Making the most of your content: Social Media Optimisation

Many politicians and businesses have barely begun to get a grip with Search Engine Optimisation, but do need to learn about Social Media Optimisation if they wish to stay ahead of the game.

Social Media Optimisation is about utilising the social media environments to promote your messages and content. In some cases this involves taking your content into the environment where your audience is comfortable and already visiting on a frequent basis. This could be by simply copy and pasting your content into these different environments, however if you want to make the most or truly optimise you need to think about where the content is going and adjusting it to be more applicable for the audience and the type of site.

With a majority of the social media environments do not be tempted to simply signpost to your main site. A consumer of your content should be able to choose to stay where they are to get information, feel free to highlight your main site but do not expect them to always go there. Remember what is important is not just the number of visits to your website but to get across those messages.

A good example of the use of Social Media Optimisation is the Barack Obama Facebook page which at the time of writing has over 718,000 supporters. Here visitors can watch video’s, catch up with the news via a feed, view pictures and enter debates via the Facebook Wall. The huge number of fans will not just be evidence of his popularity but because this page is updated on a regular basis Facebook users will want to have a ‘supporter’ link on their page as a quick way back to this page.

The rules are different with micro blogging services such as Twitter, with a limit to the number of characters you message has to be short, sharp and to the point including a link to the full story either on yours or another website. A good example of the use of this is the unofficial Twitter for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown.

Once set up these additional environments should not take a huge amount of time to maintain. When you create any new content it should, where appropriate, be produced in a variety of formats for the different environments. With video this would mean limiting the length and file size for YouTube, topping and tailing with a promo for your site. For Google video you do not have the same limits on size of the video so you could add a promo to the end.

When entering Social Media environments it is important to be respectful of its users. Spamming will not be tolerated and will be damaging. Don’t expect everything to go your way, where visitors can leave messages they can leave both good and bad ones. That is not a reason not to go there though – if someone wants to attack you or your brand they can set up their own groups to do this. At least by you owning this page you can monitor and respond where appropriate, though often your fans or supporters will do that for you – and the debate could drive interest.

Social Media Optimisation is a useful addition to your campaign. Done properly, as many – if not more, people will view your content. For the small investment in time uploading your content to several different sites you can – and will – reach new audiences, customers and voters.

Keeping it private on Facebook

Facebook has improved the level of control you can put on which friends can see what content on your Facebook profile. Previously you had the choice of someone either seeing everything or setting up a limited profile where you could control what aspects of your profile that this second group of people can see. With just two choices the level of control was limited.

Why is this additional control so welcome? Why should you set up privacy on your Facebook profile?

After initially resisting it’s lure, and after endless ‘Facebook bullying’ by friends singing it’s praises and promising me that life would never be the same after joining – I signed up to Facebook and was immediately hooked, and life – or at least my time on line – has not been the same.

As my number of friends increased it was not long before ‘strangers’ were asking to become my friend – I remember the first time I tentatively asked ‘Sorry do I know you?’ to be told that they were a resident in my area who was pleased to have found one of their local representatives. Even some of those who asked to become a friend who I knew, I didn’t really want them to see my whole profile- give them access to every part of my life.

Up until that point I had enjoyed sharing my social life with friends on Facebook, with over 131 photo albums uploaded. I had worked out how to stop ‘the world’ being able to access all my details – restricting access to a majority of my profile to just my friends, but saying no to one of my constituents could give the wrong impression….

With the limited profile you could restrict access to just about every aspect of your Facebook profile, but with just one limited profile to choose from – what if you have a relative you want to share wedding pictures with but not the last works Christmas party or the fact you’ve added a ‘Are you interested’ or some other dating add on?

Controlling your privacy sessions on Facebook is like managing an invite list to a party. You may only invite those special friends that you trust whilst you are letting your hair down – but if you do do something that you may not want everyone to know about you have to trust that the friends you invite don’t whip out a camera to capture the moment for prosperity – though if they do – that they control the privacy on their Facebook profile. Whatever you add to your profile, someone who has access could do a screen capture and there is nothing you will ever be able to do about that. This is not about hiding information but with an increasing number of employers ‘Googling’ employees prior to interviewing them you really have to control your personal on-line profile from your professional life.

Enhance privacy on Facebook
With enhanced privacy on Facebook you can control access to key areas of your profile both by the general ‘limited profile’ or restrict access on an individual basis. Areas that you can control access to on an individual basis

Profile
Basic Info
Personal Info
Status Updates
Subscription
Photos Tagged of You
Videos Tagged of You
Online Status
Friends
Wall
Education Info
Work Info

Should I control my privacy on Facebook

Everyone should set up privacy on Facebook, especially for details such as your home phone number and address – do you really want this in the public domain along with a Facebook status that says you are on holiday for a week? Limit photographs just to your friends – would you want your current or future employer to see what you got up to last weekend?

For busy politicians Facebook is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with friends, sharing pictures and generally maintaining contact with people who otherwise you could lose touch with due to a packed schedule. It can also be an opportunity for politicians to connect with their constituence – with improved privacy from Facebook you can now use your Facebook profile to do both.

So do I need a ‘Facebook Page’

Facebook have introduced ‘pages’. I have started talking about the need to set up one of these new type of pages on Facebook to politicians but given that they are already under huge pressure from attempting to maintain their websites, youtubes, email, facebook profile, etc, their initial reaction has not been positive. I have been told that they do not have time to maintain what they already have, let alone set something else.

