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November 16 2010

How to: The Art of Social Media Optimization- SMO - 101

After launching several products over the last few months, we’ve learned a lot about Digital Marketing; successes and failures alike.

This post will focus on learning Social Media Optimization, to acquire eye balls to your websites and increase conversations about your brand.

First, let’s be on the same page about traffic acquisition. Website owners can clearly define 3 common sources of traffic; we’ll exclude pure advertising (Banner Ads, Affiliate marketing...) because this doesn’t scale against techniques that will help you in the long run.

  1. Direct Traffic: People arriving to your site from bookmarks or by typing the site URL in a browser
  2. Search Engines: Searching for specific keywords on Google / Bing or others to find your website
  3. Referrers: Other websites linking to yours, such as blogs, forums...

Website traffic source-SMO

Looking closely at the third bucket, Referrers, we notice a paradigm switch where Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and others are becoming a more and more prominent traffic driver.

Social Networks vs SEO traffic - SMOImage credit: Gigya

In this new paradigm, Social Networks creates its own category.

We will go through 10 tips and tricks to increase your Social networks traffic and online conversations.


Website traffic sources - Social Media Optimization - SMO



Where to start?

SMO - about People and content

Social Media is about content and people. Forget about money for now and focus on common interests.

Social Media strategy has to be led by one team and executed by all in your team. Then you can find your internal champions to amplify your voice.

Below: 10 tips and tricks to enhance your Social Media Optimization.

1. Release your content.

Microsoft Hohm landing pageGive your new visitors a first taste prior to asking them to sign-off on their life. When we build a website, often the first reflex is to ask users to sign-up prior to doing anything on your website. Imagine what would happen if Amazon locked every product behind a sign-in. How many people come to Amazon for the first time, check for a review, then decide to come back later to buy and finally sign-in at this moment? It would have an immediate impact on Amazon’s traffic, as Search Engines wouldn’t be able to index the products or reviews… In fact, users wouldn’t be able to check the latest product review without having an account. Internet visitors are volatile. Today, it only takes a couple of seconds to switch to a different service if you’re no longer happy with the one you have; something we learn from Microsoft Hohm, a web solution that help people save money and energy. If the first version of a website asks users to sign-in right away prior to having an experience of the service, you can imagine the impact: Drop-off. If I hear about Hohm through Twitter, I would like to check it out and form my own opinion. Well, what would be your opinion about a product that asks you to immediately sign-in on the landing page without trying it first?

You can have the best product ever, however, if you ask people to give away prior to you giving awaHohmy, you’re gonna fail! Back to Hohm, a few months after the launch, we decided to enable a Hohm score (Energy Score) for every home in the US prior to sign-in. The switch impacted the traffic and Word-of-Mouth instantly. People were now able to check their home’s score, their friends’ homes, and share scores on their Social Networks to drive even more people to come and share again… here comes the nice virtuous circle of Social Networks.

Releasing your content will also enable Search Engines to index more content, which in turn, drives more organic searches, and allows people to share your website without being signed-in.


2. Have you heard Charticle, maybe Infographic

Charticle, commonly called Infographic, is the art of mixing data, images and graphics to tell a story. A new interactive way to present, share your facts, numbers and trends. This friendly format of sharing complex information can become highly viral. Think about your next press release and how you can replace it with a charticle. How can you present a complex idea by using day to day experiences? Build a charticle and share it! A picture is worth a thousand words… so use both!

Infographic - Charticle - 15 things you should know about Caffeine Infographic - Charticle - Microsoft Tag Adoption Continues to grow

Find some examples of charticles / infographics below:

3. Social Media Bookmarking

deliciousNow that you have great, easy to access content on your website, you need to spread it. Don’t think people will magically find you; you have to broadcast your assets to the right audiences.

The first reflex is to add the best of your content into newsletters, blog posts, Twitter and Facebook. Have you been thinking about Social Media Bookmarking such as Digg.com, Delicious or StumbleUpon? These websites have millions of visitors per month looking for trending information. By adding a link to your assetsDigg here, you open up for yourself an entire new distribution channel which can become your number one driver of traffic for a couple of days if your news becomes a trending and appreciated topic.

Where to start:

4. Give a piece of your solution into a widget.

Microsoft Translator widgetHow can your fans grab part of your content or intelligence and share it directly on their blogs, forums and others? Give them the keys. Create widgets, which aggregate your content or service. A good widget example is the one from Microsoft Translator that you add to yoMicrosoft Hohm widgetur blog and enable your readers to get the content in any language supported by the service. What can you offer to your fans that they would embed in their web properties?

