NEO, or the Study of How to Optimize Content for Social Networks

This past weekend while giving a presentation in Chicago, I was talking to the following slide:

… about the importance of understanding how Facebook’s algorithms work when creating your Facebook marketing strategy when someone from the audience asked, “is this similar to understanding how SEO helps explain how Google ranks websites?”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… EXACTLY! I’ve been working towards this idea for the past year few years, but had never articulated it that clearly.

So after a bit of refinement, I think it’s time for us (internet marketers) to add a new word to our vocabulary: NEO or Networking Engine Optimization.

In a nutshell, the idea of NEO is that by studying how social networks determine relevance, we can better understand how to optimize our marketing strategies.

Having spoken about using social media for business to many different professional audiences, I feel extremely confident in saying that very few people have any understanding of the algorithms that Facebook users to determine it’s “top news” or “suggested” friends/pages… some people, Dale Chumbley comes to mind, intuitively understand how to use these algorithms, but I’m not sure even he has put a ton of thought into why…

Assuming the feedback on this idea keeps me going, I’m hoping to explore a couple different areas of NEO… but the most interesting will definitely have to do with understanding how the “hard” algorithms interact with the “soft” people (friends, followers, fans, etc.) that really determine success.

In other words, whether talking about Facebook’s “top news” or Twitter’s “trending” topics, there’s no way to get any traction without having others interact with your content. My take is that there’s been a ton of thought into understanding the importance of engaging others in your social network (Jeff Turner’s done a particularly impressive job of this with exploring YEO), but engaging with others is only a piece of a successful internet marketing strategy and just about everyone who’s actively marketing with social media would benefit from a better understanding of the algorithms that determine the relevance of their content/presence.

Anyway, this is obviously an idea that I’m still in the early stages of exploring… and I would love to hear your thoughts. But especially based on the recent news that Facebook passed Google in terms of total traffic, isn’t it time to seriously explore how the social networks are determining the relevance of our content?

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Dustin Luther

Current lead up the team managing Brand and Influencer Engagement programs for Dun & Bradstreet. You can find me on Twitter (@tyr) or LinkedIn (DustinLuther)

14 thoughts on “NEO, or the Study of How to Optimize Content for Social Networks”

  1. Dustin, thanks for the vote of confidence but I’ll agree with your final statement… ;?) I’m just doing what makes sense to me and I’m intrigued by this idea of #NEO. If anyone can sort this out, it is you. I look forward to some great conversation with you as you dig deeper.

    1. Thanks Buddy… I ran the idea by a few different people this past week in Atlanta and had some great conversations around the topic. Was surprised how many people said they enjoyed the topic considering it’s generated only a handful of comments on FB and Twitter… Nonetheless, I’m hoping to take the time this week (while I’m in Portland!) to post my presentation from RETechSo, so that may help ignite some more discussion…

  2. Dustin: I am running about five FB business pages, including a 365Kona and a “Tips for Realtors Using New Media” page, plus my own profile page. You are right on about engagement driving the “NEO”..I started getting more comments on my Tips page about a certain topic, and then all of a sudden my analytics jumped by 129% in terms of engagement..my average reader views were about 250 with over 1200 fans..then it went to 660 within a week of my posting info that hit a cord with my readers. I am convinced that the more people who started actually clicking on it, that Facebook started putting my content into the newsfeeds of more of my “latent” fans. You can not totally “game” FB, but what Dale has done and it shows..it’s all about the content. Good content gets found, gets some buzz and then FB pushes it along..hope to discuss this with you at RETSO!

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