The majority of online activity emanates from search.  Marketers long ago realized they had to take steps to ”optimize” their website content accordingly.  Through the use of tagging, keywords, descriptions, inbound links, and various other metadata, they positioned their content to be easily found by those searching for it.  They built a bridge if you will from their content through the vast World Wide Web to a person searching for the answers their content could provide.  Now as the internet goes social, marketers are learning they must apply new concepts to their content; they must build new bridges in the form of social media optimization strategies.

What is social media optimization?

If you think of the social web as a battleground where winning attention and influence is the goal, then think of SMO as your supply lines.

These bridges are providing a direct path to your content supplying you with the viewers you need to ultimately become your prospects and customers.  It goes without saying that you would like to gain as many prospects and customers as possible, so building as many bridges as you are capable of becomes imperative to success. With the right strategies, Social Media Optimization makes building thousands of these bridges easy.

According to a Nielsen study, 18% of all searches for content begin on social media sites such as Wikipedia, blogs, and social networks, reflecting the need to optimize your content to reach these social outlets.  While traditional SEO tactics certainly will build you a few bridges, if you want to reach a broader audience of visitors who are actively engaged with your content, SMO is a necessary extension.

SEO + SMO = improved discover-ability of content on the traditional and social Web

In basic terms, SMO is the sharing and influencing of content to reach the greatest possible amount of people.  There are infinite ways readers can view your content and optimizing it properly makes sure it is available where your audience wants to see and share it.  The better optimized the content, the more likely it is to appear when needed, and consequently, the more attention you will receive.  SMO allows the masses to take part in the optimization and spreading of your content through tactics such as sharing, commenting, tagging, etc.

A few best practices to get you started:

Create well written and relevant content:
Good content is more likely to be read and spread through the social web.  Creating content just to create content will not result in a successful strategy.

Make sharing, bookmarking and interacting easy:
Content that is easily shared spreads faster, because you allow the crowd to build bridges to your content for you.  Sharing also increases links back to your content, which inevitably increases your relevancy and credibility to audiences and search engines alike.

Also consider integration of Facebook and Twitter with one click “liking” and “tweeting” (eg: Techcrunch.com). Facebook liking, is the easiest way for a reader to interact with your content, even that simple interaction spreads through their news feeds and thus their networks, bringing your content more visibility.  Integration of social networks for signing in is also relevant here, creating an account to leave a comment is sometimes off-putting, but easy integration with a viewer’s Facebook, Google, or yahoo account means viewers can skip a long sign on process and move right to interacting with your content.(Eg: mashable.com which utilizes DISQUS to allow you to login via Facebook, Twitter,Yahoo, and more when commenting)

Utilize keywords:
Include relevant keywords within your content, similar to how you would on a webpage. Think about words that your target audience would type into Google to find your topics.  Also remember to include these keywords in your meta-data, content tags, and titles, all of which alert search engines about how best to categorize your content so they can surface it when relevant.

Tag your work:
Tagging helps to further categorize your content, building a bridge between your content and similar posts, to direct your readers to other relevant content, like on sites similar to YouTube and Social Media Today who pull similar content based on the particular piece of content a user is viewing.  This allows your work to feed off of the attention of other relevant content and vice versa.

The perfect social media optimization strategy is directly dependent upon your industry, the social platforms you are using, the type of content you are creating, and of course your specific business objectives, the above suggestions are a few basic things to consider to help get you started.  Have a specific social media optimization question? Post it below, we would be happy to help respond back with some specific responses.