Skip main navigation

Social media search engine optimisation

This article looks at how some of the practices of search engine optimisation can be used to boost exposure within social media platforms.

As well as creating great content and messaging for your campaign, you can increase the chance of success by carefully considering search engine optimisation (SEO).

Diagram of a search engine on a computer screen

SEO is the science of increasing the quantity and quality of web traffic to a page or site by increasing its visibility on search engines such as Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing.

SEO is something that is usually of greater concern to content and marketing teams, but there are some lessons from SEO practice which can be useful for social media managers as well. If you want your content to be seen on social media, you need to either build a receptive audience or create content that is easy to find by casual users on the social platforms you use.

Being found on social platforms is partly about being recirculated – shared or retweeted by your followers. In addition, there’s no denying that word-of-mouth recommendations can be effective in increasing reach. However, there are also four simple and effective SEO techniques you can use to make sure your content appears in a social platform’s own search engine:

1. Use relevant keywords

Think about the words that people might use to talk about or search for your product. Your company or product name may be important and relevant to you, but not yet to your potential audience. Use words in your social media posts which will help you show up in searches. You can test this by doing keyword research and seeing whether you show up.

Bear in mind that some platforms use recency as a factor in displaying results, while others use relevance, eg the number of followers or amount of interaction.

2. Use hashtags and topics

On most social platforms, hashtags are now clickable, taking users directly to a list of all recent or relevant uses of the same. Using hashtags in your social media activity can increase exposure to those interested in or following a particular topic. However, deploying too many hashtags can have a negative effect. Aim for a maximum of three hashtags in a single post. Include these at the bottom of the status update rather than scattered throughout it to improve readability. Creating your own hashtag for a campaign can be really effective and help with measurement. However, you can’t control if customers will use your campaign hashtag if they’re already using a similar tag elsewhere. You can’t own everything, and nor should you attempt to. Also, using hashtags that are not relevant to your content in an effort to increase exposure can backfire dramatically and make people think negatively about your brand.

3. Stand out in results

In a crowded content field, you can help your posts stand out in search results by including photos, images or even emojis. You should also break content up with paragraph breaks, for example, putting hashtags on a separate line. On a visual medium like Instagram, where hashtag search results don’t include any captions or even account names, your images will have to speak for themselves. You can help them to be memorable or spark curiosity by using simple branding or colour conventions which relate to your other social media activity.

4. Be a good content source

Just as with SEO, one of the things that social media platforms reward in search relevance is quality. The search tool will be looking for sustained quality, engagement and relevance over time. There is no shortcut for this; you will have to work at it over the period of the campaign, and longer, if you can, but it will gradually pay off in search results.

Key to all the above is to conduct regular research. Keep up to date with trending topics, follow relevant industry topics and accounts.

Explore and reflect:

As an experiment, go to a social media platform you use and search for a company that you know and find out the following:
  • Does it show up in the search results?
  • Now try searching again, but this time, search for a keyword or hashtag you think the company should appear in the search results for. Are they there?
Share your experiment with other learners in the Comments section, and discuss which other keywords or hashtags the company could use to be more effective.
© University of Leeds
This article is from the free online

Create a Social Media Marketing Campaign

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now