I think one of the ways you can sum up the idea of social media optimization and marketing is: “traffic alternatives to Google”. As great as Google is, marketers are increasingly looking for alternative and/or additional channels for content distribution and marketing and consumers for sources of information and interaction.
Some have suggested social search as an alternative. I don’t think social search will ever replace search engines as we know them today, but I do think the rate of growth for major search engines will certainly be affected by the growing number of niche tools and media specific channels such as social networks, social bookmarking sites, personalized search, tagging, podcasts, video blogs, regular blogs and other “social media”.
Some bloggers have been calling SMO (social media optimization) the next level of SEO, or SEO 2.0. SEO has grown out of it’s mainly technical roots and become more of a creative discipline. There will always be technical issues to solve though, since web sites and servers are technical things. It’s the creative and multi channel aspects of “pull marketing” that are defining the future of SEO.
What’s interesting is that more and more of our clients are asking for what amounts to alternatives to Google traffic. They’re doing great on Google and the other major search engines, but want other sources of “free” traffic. SMO/SMM provides that augmentation. These include MySpace, Digg, YouTube and other viral tactics.¬† For an excellent list of such opportunities, check out Rand’s list.