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SMO and the Art of "Tweaking"

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Seth Godin yesterday posted about his concept of tweakers – a name he has coined for people who make things better without changing the original intent.  He has created a lens on Squidoo about it, and describes web tweakers as "firms (or passionate individuals) who can take your website and, without overhauling the whole thing, make it better. Adjust the type or the pictures or the wording or the site map and make it sing."  The concept got me thinking about the role of Social Media Optimization in the development or redevelopment of a website.  There have been a few folks recently talking about how SMO might be better categorized as just a part of search marketing or as a subset of Search Engine Optimization.  To start, I should note that I am not overly sensitive about categories or turf battles.  I think if the premise of SMO helps someone to improve their site visibility, it doesn’t really matter which silo marketers need to fit it into.  But, because there seems to be some discussion out there – I think it’s important to note the difference between SMO and SEO.  I was tempted to do a nice graph, with pros and cons, or something similarly authoritative.  Unfortunately, I think the difference is much simpler than that …

SEO is essentially about improving a website’s visibility on search engines.  As such, it often requires wholesale changes to design, layout, content and coding in order to achieve this goal.  Search engines are based on algorithms and set rules, and SEO is about knowing those rules and optimizing a site to live within them.  SMO, on the other hand, is all about helping content to spread from person to person.  It is social.  The best SMO activity on a site might still leave the site unranked on relevant searches.  This may be unlikely, due to the nature of how search engines work, but the point of SMO is to help site visitors share content with one another, and navigate between related content.  Which brings me to the relationship of SMO to tweaking.  Many of the original rules of SMO could be easily considered "tweaks" – such as adding quick links for tagging, syndicating content through rss or submitting content to relevant sites.  These are not changes that require a full development team weeks to implement.  The basics of SMO are simply tweaks – and this is what makes this idea so powerful.  Of course, there is much more than tweaks that fit into SMO, which is where getting more professional advice from interactive marketing professionals comes in.  At some point, most websites need more than tweaks – but as Seth notes, there is a huge demand for these "tweakers" … and for many sites out there, implementing the basics of SMO may be the ultimate tweak.

5 thoughts on “SMO and the Art of "Tweaking"”

  1. Hmmmm….tweakers — not sure that’s the best term to use. I’m pretty sure that’s a term used for Meth/Heroine addicts. Now I’m basing this on far too many hours of CSI, but still — since the words we choose are important we may want to reconsider that term.

    Now, here’s the real question. Shouldn’t SMO, SEO, Paid Search Marketing, and other forms of interactive ad buys all be considered together as part of a comprehensive strategy? I realize that we need to develop best practices for each discipline, but the concept of Interactive Marketing as a whole never seems to get discussed. Each piece seems like it should be part of a professional Interactive Marketers bag of tricks.

    I know that you take a wholistic view of things, but I’m wondering if we’re developing a new monster of SMO experts who have no idea how it should fit into an overall strategy and can only repeat the same mantras and techniques over and over. Which is just what’s happened with a lot of SEO people.

  2. This is a great point and one that is becoming more and more relevant as interactive marketers are nicheing themselves into more and more narrow holes. It is why I typically avoid using the term online marketing. The original premise of this blog was to focus on interactive marketing as a whole, but after more than a year of blogging, sometimes I even find that to be too limiting. SMO is certainly a niche, and should be used as a component of a broader marketing strategy – but ultimately, I think the real powerful “niche” is integrated marketing. That’s where the future of marketing should be, where interactive, offline, TV, out of home, WOM, radio, and just about any other channel you can think of are treated holistically as part of an integrated campaign. Perhaps one day I will even change the title of this blog to “Influential Integrated Marketing” …

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  4. Rohit – thanks again for your words of wisdom about this topic.

    I realize that some have opted to call Social Media Optimization something different like Social Media Marketing and vice versa. But, based on your post, if SMO is simply “tweaking” your site by “adding quick links for tagging, syndicating content through rss or submitting content to relevant sites” it seems to me that Social Media Optimization is a more appropriate definition.

    I would equate Social Media Marketing with firms who aggressively target the social media channels (like Myspace) by creating profiles (Nike, Cingular, Jack in the Box) and having conversations with consumers in places where they spend time. It’s quite similar to comparing SEO to paid search, is it not?


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Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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