We often hear about website and search engine optimization, but social media optimization hasn’t quite made it into the mainstream vernacular. Whether you’ve heard the term or not, you may already optimizing your social media posts every day.
Here are a few examples:
- Checking your analytics to see what days and times your fans are most likely to read and interact with your posts.
- Focusing on using post formats your audience prefers, such as images versus videos.
- Ensuring your blog content is easily shareable by including social share buttons after every post.
One of the main goals of social media optimization (SMO) is to increase awareness of your business or products using social media, and it has many benefits. This means making your content as shareable as possible by focusing both on industry best practices as well as what’s worked for you in the past.
Some aspects of SMO will happen as an organic by-product of creating high-quality content: when people visit your site and love your content, they’ll be more likely to share it via Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. As more people see and share your content, your site acquires buzz, inbound links, referral traffic, and strong social signals, all of which help your organic search visibility.
So, what factors are important for SMO? What strategies can you use to increase both the visibility and reach of your social media posts? How can you structure your posts to give them the best chance of clicks and conversions? Following are five tips to get you on the right track.
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of your headlines
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using attention-grabbing headlines. This requires an understanding of best practices as well as what works for your particular audience.
When we’re talking about social media headlines, we could be referring both to blog post titles as well as to opening lines for your social networking posts. When we talk about Twitter headlines, we often mean the entire content of a tweet, given that you only have 140 characters to work with.
Your headline is what will capture the attention of your audience, and makes the difference between a post that gets read and shared, and one that sits and collects dust.
Some general rules for your headlines:
- Using number (#) headlines for your blog posts is always a safe bet, and continues to comprise many of the most read and shared blog and social media posts. This could be a list post (5 Ways to be a Better Leader) or just using a number in the title (The #1 Secret to Business Success).
- Include a clear, tangible benefit. For instance, 3 Ways to Quit Your Day Job and Live the Life of Your Dreams.
- Use a powerful, timely hook. Look for a unique angle you can use to evoke a specific picture in your readers’ minds. For instance, Secrets to Being Beautiful that Kim Kardashian Will Never Tell You.
2. Optimize your social media profiles
The only permanent, static elements of your social media presence are your social media profiles. Your posts, images and tweets will change from day to day, but your profiles will remain relatively constant. When new prospects find your business online, this is likely one of the first places they’ll look.
Some strategies for making the most of your social media profiles include:
- Making sure you’re including an URL to your site in an obvious place (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to search for a website URL on someone’s Facebook Page!)
- Completing every field on your profile (sites liked LinkedIn give search preference to profiles that are complete)
- Ensuring your images, format and voice are consistent across all your social media profiles.
- Linking to a network-specific landing page. For instance, having a dedicated landing page for your Twitter followers, one for Facebook fans, etc.
3. Include strong calls to action in your social media posts
Most people know the importance of using calls to action (CTAs) in their blog and website content, but then forget to apply the same principles to their social media posts.
In most cases (there are exceptions), you’ll want to make sure to let your fans and followers know what you want them to do next. According to social media scientist Dan Zarrella, some CTAs that work particularly well on Twitter include ‘Please ReTweet’ and ‘Please Help’. On Facebook, he found actually using the words ‘like’, ‘comment’ or ‘share’ resulted in more engagement than posts without.
If you want people to click through to your website, make sure to use CTAs like ‘click below to download now’ or ‘click to read more’. Even asking a simple question can work as a CTA: for instance, ‘What would you do?’ or ‘What do you think?’
4. Images must be part of your strategy
According to the recently released Social Media Content Optimization Study, a survey done by Adobe and Software Advice, 82% of marketers said images were important or very important to their social media marketing.
If you have a product-based business, being on a visual-centric platform like Pinterest or Instagram is a must. However, all types of businesses can incorporate images into their marketing mix.
Here are some ways to do this:
- On Facebook: Share funny or inspiring pictures that your fans would appreciate and want to share. The more interaction your images get, the more visibility all your posts will receive in your fans’ newsfeeds. When Facebook sees that you’re regularly posting relevant, popular content, you’ll find your overall post reach will improve dramatically.
- On Twitter: Photos shared on Twitter receive a 35% bump in retweets compared to tweets without images. Twitter Cards allow you to incorporate rich media with your tweets which will often mean increased views and interaction. For more on this, see my article, The Definitive Guide to Using Twitter Cards.
- For all social networks: There are many ways you can incorporate images into your mix: create images that promote an upcoming event or sale; create image polls; promote image-based coupons or coupon codes; overlay an image with a motivational quote; share an industry infographic. Remember that virtually anything you can share via text, you can share via an image!
5. Hashtags are a great way to reach new audiences on social media
Many business owners use hashtags in their social media posts without really understanding why they’re doing it or how it’s helping to grow their business. Hashtags are the best way we have of making our posts and tweets as ‘findable’ as possible.
When you use relevant keywords in your hashtags, you allow those who are searching for that topic to find you, meaning you’re able to access a whole new audience outside your current group of followers.
Some best practices for using hashtags include:
- According to Buffer App, using 1-2 hashtags will get you 21% more engagement than if you use 3 or more. Be sure to test out what works best for your audience.
- Instagrammers love hashtags! One study found that posts with 11 hashtags (yes, you read that right) received the most interactions. So, best practices may vary across social networks.
- Edgerank Checker found that Facebook posts without hashtags actually outperform those with hashtags. So when in doubt, don’t use any hashtags on Facebook!
These tips will give you a good start to optimizing your social media marketing campaign, but don’t stop there; there are many other strategies you could employ. My best advice is to test out a variety of strategies, and take note of which ones work best for your audience. Keep in mind that while best practices can act as a great starting point for your testing, they may not always be ‘best’ for your audience!