SEO is dead, SMO is king!

“SMO” – Social Media Optimization is the new SEO.  You think back to 5 years ago, when you’d try to explain SEO to clients, and no one would get it.  Now, SMO is in it’s place, and has the same challenge.  With the integration of Social + Search (Facebook + Bing), SMO has risen to the top.

Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites’ actual content or audience. But this movement toward SEO has been dangerous, as it’s moved publishers’ eye off their most important job of creating great content, and onto the false goals of keywords, hacks, paid links, and technical engineering that their audience doesn’t know or care about.

Even venerable publishers like Forbes have traded in their leadership legacy to chase the Huffington Post pufferfish strategy of filling up Google’s database with more posts, more frequency, and more low-cost content; while stalwarts like Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) are still chasing SEO basics like getting keywords into their URLs.

But the recent announcement of the Facebook/Bing partnership to integrate social and search results clearly marks the beginning of the end of SEO, and the smartest digital publishers will drop everything to rethink their distribution strategy entirely.

With the rise of Facebook, we’ve entered a new era of digital media: personalized discovery. The balance of power is shifting: Already sites at Wetpaint and other publishers are seeing more audience coming from Facebook than from search.

Search was critical when answers to questions were scarce. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) can find an answer to almost any keyword query from among the zillions of pages on the web. But at a time when such answers are abundant, it’s far more valuable to find the best content for me – and increasingly, find it before I’ve even asked for it. The sort algorithm that works best for that is more correlated to who’s doing the asking than how they would phrase the ask.
For that level of personalized results, no abject algorithm can keep up without deep knowledge of its users. Advantage: Facebook.

The encouraging implication is that the audience values content, not keywords. And Facebook sides with the audience. And so it’s time to christen a new era of social-media optimization, or “SMO.” The era of SMO liberates publishers from the exercise of tricks, hacks and keywords. Instead, the big opportunity is now once again creating and refining the most appealing content possible.

Imagine that.

SMO recognizes that Facebook already has the best position to introduce content to users. Already, audiences are using Facebook as the news interface to their favorite sources (both media titles and their friends) in a way that Google News hasn’t cracked the code on; products like Flipboard that take this to the next level are captivating.

As Facebook takes its immense database of “Likes” and pivots it to inform search results, there’s no question that it will have a huge advantage in delivering a better result set for almost every user. It simply knows more.

SMO strategy means appealing to the audience, not an intermediary; knowing what drives interest; and activating people’s desire to consume and share. Sure, there is buzz among many publishers around Facebook logins and likes, and the traffic bumps that come with them. But SMO offers more far than that. It’s about creating a positive feedback loop, where users are rewarded for both consuming and distributing content. The key is to develop virality in media like that of Zynga games and Groupon offers. Beyond, of course, creating great content and experiences that are worth sharing, publishers need to then reward their audiences with the full range of possibilities, including prestige, access, exclusive content and enhanced experiences.

For those who are still working on implementing search strategies: if you haven’t turned your focus to SMO, you will be left behind as the allure of gaming search engines fades into the past.

Brands in Social Media

Fast Company Magazine – What’s valuable isn’t mere buzz but what Joachimsthaler calls “social currency.” “There’s more to ‘social’ than social media,” he says. A new study by Vivaldi Partners and Lightspeed Research, which fielded the data, examines more than 60 companies and assesses customers’ brand affiliations, advocacy, and sense of community, among other factors, for how they create true value for the companies, no matter whether it’s online or off. The results reveal some surprising insights about the limits of social media. Most notably, smug, stunt-driven apps, games, and videos generate buzz but little else. So what does work? We combed through Vivaldi’s data to find the most intriguing lessons. Here are the new rules for the game.

FB Store – BigBrands in Soon!

NEW YORK ( — More than 20,000 mom-and-pops and small retailers have started hawking real goods on Facebook in the past five months, thanks to an e-commerce platform called Payvment. And with a $1.5 million investment the big brands are coming soon, said the startup’s CEO, Christian Taylor.

