Wrapping Your Head Around Social Optimization

Every six months, it seems that a new buzzword comes bubbling up in the digital industry; web 2.0, SEO, SEM, then social media, mobile marketing, gamification, etc. While important and a reflection of how the industry is evolving, at the point of conception these terms somehow manage to get so hyped that they become the new “silver bullet” for the industry. That quickly wears off though, and after a while these techniques take their rightful place in the arsenal of tools that a digital marketer can use.

In this article, I am going to focus on yet another new area – social optimization. Specifically I will briefly discuss social search optimization and social media optimization. By the end of the article, I won’t promise you will be an expert, but at least you will know how to start learning, or at least strike up a nice chit chat with your client over drinks.

What Is the Difference?

Now you might be wondering what the difference is between social search optimization and social media optimization. At its heart, there isn’t a big difference between the two concepts. In fact I won’t be surprised at all if these concepts conflate into one umbrella of social optimization.

The difference from my perspective is that in social media optimization, the objective is more general (to generate publicity and awareness for your website or your content), where social search optimization specifically addresses the impact that social media platforms have on search engine results in Google and other search engines.

The work that has to be done to effect this is similar for both. The original article by Rohit Bhargava that kicked off this train details the five rules (with links to additional rules contributed by the web-o-sphere for a total of 16).

While I will not go into the details of the rules (of which the referenced article does a much better job), what I wanted to talk about is the two distinct approaches, and some practical, simple steps that can start you off with social optimization.

Content With a Smile

The phrase “content is king” has been thrown around so often in so many contexts that it is now an official cliché. However, it still applies in the case of social media optimization. The difference is that with social media, content is not only important, but the personality you use to portray that content also is critical. To put it simply:

a. You need lots of relevant content (the more the merrier) in order to rank for keywords, and to get inbound links to your posts/tweets/pins. This could be conversations (no matter how seemingly banal) or useful information.

b. You need to write and give away that content with an approachable air. In fact, if you look through the 16 rules of SMO linked from the post above, a full one-third of them relate to personality traits in one way or another (help users, be humble, etc.). It is social – you have to be likeable before your content will travel.

This is the more human aspects of making your content work, and it is always important to know that this should be the main thrust of your thinking and strategy – because without substance (content, product, what have you), any efforts that you make are going to fail anyway even it is technically sound.

Impact of Social Platforms on SERPs (Social Search Optimization)

My agency has done an experiment where we monitored the impact of social media on search results. As a digital agency, we obviously have created a presence on almost all social media platforms in existence (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to name the more popular ones).

Firstly, we found that having a presence across as many sites as possible actually helps populate the SERPs with your brand or product. As a case in point, take a look at the screenshot below for the SERPs for a search for “Metro Singapore”:

As you can see, Pinterest and Twitter appear on the results, separate from the company website. Google now takes social media platforms seriously and its algorithms seem to weigh them a lot more in terms of precedence.


The key takeaway here is that you have to start thinking a lot harder about your social media strategy as your brand’s presence on these platforms is making a larger and larger impact as time goes on – impact on search results (SEO), impact of brand visibility, and impact on your digital strategy overall.

Related reading