Social media optimization (SMO) is the use of a number of outlets and communities to generate publicity to increase the awareness of a product, service brand or event. Types of social media involved include RSS feeds, social news and bookmarking sites, as well as social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, video sharing websites and blogging sites. SMO is similar to search engine optimization, in that the goal is to generate web traffic and increase awareness for a website. In general, social media optimization refers to optimizing a website and its content to encourage more users to use and share links to the website across social media and networking sites. SMO also refers to software tools that automate this process, or to website experts who undertake this process for clients.
The goal of SMO is to strategically create interesting online content, ranging from well-written text to eye-catching digital photos or video clips that encourages and entices people to engage with a website and then share this content, via its weblink, with their social media contacts and friends. Common examples of social media engagement are "liking and commenting on posts, retweeting, embedding, sharing, and promoting content".
Social media optimization is becoming an increasingly important factor in search engine optimization, which is the process of designing a website in a way so that it has as high a ranking as possible on search engines. As search engines are increasingly utilizing the recommendations of users of social networks such as Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram to rank pages in the search engine result pages. The implication is that when a webpage is shared or "liked" by a user on a social network, it counts as a "vote" for that webpage's quality. Thus, search engines can use such votes accordingly to properly ranked websites in search engine results pages. Furthermore, since it is more difficult to top the scales or influence the search engines in this way, search engines are putting more stock into social search.
This, coupled with increasingly personalized search based on interests and location, has significantly increased the importance of a social media presence in search engine optimization. Due to personalized search results, location-based social media presences on websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Foursquare, and Yahoo! Local have become increasingly important. While social media optimization is related to search engine marketing, it differs in several ways. Primarily, SMO focuses on driving web traffic from sources other than search engines, though improved search engine ranking is also a benefit of successful social media optimization. Further, SMO is helpful to target particular geographic regions in order to target and reach potential customers. This helps in lead generation (finding new customers) and contributes to high conversion rates (i.e., converting previously uninterested individuals into people who are interested in a brand or organization).