It’s not that long ago that the same was said to me about setting up politician websites, and less time that an MP said they didn’t have time for a Facebook profile (which the individual still does not have and is missing out on a huge opportunity to reach out to constituence). So when will politicians realise if they do not utilise these methods of communication first then their opponents will?

There are major benefits to Facebook pages for businesses and politicians, unlike groups Facebook members can become ‘fans’ of products / musicians or ‘supporters’ in the case of politicians. Facebook pages offer statistics showing the demographics of those supporting or fans of your pages together with visitors, video and picture views. With these you can then see if it is really worth maintaining the page.

When a Facebook user becomes a fan or supporter your page will appear in your profile as one of the users ‘pages’. This is far more prominent than groups which are a simple text line.

One of the biggest benefits is from the search listing. Not long after setting up a Facebook profile you will find it’s public listing on Google, which will generally rank this high due to the popularity of the site. By setting up a Facebook page you will generate a separate listing, helping you dominate with pages you influence the top positions in search returns for your name of product.

Searching Facebook pages shows that American politicians, or their supporters at least, are catching on.

Barack Obama is massively outstripping

Hillary Clinton in supporters in this new type of Facebook method of promoting individuals and products. I suspect that the difference in numbers of supporters is more related to the adoption of this new form of communications rather than a direct correlation to the level of support of Olbama and Hillary respectively.

It will not be long when a politician who does not have time to create a Facebook page, let alone profile, may not have time to get elected.

Setting up Facebook pages
Setting up a Facebook page is very simple, all you need is a Facebook profile to get started. At least you just have to add a picture together some details about you which you can cut-and-paste from another piece of your publicity. You can disable the ‘wall’ if you will not have time to monitor the page, and control the amount of interaction by adding discussion boards etc if you do have time to maintain the page.

After setting up make sure you have some friends who can become a ‘supporter’ which you can then invite – not forgetting to become a supporter yourself (this is not automatic).

Beware your digital signature

Businesses and politicians alike would love to control the messages about them. With the internet it is far harder to have this control but just trying to avoid this medium won’t solve the problem as if you are not writing about yourself then someone else will. Without your content about you, when someone Googles your name the only the things they will find will put there by others and their view of you or what you have done will be the only content available. Every piece of content that you or others put on the internet about you forms part of a ‘digital signature’, easily retrievable and reproduced.

As a relatively new politician, I was first elected in 2006, I am getting used to the fact that what I say and how I vote is now recorded and could be used against me (or for me). Today when I googled myself I found an excellently produced website (just because they do not agree with how I voted doesn’t mean I can’t give credit where it is due when I find a well designed site). The site displays the councillors that voted against a motion they favoured. What I say and how I voted is recorded on the Lambeth website and I even reproduce and make available my speeches on my own website. How political groups vote is debated extensively prior to the public vote which is recorded, policy and speeches homed and practiced.

But what about those starting out with their interest in politics, what digital signature are they leaving in the early days of their passion for politics as they develop their views. Could some of what they do or say now, recorded on the web, come back one day to haunt them and even ruin their political career in years to come?

In the eighties and nineties when I joined marches against racism, apartheid, poll tax and pretty much anything that Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives could throw at us, I did not give a second thought that what I said or my actions could affect me twenty years later. Now, in an age when everything you do or say can be captured by the multitude of devices hidden away in the pockets of all around you, there is not the same luxury of developing your political direction in public without the possibility of it coming back to bite you. For those on that early journey I would think twice on what you put on-line or at least be ready to defend it for the rest of your life, even after some of your views may have changed.

So there are two elements to your digital signature, those you personally add to the internet either through your own website or by contributing to a social network / photo or video sharing site; I call these the controllable digital signature. Whilst you have some control over this content, you can add and remove, you should always remember that just because you remove it this does not mean that someone else has not downloaded and kept a copy or captured the screen.

The second type of digital signature is content added by others; this could be a quote or article added where you have spoken to a journalist, an article or comment added with someone else’s opinion of you; photos, videos or audio that can be added either by your friends and more worryingly those who may not have your best interest at hand.

The digital era does not change the fact that if you can be exposed doing something or having an opinion that you may not wish to be seen by all – what it does is make it easier for people to access it; view or hear it firsthand, and for a wider audience to capture and share those moments in time you may wish stayed where they started.

Many politicians have become increasingly nervous about this and have reverted to the controlling tendencies I mentioned earlier. Well you won’t be able to control all elements – just make the most of the content that you do. And if you are going to do something that you may regret later, then remember that it’s not just word of mouth you need to be worried about – you may end up on YouTube performing your party trick for your constituents to see.

For everyone your Google search is effectively your on-line CV. Employers will Google you and spend more time on maintaining what information there is about you on-line. Read more about this on Jerimiahs blog. Here his example on where an individual has little presence on-line has his Google search dominated by negative content that he has no control of. You must not wait until the problem arises as the damage is already done.

Entering the blogosphere

With over 120,000 new blogs created worldwide everyday why on earth would Wellbelove want to enter the blogosphere?

Partially, given that I am increasingly working within the Web 2.0 environment I could hardly continue to advise others on the pros and cons of blogging without experiencing the creation of a blog first hand.

Additionally, I hope to be able to share some useful insights into how businesses and politicians  can make the most of the opportunities the the new age of the internet offers whilst hopefully avoiding some of the pitfulls.

One of the most common pitfall’s that new bloggers fall into is starting enthusiastically, blogging almost everyday, then slowly but surely their blog grinds to a halt despite proud promises of regular updates (even daily) when they first begin. To avoid this pitfall I make no such promises, only that as I come across new and useful information this will be the place that I will share this with you.