Check out these examples:

· Microsoft Hohm

· Microsoft Translator

How to create a widget without a coding experience, check Widgetbox.com


5. Build sharing into your website flow

Social Media sharing options

You have great content and services and have people coming to your websites. The next step is to incorporate social sharing options to your flow. There are multiple ways to add sharing options to your content, such as blogs posts that propagate information to your social graph in one click.

Share actions on your website. For instance, if Sharing optionsyour website is about creating questions and answers, help people get faster answers to their questions by allowing them to publish questions on their favorite social networks. Example below with quora.com:

Facebook Share on the wall

How to add share options:

Impacts to your traffic and CTR:

  • 85% of new registered users to CBS’s TheInsider.com are using Facebook Connect        
  • More than 1/3 of the new commenter signups on Huffington Post come through Facebook
  • 94% of users who write reviews share those reviews on Facebook

6. Enhance your social network profiles

Create a profile on different social networks and Social Bookmarking tools. I would recommend at least:

You should also explore these if you have pictures or videos:

Don’t forget the Social Bookmarking platforms mentioned earlier:

Some extras:

Complete your profiles on these services using the same bio and links. Links may not boost your organic ranking in search engines; however people will see these and follow them.

Microsoft Tag Twitter account


7. Pick up the right keywords and Tags to mark your content

While publishing content, it’s important to use the right keywords, tags and hashtags to acquire more search traffic and eye balls. When it comes to finding the right keywords to use in your tweets, videos and blog posts, is “dog” better than “dogs”?

There are tools available to help you in this process.


You can use Trendistic to compare #hashtags and detect which ones are most used.

Trendistic - What are the best Twitter Hashtag?

Youtube offers a tool to see which keywords are searched the most, which will help you build your title, description and tags.

How to select the right keywords for SEO and SMO

Dog is better than dogs Smile

Blog posts and other sources of content:

Bing and Google offer a set of tools that help you decide upon the best keywords that will attract the most searches.


8. Enable discussions

As Brian Solis likes to say: ‘If a conversation takes place online and you’re not there to hear it, did it really happen?’.

A good product or service will generate online discussions. Whether you want it or not, you won’t be able to control it, period!

If you don’t allow conversations on your own domain, people will leave to find help elsewhere on Twitter, Facebook, Getsatisfaction.com, etc. … You have an opportunity to host the conversations and reap the benefits. Below are some simple tips:

On your blog:

Start by enabling comments on your own blog. If your platform doesn’t allow it by design, you can check out add-ins such as Disqus or IntenseDebate.


Forums are still great for conversation; search engines also like indexing this content.


9. Badges and reward system

Foursquare BadgesAs your community grows, champions will appear.

These champions are likely able to answer questions faster than your team. Champions evangelize your brand in their circle of influence. Cherish them!

How do you reward them? How do you give them incentive to be your advocates? Foursquare, for one, creates a massive war around Badges. Badges reward the users’ ego, encouraging them to share them with their social graph, creating more links to, and discussion around your brand.

If you don’t have an already built-in solution, here is a great service: Badgeville.





10. RSS Feed, Why should I care?

RSS RSS feeds are a formatted way (XML) of digesting news for third party applications and search engines. Your websites and blogs should have at least one feed to share the latest news. It allows your visitors to get the latest into their Outlook or other news readers. Again, don’t believe visitors will magically come back to your website. Push the right information to them on a regular basis to get them back. RSS feed platforms allow visitors to subscribe to your feed via email. Moreover, RSS feeds are also appreciated by Search Engines, and will be used as an extra sitemap.xml to index fresh content.


To conclude, Is Social the next Search?

Social Media Optimization – SMO is key to your business for two reasons:

  • Creating and facilitating discussions
  • Boosting your overall organic search

We haven’t spent much time in this document discussing the second point. Search engines have started indexing real time conversations from Twitter and Facebook. While looking for a trending topic, you still go to websites and blogs, but news from the people who matter to you will start appearing more and more. This is because today, people are steadily rising as the top influencers on almost any topic. You need to embrace social media in order to be a part of this conversation.

Last but not least, be honest and have fun! Smile

Search Engine Optimization and Social Media

Read: Social in the new search: http://info.gigyahosting1.com/thankyou.php?

Please participate in contributing your own ideas and suggestions for Social Media Optimization aka SMO; we'd love to see them

Benjamin GautheyDigital Marketing- Microsoft Startup Business Group


Don't be the product, buy the product!