Social Media Optimization (SMO): Rules to Live By

December 18, 2006 by Lisa Oshima | Social Media

For those of you interested in using Social Media as a way to communicate to your customers, partners, etc., I recommend reading the following blog post by Rohit Bhargava, VP of Interactive Marketing for Ogilvy Public Relations.  Back in August, Rohit started an interesting conversation about Social Media Optimization (SMO), summarizing a series of rules for implementing a successful SMO strategy:

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

In time, Rohit linked to a few additional “rules,” for SMO, as offered by other bloggers.  Including:

6. Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you (Jeremiah Owyang)
7. Reward helpful and valuable users (Jeremiah Owyang)
8. Participate (Cameron Olthius)
9. Know how to target your audience: “If you don’t even know your target audience you are in trouble. I would love to have everyone using my product too, but you need to be realistic. There is always going to be a certain audience you can appeal to and others that you can’t. So know your appeal and who it is appealing to.” (Cameron Olthius)
10. Create content (Cameron Olthius)
11. Be real (Cameron Olthius)
12. Don’t forget your roots, be humble (Loren Baker)
13. Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh (Loren Baker)
14. Develop a SMO strategy (Lee Odden)
15. Choose your SMO tactics wisely (Lee Odden)
16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices (Lee Odden)

A couple of weeks after publishing his original post, he wrote:

At this point, I think it’s safe to say the term has grown beyond a point when I feel like I can (or should) be the gatekeeper to decide what the 17th rule should be or how this area evolves.  So, to that end, for those interesting in continuing the discussion and helping SMO to grow – here is my quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about SMO:

  • Post your thoughts on your own blog
  • Add a comment to the original SMO post on this blog
  • Add a comment to a relevant blog post about SMO (whether they mention it or not)
  • Tag any blog posts or online content about SMO with the tag “socialmediaoptimization
  • Update the Social Media Optimization page at the New PR Wiki
  • Translate the rules into more languages (apart from those already done)
  • Tell your colleagues (especially those outside online marketing) about SMO

I agree that SMO is an important topic of conversation, and while I don’t want to “own” the conversation either, I would like to add a new rule to the list – building a bit on rule 9:

17. Make your Social Media Optimization strategy targeted and multi-pronged.  Know your audience and customize marketing messages, making them relevant and compelling to the core groups of people you’re targeting (e.g. YouTube users, bloggers, social networkers, people interested in specific topics, etc).

In my view, one of the most important parts of implementing a successful social media optimization strategy is not just knowing your target audience but making marketing messages to your different target audiences relevant.  I advocate using social media to articulate marketing messages in a slightly different way to different target groups – ensuring that the message a prospective customer received is tailored to their specific needs/interests.  From a customer’s perspective the best “sell” is a “soft sell” – one that makes them excited to buy a particular product/service rather than one that makes them feel “forced” to buy it.  In other words, people want to buy products because they actually want them, not because they’re told they want them.

The companies who participate in Second Life (as discussed in my blog on December 7, 2006) are doing something right.  They’re making their message relevant to a specific group of people with a particular interest.  These advertisers are offering Second Lifers something that is relevant to/ enhances one’s “second life”.  I recommend that companies take a similar approach to other marketing via other social media avenues.  So, for example, if you’re trying to attract YouTube users to purchase your product, talk about why your product is relevant to YouTube… If you make a mobile phone, place a targeted ad on the site that emphasizes about how easy and fun it is to watch YouTube using X, Y, or Z model of phone.  If you’re selling Mentos or Diet Coke, plug the YouTube videos that feature your product.

When you’re building an SMO strategy, take a more targeted approach by:

  • Customizing your ads, making them relevant to different target groups
  • Writing blogs and posting relevant track backs / comments in high-traffic blogs that point out the positive aspects of your products
  • Participating in popular social networking sites and “making friends”, etc.

In other words, don’t just know who your target audience is, but make your messages more relevant to each of the target audiences that you expect will read/watch/hear them.  Because product evangelism through social media can be done inexpensively (or, in some cases, for free), it is possible to execute a multi-pronged approach that is more relevant to target prospective customers than more conventional forms of advertising.  The goal should be to develop a multi-pronged SMO strategy that is more relevant/ compelling/ convincing to groups of target customers with different interest, with the aim of increasing the probability that marketing messages “speak to” different groups in different ways and therefore improve customer acquisition and result in increased sales.

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