Do You Follow the 80/20 rule?


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Tooting your horn is a must when applying for an accelerator program, entering a competition, or during a client interview. The rest of the time, self-promotion is like one-man cymbal performance in a concert hall. Anyone who was sitting in the seats is guaranteed to leave–and fast! Apply the analogy to social media: how many clicks did you gain on the last post about how your awesome company is? Probably not as much as you’d like. Social media presents a lovely catch-22. You want to promote your benefits, but yet we advise against self-promoting. Enter the 80/20 rule for content marketing.

What is the 80/20 rule?

According to Investopedia, Vilfredo Pareto made the first observation on the 80-20 rule, saying 20% of Italy’s population controlled 80% of the land in 1906. Joseph Juran took this principle and applied it to the business and economic sectors. For content marketing, 80/20 means that 80% of your promoted content should engage the audience and 20% promote brand services.

The 80%

People turn to social media to engage in conversations, to learn, and to be entertained. The majority of produced content should fall into one of these three categories to attract a wide audience. Why do search engines exist? To find content that solves problems or to learn about something. When does content go viral? When it’s entertaining. Why are social networks and chatbots thriving? People like to converse with others.

Where does the 80% of content come from? Sometimes content marketers rely on curated content, or sourcing relevant ready-made blogs, photos, and videos created by other industry influencers. Curated content is served to our audiences to interest and engages them in conversation. Curating works best when you, as the brand, explains why you are serving up the piece. Example: “Check out tip #5! We use this all the time,” or, “Never underestimate the value of content marketing. This is a great read.”

Sharing content created by outside influencers has the added benefit of gaining their notice or maintaining a relationship with a valued contact. On Twitter and Facebook, retweeting or liking someone’s content refreshes it on both yours and the follower’s newsfeeds, increasing organic audience reach.

Another way to reach 80% is to generate original but helpful content pinpointed to your audience’s needs. It doesn’t matter if the content is in an infographic, video, FAQ, or blog. Avoid the promotion and create something that addresses reader pain points. Create evergreen content to reap audience traffic rewards over time.

The 20%

For the 1 out of 5 posts designated for self-promotion, make the content sing. Now is the time to detail the benefits of using your product or service. Include a compelling call-to-action to seal the deal and convert that visitor. Back up claims with numbers and statistics. The best results package the promotional content with helpful content.

How do you tell?

The best way to tell if you are too self-promotional is with a social media audit. During the existing content and social media posts review process, tag promotional posts. Count and do the math. If it looks like you are promoting too much and you haven’t had the desired social results, tweak the social media strategy to contain more content helpful to your audience.