Sure, I know what you're thinking: Yet another annoying web acronym I'm supposed to master. Just when small business owners were gaining confidence and traction with search engine optimization, or SEO, along comes this explosive social media "thing" that's making it all even more complicated than it was before.
Do small businesses really need to know about this stuff? Can social media help me attract customers, keep the ones I have and make more money? Will social media be even more important in the future?
Good questions. And the answers are Yes, Yes and Yes. SEO services are vital for biz owners who want to show up in search engine results. SMO -- or "social media optimization" -- is vital if you want your business and your business website to show up on social media radar. SMO isn't technically new since some web marketing geeks have been talking about it for several years already. But with social media usage -- and the "big three" in particular (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) -- skyrocketing, businesses that don't join in risk being left behind.
Basically, SMO is the process of making changes to your business website in order to make it more visible in social media and in social media searches that take place on specialized social media sites and search engines.
Here are four things you should know about social media optimization:
- Make your business website your own social media and brand central. This requires thinking about your website and your overall online presence in different ways. Instead of merely conveying basics about your business products and services, turn your site into the internet hub for everything related to your business or brand. For example, make it easy for customers to connect to your site from Facebook. Open a Twitter account and add your Twitter stream to your site as well. If you have videos, post them on YouTube and connect to those as well.
- Create content that's shareable, and make it easy for people to share. Shareable content means good content. The better, more useful or entertaining it is, the more people will want to share it with others. Unique content is a valuable currency that you can use to promote your business. Top shareable content includes tips, lists and how-to guides (with great headlines!), as well as eye-grabbing photos. Tweet about your content. Blog about it too. Make PowerPoint slides of your content and post them on sites such as Scribd.com. Add buttons that let visitors "Like" your content on Facebook or share it on StumbleUpon.
- Offer participation rewards: In the world of social media, "engagement" is the one thing that matters the most. Customers and prospects you visit your site, leave comments, "friend" you on Facebook, follow your Tweets and share your content are the gold standard. Engagement is behavior you want to reward. You can do this by responding quickly to engaged customers, and offering special deals, information or perks.
- Focus and magnify your efforts with a social media dashboard. Part of optimizing your own website for social media includes participating in social media sites yourself which means you need, at a minimum, a Facebook page, Twitter account and probably a blog as well. To avoid social media overload, and make managing all this simple, try using a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite.com. This easy-to-use service lets you update multiple networks in one step, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress (a free blogging platform) and others. You can track results, monitor mentions, schedule future updates and manage multiple contributors, among other things. Dashboard services make social media easier to handle and less time consuming, so you can stay active and engaged.