Is your social media optimized for search? | Twelve Three Media

Why You Can’t Ignore SEO for Social

10 Minute Read

Social media platforms have become search engines. More and more people are looking for answers to their questions, keeping up on current events, shopping for products, and finding trustworthy local businesses on the social platforms where they spend most of their digital lives.

This shift in search habits is most noticeable among people aged 18–24. We can tell you, however, that it’s not just young people who are opting for social media over Google Search, Maps, and more. People on social media can find the information they want with a lot less gatekeeping, resulting in a more authentic and personally relevant experience.

Statistic: Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2024 (in minutes) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

If you need convincing, consider the fact that people are spending more and more of their day, every day, on their favorite social media sites (see above graphic). As daily usage grows, their online activities are becoming more and more centralized around social media.

Need even more convincing? OK…TikTok has started paying creators to enhance the “search value” of their content. The more optimized the content is for popular search terms and audience interests, the more creators can make through TikTok’s new Creator Rewards Program.

SEO for Social: A Major Opportunity for Your Business

Social media audiences are massive, with the major apps boasting hundreds of millions or even billions of active users.

Statistic: Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2024, ranked by number of monthly active users (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Now that people are using social media for much more than connecting with people and brands, businesses need to think about how to optimize their social media marketing for search.

Below, Twelve Three Media Social Media Director Megan Thielen provides just one example of how you can integrate additional keywords into an Instagram Reel by adjusting the size of the text and moving the overlay offscreen. This quick trick maximizes keyword usage without requiring you to create a crowded text overlay.

Standing out in search on social media can help you reach a host of business goals, from creating greater audience visibility to fostering engagement to driving leads and sales. To achieve the best results, you need to create a superior search experience across your social media channels.

5 Major Opportunities with SEO for Social Media

There are a number of reasons no marketer or business can afford to ignore the SEO applications of social media platforms. Reaching a gargantuan audience is just the beginning. Optimizing your social profiles and content can help you reach your marketing and advertising goals.

Need convincing? Here are some of the biggest opportunities presented by social for SEO purposes, plus insider tips for how you can outrank and outperform your competitors.

1. Ranking in Native Search Results

Every social media site has a search feature. Native search can be used to find other users on the site, as well as pages, brands, and content creators. As people move from search engines to social media for their online search needs, we’ve started to see the line between organic search and social start to blur. 

Want to know the best, easiest way to link your social media marketing to your efforts to rank in organic search? Add priority keywords to your business name. It’s a strategy we see work all the time on Google Business Profile, and it works like gangbusters on social media as well.

Screenshot of search for 'personal injury lawyer' on TikTok | Twelve Three Media

Having keywords in your business name may deviate from your DBA, but it doesn’t matter one iota. There’s no rule against this simple hack, and it is a proven strategy for getting a leg up in the search results on popular social media sites.

2. Get Your Content to Stand Out

Developing a precise keyword list is an integral part of any SEO and content strategy. Website content is considered successful if it tops the results page on Google.

You shouldn’t treat SEO and content marketing as a separate entity from your social media marketing. Leveraging select keyword searches can also prove beneficial on social media.

Read More: How to Drive Traffic with Low-Hanging Keywords

The key is tapping into how social media users search. Recognizing that users already treat the platform like a search engine, TikTok’s Creator Search Insights, for example, give you the ability to see what people are searching for and create content to tap into the search trends. In effect, Creator Search Insights doubles as a keyword tool and a content planning tool.

Another way TikTok has followed Google’s lead (and is looking to surpass the search juggernaut) is by adopting search display features very similar to Google’s suggested searches and People Also Ask.

Google-style 'People Also Ask' search feature on TikTok | Twelve Three Media

Ultimately, hashtags are perhaps the best way to monitor search habits across multiple social media outlets. Hashtags have become a kind of cross-platform shorthand for what’s trending, evergreen searches, etc.

Now that you’ve identified what users search for, you need to find a way to stand out. The Social Media Experts at Twelve Three Media have identified a number of strategies for maximizing the visibility of social content:

  • Use the platform’s best practices: The format (ex: image dimensions, vertical vs. horizontal video, video length, etc.) should fit the intrinsic style of the platform. Raw and authentic might play well on TikTok, while LinkedIn should be more professional. The text of your posts should also be rich in keywords without being spammy.
  • Get creative with keywords: Above, we talked about adding high-priority keywords to your business name to stand out when users search for businesses. You can use similar tricks with your content, such as adding keywords in image alt text and outside video overlays. Users won’t see all of these keywords, but the social media site’s automated system will—and your content will likely rank for those keywords in internal search.
  • Add hashtags: This one’s pretty obvious, but it’s worth stating outright. If you develop content to capitalize on a hashtag (a post, an image, a video—whatever), the hashtag should stand out prominently. Don’t forget to include other relevant hashtags, as this will increase the likelihood that your content will show up for multiple topics.

We often find that a mix of written and visual content is ideal for engaging users, getting views, and dominating social search. People might gravitate toward the image or the video, but they can turn to the post copy if they want more information.

3. Solidify Your Local Search Presence

Gone are the days when you had to include geo modifiers in your searches (i.e., “near me”) to get Google to deliver local results. Search results are driven in large part by where the user is located. Mobile users make up the majority of Internet traffic, so this is also true of social media and many other websites.

