10 Rules of Social Media Optimization

By Ric Shreves, Michelle Krasniak

How many rules are there for social media optimization (SMO)? It depends on whom you ask These rules lay a solid foundation for your social media practice and that you can use them as principles for creating an effective practice.

Be authentic

This one does belong at the top of the list. The number‐one problem with social media managers worldwide is a tendency to fall into the trap of losing touch with people and simply parroting the company line.

If you want to create a connection with people, speak to them honestly and openly, from one person to another. You may be representing a powerful, high‐profile corporation, but your audience is composed of ordinary human beings. Distance yourself from your competitors by remaining authentic and communicating with people on a personal level.

Engage — don’t broadcast

Broadcasting is one‐way communication. Engagement is two‐way communication. If someone reaches out to you with a question, a complaint, or a compliment, reply to that person. Embrace feedback, as it means that someone cares enough to take the time to express himself directly to you. If you ignore feedback, you’ve wasted a huge opportunity. Try to engage them by using any of the following:

  • Questions

  • Surveys

  • Polls

  • Comment threads on articles

  • Other interactive techniques that give people room for expression

All your efforts should be geared toward creating a connection with the audience and encouraging them to interact with you. If you’re able to create that connection, the result is goodwill that leaves a lasting positive impression.

Leverage your efforts

Social media management can be a huge time sink. It’s far too easy to spend a lot of time with little to show for it. As the old saying goes: Work smarter, not harder. Some of the best solutions are some of the easiest:

  • Use scheduling tools to create several posts in one session, and let the software publish them for you, either at the times you specify or according to the software’s automated scheduling.

  • Use content discovery tools, BuzzSumo or Klout to find new material, saving you hours of research.

  • Use monitoring tools that make it easier for you to assess your efforts.

  • Use cross‐posting to automatically publish the same content across multiple channels.

Stay fresh

You’re working in a fast‐paced, quickly changing environment. The people who tend to spend time on social media are also people who like new and interesting things. A large percentage of the audience can be characterized as early adopters. You need to be sensitive to the changes going on around you and, like your audience, be willing to try new things.

Don’t hesitate to ask people what they’re using. You may be surprised by what you find. You never want to miss a chance to gain a competitive advantage by being one of the first to discover an effective new channel.

Be selective

The world of social media includes a ridiculous number of options. It seems that new sites and new tools crop up every month. You can’t possibly cover every channel or try every tool. You have to be selective. Go with proven winners, and when something new and interesting comes along, don’t hesitate to give it a try.

Moreover, be willing to cut your losses if something isn’t generating a return. Your time is better spent on a few effective efforts than on many marginal ones.

Be share‐friendly

Turn everyone into a publisher of your content. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to enable people to help publish your content. Social sharing plug‐ins for your website are in ready supply; use them. Make it easy for people to share your content with all their friends and thereby turn your audience into your own personal legion of publishers.

Be a resource

There’s so much noise in the market, coming from so many products and brands. All those products and brands are competing for attention. Who will the consumer listen to? The answer is: They listen to the ones they trust. One of the best ways to build trust is to be a reliable resource.

Sometimes, all that customers need is a bit of guidance or access to good information. It costs you relatively little to provide that information, and the returns you get in goodwill and trust more than offset the expense.

Invest part of your time in creating useful content without a pure commercial agenda.

Create great content

Content is king. Great content inspires. Be a creator of awesome content, and you’ll win fans, followers, and lifelong customers. Whether you’re working with text, images, or video, be willing to invest in your content creators and enable them to create great content. Content is the lifeblood of your social media efforts.

Know your audience

The better you can define your target markets, the more effective you’re going to be in efforts to connect with them. Spend time looking at your demographics, and if that data is missing, make an effort to start collecting it. You need to know who you’re talking to, as the audience shapes not only the message, but also the selection of the channel and the language used.

Similarly, the voice you use needs to reflect the language and the sensibilities of your audience. There’s no point in talking to a bunch of financial analysts as though they’re surfers — and vice versa. The issue is appropriateness.

Plan the work; work the plan

Develop an SMO strategy. Define your objectives, set your goals, and then work the plan. Be aware of the outcomes you’re seeking ,and measure against those outcomes. Although a plan alone isn’t sufficient for success, failure to have an actionable plan will likely result in inefficiencies and may even result in failure to achieve a measurable effect.

Start with a road map, align your resources with the stages of the plan, and get to work. By following a sensible approach, you set yourself up for success.