Social Media Optimization & Branding

Pathways to Experience

Your brand value is in large part made up of the many different experiences your users have with it. The value increases as more new users have good experiences and your existing user’s expectations are met. Our job as marketers is to create the awareness and expectations that feed user desire to experience your brand. Ultimately, brand-marketing success should be judged by our effectiveness getting your brand into the hands of users.

In my presentations on Branding and Search at SES I have talked about the amazing and underappreciated power of search to brand since it is “the pathway to experience.” Increasingly however, pathways to experience occur outside the control of businesses and brands. Such is the power of social media. In order to be successful building your brand in this second form of user controlled media it is imperative, as with search, to understand the power of social media and optimize around it.

Box of Legos

I recently had a great conversation with Jamie Roche and John Atkins who’s blazing some of these trails at Jobster. We were discussing a favorite topic, how the website is dead. We concluded that digital content, be it articles, reviews, products or widgets are just like Lego pieces. Since you are the first one to play with the Legos, you get to decide what you want to make with them. You may choose to create a dinosaur with your Legos (and many have ;). This is how you present your content and your brand to the world…take a look at my dinosaur!

But that is increasingly not the optimal way to construct a digital business. Do you really want to limit the ability to reach to users and generate interest in your product or service by only making dinosaurs yourself? There is tremendous power in giving users access to your Legos and letting them construct them in different ways. Some people might prefer to make a submarine out of that same Lego set. Some people may want to build a dino-marine. It’s natural to assume that some users may prefer the submarine to the dinosaur. It’s also safe to assume that people looking for a submarine would never have thought to look for a dinosaur.

If you retain control over your content your ability to create interest and reach new audiences is limited. If you let everyone play with your “Legos” you are truly leveraging the power of social media. You are allowing and fostering the creation of more pathways to experience. These paths create exposure and deliver relevance. That is the heart of Social Media Optimization.

What’s Old is New

So the question becomes how to practically optimize in this dynamic?

There are many ways we can measure the power of branding. Every expression of interest has value as a measure of brand especially volume metrics like search impressions and conversion. We can also give actions like TOS, PV, CTR, view-through and latency defined values and begin to measure brand ROI. If we can measure we can test. If we can test we can optimize.

We can discover what uses and forms of the content are creating interest in certain audience clusters. Is there a mashup of our content/product or service that has generated interest? What does this tell us about our brand? About our audience? How can we refine or provide additional content that can create continued interest? Might this be different by audience? Was there an organic viral element? Who influenced this and how?

In reality SMO is nothing more than affiliate marketing 2.0. This is the way many online businesses grew in the late 90’s and Affiliate Marketing Directors played an important role. I expect we’ll see a new position, Social Media Director, become a key position in the digital marketing departments of the future.

Finding the right places to distribute your content where it makes the greatest impact is nothing new. What’s new is the idea of embracing users to shape and uncover new relevant pathways to experiencing your brand.



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