Facilitating Social Media Optimization (SMO)
Posted on October 24, 2006
By Mike Banks Valentine
Interview with Dom Vonarburg of AddThis.com
Social Media Optimization (SMO) is the new buzzword when it comes to getting
links from sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Technorati, and Flickr. There is a lot
of talk on SEO blogs and in forums about this concept. What it means,
essentially, is that web publishers want visitors to bookmark their content,
subscribe to their blogs, news, product and podcast feeds.
A current search at Google for "Social Media Optimization" (as of this writing)
has Lee Odden's TopRankBlog post on SMO showing up number one for that search.
Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations is being credited with coining the
Social Media Optimization phrase and said in Rule #2 of his "Five
Rules of Social Media Optimization" blog post in August, 2006
"Make tagging and bookmarking easy - Adding content features like quick buttons
to "add to del.icio.us" are one way to make the process of tagging pages
Until recently, making "the process of tagging pages easier" has been rather
cumbersome and tedious for publishers. Collecting code and "chiclets" (logos)
from each service first to facilitate using social bookmark service links and
feeds, then posting a mish-mash of those links near web content to encourage
visitors to subscribe to feeds or bookmark that content through any of dozens of
But a new service at http://www.AddThis.com has been launched
which appears to solve the complexity for publishers and reduces the "chiclet"
clutter by providing a single button for bookmarks or a single button for RSS
feeds, to allow bookmarks and feeds through any of the most popular services.
What follows is a Q&A with AddThis.com co-founder Dom Vonarburg.
Q) Most interviews end by asking if there is anything else you'd like to add,
what specifically would you like people to know about AddThis up front?
A) AddThis.com is a brand new service that helps web surfers collect information
online with a single click, and send it to their favorite bookmarking service,
feed reader, wish list service, podcast service, etc. AddThis also helps web
publishers promote their content (web pages, feeds, products, podcasts, etc)
online by making it easier for their visitors to collect it, save it, and
distribute it to social services. AddThis was launched in September at the DEMO
conference, the launchpad for emerging technology.
Q) Do you see AddThis as a potentially big player in the Social Media
Optimization (SMO) phenomenon since you make it easier for web publishers to
get their sites bookmarked, and their podcasts and blog feeds subscribed?
A) We started working on AddThis back in March 2006, even before the term SMO
was first coined. The idea behind AddThis was, and still is, to completely
eliminate all obstacles web publishers have in distributing their content to
visitors and the social media services they might use. Our internal term for it
was initially social SEO, but I like Social Media Optimization better.
We think AddThis will be a very important player in the SMO space, as it is the
first service to provide a generic gateway for collecting and distributing many
different types of content. AddThis acts as a bridge between the web publisher,
the web user, and the social media services.
Q) You've added a new angle to the bookmarks game with the "Products" button.
If it takes off, it seems like it would be great for ecommerce sites, especially
with the reporting attached. I haven't seen this anywhere else. What made you
bring the product angle into an AddThis Product Button?
A) "Products" was the next logical step for us after bookmarks, feeds and
podcasts. People want to collect and compare the products and services they find
online, and ecommerce websites want to facilitate this process. By adding
"Product" buttons to their pages, ecommerce websites are more likely to be
included in their visitors' final purchase decisions. The button also helps
spread these products to other people through social bookmarking and social
shopping websites (Kaboodle.com, Wists.com, ThisNext.com, etc).
Q) You are offering AddThis as a free service. Is there any plan to move to a
higher level plan to monetize it? I noted your participation in the DEMO
conference where companies seek venture capital and seed funding. Were you
seeking funding and were you successful?
A) Yes, the service is free and will continue to be free. Starting early next
year, we will also provide a premium version of the service. I don't want to say
too much at this point, but the premium service will provide many interesting
features for web publishers, one of which will be more advanced statistics. Our
primary goal with DEMO was to boost the launch of AddThis. We also received the
attention of several investors.
Q) Providing stats was an extra step that probably increased costs and
complexity for AddThis. What made you consider the reporting to publishers as an
important part of a free service?
A) The statistics was a fairly simple feature to add and we thought it added a
lot of value to web publishers, especially for products. For example, with the
statistics, web publishers can find out which products their visitors are most
interested in, which ones receive less attention, etc.
Q) Is there any connection with ClickAbility.com? ("Email This" "Save This" and
A) ClickAbility is different in that it provides its own system for saving
information. AddThis does not impose any destination for the content collected.
Q) Was the AddThis.com domain already yours, or did you purchase from an
existing owner? It shows in domain records as being registered since 1998, but
the WayBack Machine at Archive.org only shows a single page with nothing on it
from 2002. So little history available on the domain. Has AddThis been in the
works since 1998?
A) The domain was not ours; we purchased it from its previous owner in March
Q) Most bloggers providing RSS feeds to their users did their best to get each
of about a dozen of those "Chiclets" allowing subscriptions through the most
popular services posted in the margins of their blogs. Many bloggers are now
relying on the FeedBurner service and moving to a single feed logo. How does the
AddThis.com feed service compare to FeedBurner? Do you see FeedBurner as a
A) FeedBurner's primary business is feed hosting and management. Feeds are only
one type of content supported by AddThis, we support and will support many more
types. We think our generic approach to content collection and distribution is
truly unique. So we don't see FeedBurner as a direct competitor.
Q) Most big publishers and now thousands of smaller web site owners and bloggers
are beginning to post Del.icio.us and Furl and Reddit logos and links on their
pages in the hopes that site visitors will bookmark their pages in the social
bookmarks services. Some are choosing to add a few links to some of the other
bookmarking services, but few go beyond the top 5 social bookmarks site links. I
see that AddThis Bookmark service offers 16 social bookmarks services. How did
you decide ones which you would include? Certain popularity levels?
A) We picked the most popular bookmarking services based on popularity and
visibility in the search engines. We only stopped at 16 because of time
constraints, but we will add many more of them in the future. By letting AddThis
maintain the list of bookmark and feed buttons, web publisher can better focus
on their content.
Q) Do you have any plans for a tie-in with Digg? As a news popularity site, they
have a different focus than the RSS feeds and Social Bookmarks services, but
many site publishers are including "Digg This" links from their web pages as
part of a "social media marketing" plan. Does your focus with AddThis stick to
bloggers, product retailers, bookmarks, and podcasts or will you consider
expanding into the news and other areas?
A) Social news is also a logical candidate for AddThis. We will also add other
types of content based on user adoption.
Q) Is there anything else you'd like to Add(to)This? ;-)
A) We think AddThis will play a big role because it makes a lot of sense for
both web users and web publishers. You can think of AddThis.com as the more
social sister of AddMe.com, or its Web2.0 extension. Each service helps you
achieve a different kind of visibility.
As a publisher, I had been updating WebSite101 to a new template and had been
considering including Furl, Reddit, Del.icio.us, and Digg, but came across the
AddThis Demo launch story and dropped Furl and Reddit from the mix in favor of
the AddThis "Bookmark" link, since AddThis supports all of the bookmarking
services with one button.
I'm keeping the Del.icio.us and Digg links for now, but I think once publishers
begin to realize they can simplify bookmarks and if users understand that they
can use any social bookmark service through AddThis, that you'll see strong
adoption of the service.
Good luck on wide adoption of AddThis by both the public and publishers Dom, I
wish you the best of luck with your contribution to Social Media
Mike, I want to thank you for this opportunity to answer these questions and
describe our vision for AddThis.com; your questions were right on