Image by Gaping Void.
There's a popular thread on our LinkedIn group about redesigning websites, which has produced some excellent tips and resource recommendations from our expert members. One comment in particular caught my eye and started me thinking about social media optimisation (SMO):
"If our site redesign had come 6-12 months later I would, without a doubt, have built social elements into the website much more effectively."
Social media is vital for my role as "social reporter in residence" for the Web Managers Group. This post is a response to this comment and will give you some insights into to why I think SMO is so important for the future of the web.
Search, meet social
SMO complements traditional keyword-based Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which is the process of making your website more "findable" and attractive to search engines. As Nick Cassells suggest, if you want to know more about SEO try The Beginners Guide to SEO from SEOmoz. You should also check out this brilliant post shared by group member Himanshu Sharma.
The link between SEO and SMO is social search, which ranks results partly by taking into account interest in the subject from others in your social networks. As we're more likely to follow the trails our friends have left, search is getting very personal. But it's not just about the network effect. Taking us dangerously close to some very offputting jargon, web marketing analyst Brian Solis explains how SMO "amplifies" SEO by using metadata to improve the findability of social objects.
To some web managers, the idea of building sites around social objects is not new. Jryi Engeström, web entrepreneur (and once Google's "accidental sociologist"), has been talking about "object centred sociality" since 2005. Salesforce’s Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami writes about social objects in his blog Confused of Calcutta, especially in relation to new business models for "Enterprise 2.0". According to geeky illustrator Hugh McLeod, they are the "hard currency of the internet". He’s so serious about social objects he recently built a factory for them.
Corporate communications, digital marketing and web content management professionals are now prioritising social media strategies. On our LinkedIn thread Hanne Christensen advised that building a social media strategy into your plans for website design and build is vital. Social search is no longer the future. It's already here and it's a good idea to build SMO into your plans.
The reasoning comes from the notion of social objects and what we do with them. Anything we can poke, like, tweet, buy, tag, forward, comment on, mash-up, link, rate, and so on, is a social object. Anything with a URL is a social object. You can find them on Flickr, YouTube, Slideshare, Spotify, Facebook, Google+ and more.
Everyone who visits your new website is expecting to find things to engage with. An optimised social media strategy will make it easy for your content to be discovered, experienced and shared.
Give thanks to the curator
Social reporters will take that to the next level by demonstrating tools and celebrating good "find and share" behaviours in your community. This is part of essential "network weaving" as Lee Bryant of Dachis Group explained to the Social Business Edge conference in 2010. Social reporters are the human part of SMO, using network weaving to help other people contribute to the process.
Social reporters use curation services which make it very easy to collect, repackage and disseminate all the recordings, photos, posts, animations, documents, etc, from our own perspective. We can use these to provide a context and narrative which extends the life and reach of original content wherever it’s located online. Here's a great list of 50 social curation tools to explore. As part of the social reporting I do for our group I’ll be using a few of these and recommending them to you. These will be tools you can use. The true value of our group is not to keep up to date with the bleeding edge of technology, but to cut through the hype and help people keep pace with demonstrably useful digital developments. After all, we are “the people who make the web work”.