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Social Media Optimization

Readers of Economic Development Tech Trends will be familiar with the term search-engine optimization. It describes techniques, such as embedding keywords on web pages that increase the likelihood that your website will appear near the top of results pages generated by search engines.

Economic developers have become increasingly aware of the importance of search-engine optimization in recent years. Now a newer term – social media optimization – is also emerging. The two go hand in hand and have the same goal, which is to attract as much attention as possible from site selectors to your investment-attraction website.

Social media optimization essentially is a set of tactics that make the content of your web pages more highly visible to users of social-media websites and increase links from these sites back to your website. The result – your website becomes the center of a relevant network of interest.

Social media optimization can take many different forms, including text, images, audio and video. Websites such as DiggDeliciousFacebook and Revver are all relevant as they constitute increasingly popular channels for presenting sources of information and interaction for site selectors and other economic development professionals.

Some bloggers have been calling social media optimization the next level of search-engine optimization, or SEO 2.0. Social media optimization efforts influence search-engine optimization efforts as the content on your website is more easily found by search engines if it is linked to or integrated from a social media website.

The term social media optimization – also called SMO — was coined in 2006 by Rohit Bhargava, vice-president of interactive marketing with Ogilvy Public Relations, and has since inspired widespread discussion and analysis. Many “rules” have been proposed as best optimization practices but we believe that four practices can be described as best for economic developers:

1. Develop an SMO Strategy

Define your objectives and set goals. Be fully aware of what your desired outcome is as a result of investing resources in social media. Measure your results and incorporate your most successful practices into your organization’s documented processes.

2. Make Tagging and Bookmarking Easy

Include calls to action for users to tag, bookmark and distribute your content. In your tags and descriptions for photos, videos or other content, use keywords to ensure that these items can show up in searches. Many tools are available on the web to make it easy for readers to save a blog post or a web page for reading later or to aggregate resources using a social bookmark service. Remember, each bookmark by users is a vote for a page. Those “votes” can drive traffic to your website or blog post and can also help rankings, since each bookmark is a link.

3. Build and Maintain Relationships Within Your Social Networks

Social-media marketing is often referred to as “pull” or “buzz” marketing. That is distinct from “push” or “interruptive” marketing, which, though it might be perfectly appropriate for other aspects of your investment-attraction strategy, will not work with social media.

Social media attracts people who want interaction – comments, questions, conversations. These people will not interact with organizations who simply broadcast messages.

If you get involved in investment-attraction conversations through LinkedIn or StumbleUpon or Twitter, get to know the people in those online communities. Listen to them, take interest in their messages. Reward and thank people who comment, who link to your articles and refer other sources. They are not your audience, they are your network.

4. Offer Value-Added Content in Appropriate Formats

Users of social networks tend to appreciate content of genuine value and to reciprocate. You need to have something genuine to offer.

Social media readers consume content at a much faster rate than readers of print materials. Your content delivery frequency should be in line with information consumption habits of the distinct social communities being addressed.

Make frequent use of titles and headlines, sub headings, bold-face type, bullets, underlines, quotes, images, charts and graphs and include summaries where appropriate.

By understanding and taking advantage of social media, you can be more innovative in your investment-attraction marketing. You can find new ways to draw interest to your offerings and give them unique presence. Social media optimization takes time and dedication but with a smart strategy, it can replace some of the heftier traditional print advertising and marketing budgets.

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