What Is Social Media Optimization (SMO)? A Guide for Content Marketers

What Is Social Media Optimization

6 minute read

All brands likely want a captivated and devout social media following. Why wouldn’t they? It’s a low-cost way to increase brand awareness and market products. But growing such a social media following isn’t easy. And it’s not enough to simply be present on a platform. That’s where social media optimization (SMO) comes in. It’s the way to get more engagement to subsequently increase your business’s reach.

According to a report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, there are 3.499 billion active social media users worldwide. You have the opportunity to reach active users, but you need to optimize your social media in order to do it. We’ll explain what social media optimization (SMO) is and how it relates to search engine optimization, offer some SMO tips, and share some examples of B2B companies that are killing it on social.

What Is Social Media Optimization?

SMO involves finding out what content performs well for your company on social platforms and repeating that success. Easier said than done. To do this, you’ll figure out what content your audience is looking for, see where you fit in the social media sphere, and finally, execute (and then reassess) your strategy. You may recognize that it’s a similar process to optimizing for search engines (SEO). The big similarity? The goal of getting your content in front of more people.

The Connection Between Social Media and Search

It’s easy to think that all you need to perform well in search is a fast site with comprehensive content and relevant meta tags. However, Google’s algorithms take many signals into account, and performance on social media is one such signal. Performance on social media and things like number of followers and level of engagement can be positive signals for Google. Basically, if your social media is optimized, you’re likely to perform better in search as well.If your social media is optimized, you’re likely to perform better in search as well Click To Tweet

Not only that, but if you do a search for an individual or company, social media profiles can appear on the first results page. For example, if you search for “Salesforce,” you’ll see links to the company’s Wikipedia page and Twitter profile right below the main company website.

Social In Search Example

Source: Google search conducted on 12/09/2019

According to a study from Ascend2, 50% of companies that struggle with SEO are also not integrating social media marketing. But ensuring that SEO and social work together is non-trivial. Teams need to work side-by-side with the understanding that search engine optimization and social media optimization techniques go hand-in-hand.

Improve Your Reach with These SMO Tips

There’s no doubt that social media optimization is important, but how can you go about optimizing your presence on social so that you improve your reach? Here are a few SMO tips that might help.

Choose the right platform(s) for your audience

Where do your prospects and customers hang out when they’re online? In their personal lives, they might take to Pinterest or Facebook. However, when they’re using social media for work, they’re more likely to be found on sites like LinkedIn or Stack Exchange. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute found that 66% of marketers rated LinkedIn as the most effective B2B social media platform.

When you’re optimizing your social media efforts, you don’t need to be on every site. But you do need to choose the right platforms for your audience, then double down on your efforts and optimize your presence in those areas.

Encourage employees to share

Social media is successful because it gives people a social outlet on the internet. But social media isn’t just for fun – 67% of people use social media for work, according to a survey by Bambu by Sprout Social. Additionally, people are more likely to connect with people they already know than with brands. In fact, people are 16 times more likely to read a post about a brand from a friend than from the brand itself.

That’s why it’s essential to encourage employees to share branded content on social. To optimize your company’s social media presence, create an organized employee advocacy program and adopt sharing tools that make it easy for employees to spread the word.

Leverage visual content

Visual content catches the eye as a user is scrolling through their social feed. The more you can incorporate visual content into your strategy, the better. This is obviously true on image-heavy platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, but it’s also true on more B2B-friendly channels such as Twitter. According to a study by Buffer, Tweets that have images get 18% more clicks, 89% more likes, and 150% more retweets.

Tweets With Images Stats

Data source: Buffer.com

The more you can incorporate visual content, the more optimized your social media strategy can be. And, to help make sure your images perform well in Google Image Search, make sure you’re being deliberate about how you title and tag them.

One social media optimization example is to post user-generated content, which is how Adobe optimizes their Instagram account. Adobe shows off content created by their users that engages customers and followers.

Visual Content Example

Have a youtube presence

Video creation is a boatload of work, but it has big payoffs, especially if you’re on YouTube. That’s because YouTube is owned by Google, and Google often serves up videos in their search results. For example, if you search “how to edit a photo using Photoshop,” you’ll see three video results before you even see most of the articles. Use it to your advantage because, believe it or not, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, right behind Google.

Youtube Presence Example

Your videos don’t have to be fancy. You can create videos that answer questions about your product or record footage from an event or conference. Having a YouTube presence can go a long way toward optimizing your social media presence for search.

Use hashtags, but don’t overuse

Hashtags can help increase discoverability. For example, Instagram posts with a hashtag can expect to see 12.6% more engagement than a post with no hashtags. But no one wants to stumble on a post that is jammed with hashtags. This takes away the authentic feel of a post.

So, how many hashtags should you use? Well, it depends on the platform. On Twitter and Facebook, it’s been found that one or two hashtags is enough. Using more is linked to a decrease in engagement. On Instagram, using less than 10 is a good rule to follow.

5 Steps to Social Media Optimization

In order to optimize your social media channels, you need to come up with a social media optimization plan and then execute on it. If you follow these five steps, you’ll likely be on your way to an optimized social media presence that plays nice with search.

1. Analyze your audience

As mentioned above, you’ll need to choose the right platforms to focus on, and these should be the ones your audience uses most often. In this step, your goal is to find what social media platforms your audience uses and where they want you to be.

It’s also a good idea to check current social media engagement. Which channels currently perform best? Some may see a fair amount of engagement, while others send a lot of traffic directly to your site.

2. Perform competitive analysis

The next step is to perform a competitive analysis. You want to figure out how you stack up against the competition. How much social media engagement do you see vs. them? What types of social content are working (or not working) for your competitors or other industry leaders?

To do this, you can use the Content Exploration Tool inside of your Alexa Advanced Account. Input the websites of competitors into the Content Exploration tool to see which of their articles get the highest engagement.

Competitive Analysis

You can also perform a content gap analysis on your social media sites to see which topics are not getting attention.

3. Build a strategy based on findings

Once you understand your audience, as well as gain some insight into the competition, it’s time to build a clearly defined strategy to help you reach your goals. A strategy is a keystone of social media optimization, but 28% of businesses have said that a lack of strategy is a top barrier from becoming a social business, according to an MIT Sloan Management Review business study.

4. Execute on that strategy

A strategy is nothing without execution. A strategy is executed by a team, and SEO leaders and content marketers need to work closely beside social media and community managers to make the vision a reality. Because social media optimization is so closely aligned with search engine optimization, these teams need to work together towards the same goals, and make sure the message is similar on every channel. When a brand posts on Instagram, they can direct followers to a blog post or an in-depth guide if they want more information.

5. Analyze results and adjust accordingly

Once the strategy has been executed on, results should be analyzed and adjustments should be made. In your initial strategy, outline how often you’ll check in on the results. That way, you won’t find yourself guessing when the right time is to weigh in.

Social Media Optimization Tools

You’ll need the right social media optimization tools to help make this a reality. Thankfully, there are a number of tools out there that can help you on your social media optimization journey. Here are a few that might be able to help.

Optimizing Your Brand on Social Media

Social media optimization is an essential pillar of any sound marketing strategy. Social is not a separate, siloed area. It’s closely tied to search results, and there’s much you can do to optimize your channels for better results. If you’re curious about what content will help you optimize your brand on social, you can turn to Alexa’s Content Exploration tool — try it free for 14 days as part of our Advanced Plan.


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