good about being part of your community, the more they would volunteer to help you promote your site, making the whole process of social media marketing an effortless task for you.

8. Converse to Connect

Social media is not just about broadcasting your views and ideas. It’s a communication channel where listening is as significant as speaking. Do you reply to your of your reader’s comments? Do you intently listen to what they are saying? Do you engage in interesting conversations with your followers?  Conversations are the lifeblood of social media, and without meaningful conversations happening on your online page, you cannot expect your audience to support you in spreading your messages and creating a buzz around your brand. In an interview with Wired magazine Seth Godin says “The people who are successful at building communities around their brand have one thing in common – they take action for the tribe and with the tribe as opposed to doing things to the tribe. There are plenty of people out there who have an agenda they want to achieve, but sometimes they get so caught up in themselves and the agenda, that they forget that they have to nurture the tribe if they want the tribe to follow them.”

9. Know your target audience

Do you know who your target audience are and what they like? It would be great to make everyone happy with your products and services. But not everyone in this world is interested in the same things. So, there is always going to be a set of people you would appeal to, and a set you people you don’t appeal to. If you are running an online store of gadgets and gizmos, then reach out to those who are passionate about technology, and if you own an online pet magazine, then target the community of pet lovers who would love to read about all pet related things. You can create your own niche social networks on Ning or join groups related to your field on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote your posts and understand your target audience better.

10. Create compelling content

Nothing can beat the potential of compelling content.  A well-written and informative article finds a way to spread socially. “You have to be sure your content is the best in its category. You can still make plenty of good money if you’re fourth best in a category, or ninth best, but if you really want to dominate the competition and make big bucks, you have got to be the best”, says

Gary Vaynerchuk,  a social media expert in his book Crush It!

Irrespective of what you write about you can make your blog interesting. Don’t think that‘s possible? Check out Southwest Airline’s  Nuts about Southwest blog  that discusses seemingly dull concept of aircrafts, airport infrastructure and data mining in an interesting way, keeping the readers engaged. So, add some interesting videos, bring out interesting facts, and share ideas of experts in your field and sprinkle some humor and creativity to create a compelling content.

11. Be ‘You’nique

With SMO, SEO and other things on your mind, it’s likely to get lost; following others who have made it big in the online space and forgetting the true essence blogging which is – speaking from your heart and being your true self. Readers can easily spot fakers, who are speaking about things they can hardly relate to and things they are not passionate about. It’s great to learn from experts and make use of social media tools like every blogger does, but it’s also important to discover your area of expertise and your area of interest. Your enthusiasm is something that would attract more followers and create a unique place for you in the vast online space.

12. Be humble and helpful

It’s easy to get carried away by your blogging success and start taking the idea of community building lightly. Don’t let success get to your head and ignore people who have helped you attain it. Be humble and continue to reply to the comments of your readers, solve the pressing problems of your customers and help people in every possible way you can. Success is fickle, but the community you build is something that stays with you forever.

13. Try new things

Follow the rules of social media diligently. But, don’t be rigid in your approach. Take risks and try approaching things from a new perspective that has never been tried before. When it comes to doing things in new ways, Seth Godin is the first person who comes to my mind. He is always doing things differently, be it his blog with posts that are only a little longer than tweets, his not so usual ideas and his constant quest to stand out.

14. Have a strategy for SMO

Have a set of goals for SMO and make plans to attain those goals. This helps you gauge your performance and know whether your strategy is working or not. Get your purpose clear by asking these and other questions:

Are you looking for more sales, creating brand awareness or improving customer interaction?

Which medium would be the best to reach out to your target audience? Is it blog, networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other platforms? Do you have a team that can perform all the social media tasks?

15. Choose your SMO tactics carefully

The impact of SMO depends on your actions. Keep this in mind while opting for different ways of social media optimization and choose the one that has maximum impact and helps your content reach out to larger group of people.

16.Make SMO  an essential routine activity

Make SMO a regular activity. Encourage your team members to take it into consideration by creating compelling content, including inbound links, rewarding users and using bookmarking tools and social networking sites to distribute the content across the social media.

Apart from these 16 rules here are 2 additional rules that you can use to further boost your social media optimization:

17. Make use of Online groups

LinkedIn groups, Yahoo groups, Facebook groups and Quora turn out to be amazing places to meet your target audience. These are the places where people are asking questions and looking for solutions.  By being active on these groups, you not only help people by providing solutions to their problems, but also get to promote your blog to your target crowd and generate more traffic to your site.

Apart from these 16 rules here are 2 additional rules that you can use to further boost your social media optimization:

18. Collaborate with other bloggers
I have seen several well-known bloggers work in collaboration with other successful bloggers, each helping the other by promoting their articles on social networking sites and sharing their knowledge and expertise. It’s a win-win situation that benefits all and helps bloggers generate some good traffic to their site, create long-lasting friendships with other bloggers and create a support system that they can rely on during tough times. Go ahead and reach out to the top bloggers in your niche, or join bloggers communities like Bloggers.com and BlogCatalog to connect with fellow bloggers you can collaborate with. Other way to collaborate is by guest posting on some of the other blogs in your niche and inviting other top bloggers to guest post on your blog. This not only establishes a mutually supportive relationship with other bloggers but also gives your blog more visibility, when it is read by an entirely new set of audience.

What other rules do you follow for social media optimization, apart from the aforementioned rules? Keep the list growing with your ideas and suggestions.

Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos, Salvatore Vuono

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