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Somewhere around 2005 SEO practicioners have started to hail social media sites like Digg as the new holy grail of link building. Others even started to use a new acronym for this new way of getting numerous links and high website traffic fast: Social Media Optimization or SMO.

Today everybody does SMO in some sense but almost nobody uses the term anymore.

Social Media Marketing or SMM seems to be a bit more popular by now but similar to the SEO/SEM differentiation it reflects paid advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and does not necessarily entail SEO aspects like link building. The social media audience is attracted for it’s own sake.

Social media activities by SEO specialists still focus on SMO though and are by now inseparable from SEO. In fact link building relies so much on social media directly or indirectly that they both merge.

You can’t tell where the link building stops and where the social media optimization starts.

Most people don’t even care. They use social media for SEO without having to use a an extra term for it.

In some cases the lack of a term and with it a separate strategy can be drawback. Social media strategy is much more than link building these days so that a term like SMO can make understanding the intricacies of building links and relationships for SEO reasons more evident. Otherwise the PR or social media consultants might forget this aspect altogether and focus instead on “the conversation” itself.

Participating in the social media conversation is not the goal in itself though.

By engaging with social media users and influencers you want to reach a wider audience. You want to make these linkerati notice and tell the rest of the world. As not the whole world listens all the time you want to make sure that the short term social media impact can be felt in the long term as well.

The best way to stay on the radar is to make social media users link to a site or page which will show up in search results in future.

So you not only want to participate where the conversation takes place already on Facebook, Twitter, on blogs and forums you want to set up a microsite, blog or section on your own website that gets pushed in search results. Also you can establish a community right there, at least for feedback and feature requests.

Thus link building and social media optimization merge without one of them or both vanishing. Make sure that both strategies merge in a meaningful way. Don’t just contribute to third party sites. Invite everybody to your own home page.

* CC image by Frank Gruber