Search Media Optimization / Outreach has become one of the most popular traffic building activities to outsource. And paraphrasing comment on my previous post, when it comes to finding a qualified needle in a freelancing haystack SMO is even more challenging than SEO and others activities alike. First, a couple words on typical aspects of SMO, here are just a few things that you can consider:
- Building Twitter follower crowd and posting ongoing tweets to the community you’ve created
- Creating Profiles on Social Networks, generating “friends”, update of status / spam friends with info
- Creating SM advertising campaigns using follow / vote / fun tools
- Bookmaking the target using sharing engines such as StumbleUpon
- As well as traditional resources such as forums
Each of these activities present a fairly easily outsourced task, at least it appears to. For example you can create a mascot for you’re your service. That mascot can have its own twitter page. Using variety of available tools and offshore labor you can
- Generate a large crowd of followers
- Welcome followers / engage in conversations with them
- Post on a regular basis updates on your service
I found a lot of resources on sites such as oDesk, GAF, etc. that claim to be professionals with years of expertise in SMO arena for as low as .50 (fifty cents!) an hour. Some of them even come with their own tools of trade such as FriendBuilder for Facebook. So doing SMO could be a fairly low investment. Of course the main question is what ROI to expect. And the answer is rather discouraging. Let’s just consider Twitter –
Twitter following is easily automated, for example, you can setup your mascot to follow everyone who is following it. What you will find soon that by doing just that you can grow the number of followers to 1000s in a couple months. Then you need to ask yourself a question: how many of these followers are real people and how many are mascots / automatons / etc.? Chances are large percentage of Twitter traffic is conversations between robots.
Another interesting aspect of Twitter is information overload and as a result minuscule attention span. Even if you have real followers, the chances that your message would get through to them are infinitesimal, as your message is at best a proverbial drop in a bucket.
I setup one of those accounts about a year ago as an advertising experiment. Had a little bit of freelancer support and some automation added to it. The account now has over 12,000 followers who enjoy reading cynical quotations the mascot pulls out of small DB and occasional advertising with shortened URL. My total investment in it was mere $100. And here is a $100 question – how many clicks have Twitter mascot page generated for me so far… Not counting my own and other test clicks I got exactly… zero. Well, it’s understandable, easy come – easy go. But I think one should look deeper than that and consider overall potential of Twitter as traffic generating channel. In some case it could be rather substantial, it just can not be a main or single channel, and you can not start with it. Let me qualify that point – if you are Ashton Kutcher and have a following already, adding twitter to your promotional channels could help. I honestly doubt that you can become a Twitter celebrity first and then take yourself to Hollywood (twitter founders aside). Or if you have a popular software product you can add twitter as an adverting channel, you can not make s/w product popular by promoting it through twitter posts.
Very similar stats apply to other SMO traffic generation techniques. Many of them will generate irrelevant traffic, little traffic, or no traffic at all. My recent analysis of SMO activities on one project delivered by a fairly inexpensive provider with decent productivity (some I found on Guru) was very disappointing: Traffic generated by SMO after 6 months stabilized at $0.04 per view with 92% bounce off ratio, not counting my own time (considerable investment needed to manage SMO provider). That is total waste of money if you consider that StumbleUpon traffic via their ad channel was $0.05 per view with 85% bounce ratio and almost zero effort on my part.
And again, I do not dismiss SMO as one of the vehicles you may want to consider to promote your site and build your traffic. I would be just exceptionally cautious when selecting provider, establishing agreement with them, and most important deciding whether SMO is something that could ultimately benefit your site / product / etc.