You’re likely competing with a number of other businesses in the local community. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get your business to stand out in local search results on social media:

  • Make sure your NAP data (name, address, phone number) is correct: Your address and phone number should be consistent and accurate across any and all profiles. If you choose to add keywords in your business name (see above—and we strongly urge you to do it), make sure you’re consistent in the keyword you target and how the name of your business is written.
  • Optimize your hashtags and post copy: No matter the content you create for social media, make the location of your business 100% clear. Include where you are located in the text of your post, add hashtags for your city, etc.
  • Geo-tagging: By adjusting the metadata for the images you upload to your socials, you can specify latitude and longitude. Crawlers will pick up on this information and recognize your location.

Social media has become a tool for discovery. More than just connecting with friends and colleagues, now people can seek out businesses in their area (or worldwide). This may result in a purchase decision, but at minimum it establishes where you are and helps you stake your claim in local in-app searches.

4. Drive Engagement

Engagement is a key performance indicator for any social media marketing. Maximizing engagement can also boost the search performance of your content and your profile as a whole.

In the SEO world, quality backlinks are essential for enhancing a website’s ranking ability. A backlink is effectively a “vote” in favor of one website from another. Sites with a high volume of backlinks from reputable domains tend to do better in the search results.

The voting analogy is even more direct on social media because platforms provide users with many options for signaling their opinion. Views, likes, shares, comments—these are all factored into social media feed algorithms. The content users engage with the most are more likely to show up in users’ feeds.

So how do you get more engagement on your social media profiles and content? Our experts recommend:

  • Staying on trend: From news items to memes, social media trends come and go really fast. Businesses and marketers need to be nimble and efficient to produce quality content that capitalizes on emerging trends in a way that users will notice.
@twelve3media but we love Coors 🥺 #chefboyardee #coorslight #goldencolorado ♬ original sound – Nostalgia Tavern

  • Being original and authentic: Earlier we mentioned the importance of matching the content you produce to the medium provided by each social media platform. While it is crucial to follow the best practices for each platform, you also need to stand out from the crowd. If you tap into a trend, bring your own unique sense of style, humor, and brand identity to the party while remaining true to your brand and followers. People can see through inauthentic messaging!
@twelve3media oh yes we can #wesanderson #wesandersontrend #wesandersonfilm #wesandersonaesthetic ♬ original sound – hiran pieris

  • Don’t limit your content to one platform: In recent years, TikTok has set the standard for what users expect from social media. You can—and should—be sharing content across platforms, making adjustments as needed (such as editing out the TikTok watermark) to ensure that the content resonates with multiple audiences. This will save you time, effort, and money on creating social media content without sacrificing engagement.

  • Make full use of each platform’s functionality: For example, both videos and audio can trend on TikTok. Say you want to capitalize on trending audio but it’s not appropriate for the content you want to produce. With some finagling on the backend of the app, you can add the trending audio sample, mute it, and then lay your preferred audio over the top of the video. This little trick can help you rank among videos that use the trending audio piece while providing a different experience for the audience.
@twelve3media are we… the wild west? #goldencolorado #visitgoldenco #thewildwest #agencylife #touristinmyowncity ♬ TEXAS HOLD 'EM – Beyoncé

Content performance on social media can be unpredictable. One post might get thousands of views and reactions, while another gets you nothing but crickets. It’s important not to get discouraged. Hone in on your audience, keep producing content, find your voice, closely monitor your core metrics, and use these insights to develop engaging content.

5. Tell Your Story

Google defines content quality in the context of E-E-A-T: Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. The truth and accuracy of the information is key, and the websites that provide expert, authoritative information are the ones that rank consistently.

On social media, the definition of “quality content” is entirely different. The content that shows up in users’ feeds are the posts, images, and videos that tap into trends while being funny, educational, entertaining, or aligned with users’ interests.

Unique personality and POV are both important. Instead of the long-form, authoritative content we see ranking in the search results, storytelling on social media is done in bits and pieces over time (short-form video is currently the most popular option). If users connect with the story and content, they’re more likely to follow the brand or content creator.

So what does this mean for your business? It’s an opportunity to be authentic. You don’t have to worry about proving you are the industry leader like you do with your website content. Every social media user—from the individual to a global brand—earns trustworthiness by being real.

We’ve talked a lot about jumping on trends. But any content you create—whether it’s wholly original or meant to capitalize on a new hashtag—needs to be unique to you and your branding.

@twelve3media consider the fuckery spread #motivation #agencylife #hypeman #aggresivemotivation #goodvibes #dailyquotes #quotesaesthetic #riseandgrind #mindset ♬ original sound – Quiet Mind

Like any story, it also needs to be entertaining and interesting. You know what isn’t interesting? A 10-year-old TV sport haphazardly uploaded to your socials.

You need to show what your business is all about now, on the social media platforms where people spend a ton of time. They want to be entertained, engaged, and inspired—don’t fall back on old advertising methods to try to stand out in social media feeds.

Start Optimizing Your Social Media for Search

Overall, we find that the algorithms on social media platforms tend to be less sophisticated than those employed by Google and other search engines. This can make it easier for your profile and content to rank. As with search engine optimization, however, a half-baked SEO for social media strategy will get you nowhere.

The elite minds at Twelve Three Media have compared notes on SEO and social media. We see immense opportunity to bolster our clients’ social media marketing with tried-and-true SEO tactics, and we can help your business realize these same opportunities.

Ready to dominate search listings on social media? Contact Twelve Three Media to start creating a customized marketing strategy with our multidisciplinary team of experts!

Learn How to Build Your Business!
Check out our premium publications tailored to your industry.