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Optimize Your Brand for Sharing and Social Search in 11 Steps

In Part One, we focused on how to make your brand findable and shareable in social media. A white paper by Gigya validates the shift to, and resulting importance of, social search and its dependence on crowd participation. Online businesses must optimize in order to earn referral traffic from social networks.

With the advent of social feeds — a live stream of friends’ activity shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter — consumers can more easily rely on trusted personal relationships to determine what’s worthwhile to read, watch, play and buy online.

Honestly, there are too many top 10 lists, and I subscribe to the Spinal Tap school of numeration, so this list will go to “11!” Here are 11 steps for optimizing your brand for sharing and social search.

1. Keywords

This one seems elementary and trivial for many, but it can’t go unsaid. Social media is inviting new players within marketing and communications to the table. Their absence from traditional SEO practices requires the review of all keywords that stakeholders use to find relevant information regardless of the platform or network.

2. Brands Become Media

Essentially, for brands to earn the attention of desired audiences their content must be timely, relevant, irresistible, and shareable. Content production is only part of the equation. Establishing a cadence to entice people to introduce our work to their friends and followers is atypical.

Begin by defining an editorial calendar to produce and distribute relevant content for each and every network with rhythm and conviction. In the era of real-time and social search, brands now become the CNN of their industry while also socializing the content and experience to broaden reach and awareness.

3. Define the Experience

Modernize and socialize your site to complement the experience visitors expect in 2010. Once someone is introduced to your content and they land on your site or landing page, make sure it’s presented in a gripping format and the proper hooks are in place for easy sharing back to the attention dashboards of their social graph. Many Web sites are still stuck in the time of Web 1.0 and essentially represent a static dead end to the dynamic and interactive experiences transpiring in social networks.

4. Establish a Formidable Presence

Go where your audiences are already highly active, and also where they’re experimenting. Create enticing, compelling, and personable social profiles in the networks of relevance that convey a sense of “what’s in it for me?” Establish relationships based on context and make sure those relationships are fortified through the production and distribution of value-added content, combined with the art and science of reciprocity, response, and recognition.

5. Social Media Optimization (SMO)

Optimize the site and all social objects for traditional, social, and real-time search based on the keywords that are defined in step one. Invest time and resources in the eloquence of describing and defining social objects through titles, descriptions, tags (keywords), links, and active content promotion. Create content in the methods dictated by the communities you wish to reach (e.g., blog posts, tweets, videos, pictures).

6. Social Search

Now that Google and other search engines are experimenting with the addition of social search into results, the fusion of sharing and social networking improves the likelihood of someone clicking through to our desired objects. Data shows that, in addition to e-mail, visitors who find content shareable choose to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and MySpace.

7. Connect with Social Influencers

As attention spans continue to thin and as interesting content spins through attention dashboards at blinding speeds, brands must proactively connect relevant information to social beacons who can lend credibility and spark conversations and dialogue around the objects we introduce aligned by theme and context.

8. Employ the Human Algorithm

Google is already experimenting with a human algorithm of sorts for ranking real-time search results. The stature of one’s social capital ultimately contributes to the hierarchy, placement, and findability of the content and social objects we share online. Not only do we need to connect with social influencers to help us share our story, we also must identify and connect with individuals in the public stream and the back channel to ensure that the conversation generates ranked awareness.

9. Social Architecture:

Analyze how key individuals in your markets are discovering, consuming, and sharing content today and integrate one-click social functionality across all pertinent content platforms. Also, make sure to stay on top of the most promising trends because social sharing will continue to rapidly evolve.

Eradicate proprietary login systems and consider pervasive social logins, such as Facebook Connect and Twitter logins, as they’re designed to trigger social effects through reactions on the host site back to their respective social graphs. This extends the reach of content from a site that was once considered a destination to the networks of relevance in order to attract qualified visitors.

10. A Call to Action

Implementing calls to action remind someone that captivating content is worthy of sharing. Integrating the tools to instantly do so is one part; reminding them to do so completes the circle. However, sharing isn’t the end game either. Inciting responses in addition to sharing, such as posts, retweets, likes, etc, create paths that define and engender the experience you desire with destinations and calls to action integrated to close the loop.

Decide the activity you wish to inspire and integrate it into steps one through nine. Give them something to find and to talk about!

11. Listen and Adapt

Create listening dashboards to monitor all activity including the number of shares, discoveries, click-throughs, etc., and find ways to improve the experience, as well as how to ignite a greater volume of sharing.

If the socialization of content is defined by governing behavior, it is that of sharing and searching. The share economy currency is defined by likes, links, retweets, updates, comments, shares on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, MySpace, et al.

The potential and overall impact of social objects, either discovered or shared, only expands the reach of the brand as social media becomes pervasive. Providing the necessary means for individuals to not only find your content, but also actively share it across the social Web, is paramount to the survival of businesses in the era of curated search, social influence, and channeled attention.

Originally posted in Search Engine Watch.

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