Payvment is a Facebook e-commerce app that lets any user — businesses and individuals alike — download a storefront and set up shop for free. Since it launched in November, small and midsize retailers have taken notice and put 125,000 products up for sale and 500,000 Facebook users (out of nearly 500 million total) have shopped with the app, which transacts “tens of thousands” of dollars per day, said Mr. Taylor, who declined to provide specific sales figures.

Today, the e-commerce provider announced $1.5 million in new funding led by Blue Run Ventures, the venture-capital firm that originally funded PayPal. What’s more, Mr. Taylor said a beta program with well-known retail brands is under way, and the startup plans to launch tools for larger brands in June.

“All these brands are giving budgets to launch Facebook pages,” said Mr. Taylor. “But what’s the value of fans? Couldn’t they be converted into paying customers?”

Plugging into distribution
Most retailers have complex distribution systems and Payvment is developing plug-ins that can port Facebook sales into existing data and shipping systems. “Any large retailer is going to have their own systems for conducting e-commerce,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst on Facebook. “It has to sync. It can’t be yet another layer on top of what they already have implemented.”

Payvment also aims to amass all sales on the social network into one marketplace or searchable shopping mall that spans all retailers. For example, a search for “shirt” within the Payvment store turns up a variety of brands.

While this isn’t the first time brands set up shop on Facebook, the attempt to try to network all sales on the platform is new. Payvment is angling to become the “de facto shopping cart” for all purchases on Facebook.

That diverges from brand sales apps currently on Facebook, which are often created by third-party developers or agencies. Minneapolis-based developer Alvenda created an e-commerce Facebook app for 1-800-Flowers early this year, and has since followed with commerce apps for Avon and other brands. In a partnership with Synapse, a Time Inc. division that sells magazine subscriptions, Alvenda will also be launching a tool to sell print without leaving Facebook.

Tech at right time
Payvment’s storefronts are completely free for now — Mr. Taylor says he won’t worry about business model until the concept is proved out — and completely automated. Retailers download an app from Payvment’s Facebook page, upload products and price points and users can start shopping on their pages in a “Shop Now” tab. (Mr. Taylor said it takes a retailer roughly five minutes to set up a storefront.)

“Today it’s about the right tech at right time,” he said. “And then we’ll throw it out there and put a price tag on it.”

SmallBiz Grows w/ Social

Small businesses are confident about their ability to weather the recession, with more than one-half saying they have either fully recovered or will do so by the end of 2010, and nearly three-quarters claiming they will drive recovery in the overall economy, according to the “Third Annual FedEx Office Signs of the Times Small Business Survey” from FedEx Office and Ketchum.

To that end, almost two in five small-business owners reported they would be growing their businesses with social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. That was up from less than one-quarter who planned to up their game with social in 2009 and made social media the only tactic to increase in importance since last year.

Social Media direction for Ads

BATAVIA, Ohio ( — Time was that marketers, particularly package-goods marketers, were known for their deliberate pace. Media plans and ads were created months in advance, and mid-course changes took months.

But in a growing number of cases even the biggest marketers in the world, such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever, are adjusting creative and media plans on the fly within days, weeks or even hours based on changing events or the shifting tides of social-media feedback.

Quick decisions
The ad, which showed a montage of moms of Olympic athletes as their kids won medals, is a favorite of Joan Lewis, senior-VP consumer and market knowledge at P&G. She credits the company’s move to create a single brand-building organization that encompasses all marketing functions, including research, PR and brand marketers, for helping make quick development of the ad during the Olympics possible.

Running a national ad without consumer pre-testing is still a rarity for P&G, and the company isn’t about to throw all caution to the wind — while some elements of the Olympic program weren’t pre-tested, Ms. Lewis noted, “that doesn’t mean [pre-testing] wouldn’t have made it better.” But she said such on-the-fly changes are also a model for what P&G wants to do more of in the future.