SMO: How to optimize your social media networks

Guest blogging on SMWF for the second time, Sheldon Levine  is  Community Manager at Sysomos, gold sponsor of Social Media World Forum Europe 2011.

 Most people these days know that websites and content should be optimized for search engine rankability, he writes. But what about your social media? Can social media be optimized to better help you reach your audience? Of course it can.

There are many different ways to optimize social media content: Top Rank Blog lists 16 different ways, in fact.  But, if you need to get ramped up quickly, here are five simple ways you can optimize your social media today:

Know Your Audience
Getting to know your audience helps you level the playing field and communicate with them interpersonally. Once you talk and interact with your audience the same ways they would with you, the easier it will be to form a real relationship with them. If your audience speaks a certain way, use the same words they do so that it will be easier for them to understand and connect with you. Know what they like about you and speak to that. By getting to think like your audience, you’ll find it’s much easier to connect with them.

Know Where Your Audience Is
This piece of advice comes in two parts. First, know where your audience is online. Some companies set up social media camp across every social network because they think they should. However, it makes more sense to focus on the places your audience frequents because these are the places they’ll be easiest to reach. If you’re a B2B company, LinkedIn may be better for you than Facebook, but if you’re a consumer product company perhaps Facebook is a better place to be than LinkedIn. Know where your audience is and make efforts to reach them in places that are easy for them to find you.

The second part of this is to know where your audience is physically. I know this sounds odd since social media mainly takes place online, but knowing this will help you to determine when they are online. If your main audience is comprised of teenagers, perhaps posting in the middle of the day while they’re in school wouldn’t be the best time. If you know where your audience is during the day, you can also determine when they’re using social media most frequently and, in turn, the best times to actually reach them. It may be a good idea to test posting times and see if there is one time of the day that posts get more reactions than others.

Create Content Your Audience Will Want To Share
When using social media as a marketing tool, your greatest hope is that your audience will like something they read or see and want to share it with their network. This is germane to knowing your audience. If you know what kind of content your audience enjoys, you can focus on creating more of the same. If your audience likes reading reports that relate to their business, create more reports. If your audience likes videos of your product in action, create more videos. The more your audience enjoys your content, the better your chances are that they will want to share it with their social networks.

Encourage Your Audience To Participate
The more your audience participates by interacting with you, the more their networks will see this interaction. There are many ways you can encourage your audience to participate, from simply talking with them to creating content. Ask them questions. Create contests and require that they provide content in return for something. Your audience is following you in social media because they want to interact with you, so give them lots of reasons to do so.

Be Consistent
Once you’ve figured out what works best for you, stick with it. If your audience comes to expect weekly or daily posts from you, try your best to maintain that schedule. Keep making videos if your audience enjoys and shares them. This isn’t to say don’t try new things, because one of the best parts of social media is experimenting with new ways to use it. But if something is working for you, try to keep it up.

Do you already follow these rules? Do you have your own methods to optimize your social media endeavors that are different from these?