Social Media: The 80/20 Rule

Social Media: 80/20 Rule

Balancing the amount of valuable information you share via social media with the amount of time you spend talking about yourself is the key to a successful social presence. There’s room for a bit of self-promotional material but if you go overboard your followers will start to feel spammed and start wandering away. The 80/20 Rule of social media engagement serves as a guideline to help you find the sweet spot.

The 80/20 Rule: What Is It?

Pareto’s Principle

Usually, when someone refers to the 80/20 Rule they are speaking of Pareto’s Principle that states that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of your efforts. In business this can be reflected by the idea that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Or that 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population. It is an interesting concept that can be used to identify and solve all sorts of problems both in and out of the office. It’s also not exactly what I’m talking about in terms of social media engagement.

Social Media Engagement

When it comes to engaging with people using social media venues, the 80/20 rule is simple. Spend 80% of the time relaying content that is really interesting, content that your readers will truly enjoy and appreciate being delivered. Spend 20% of your time promoting yourself.

It’s Called “Social Media” for a Reason

It’s called “social media” because that’s where people go to socialize. They don’t want to be constantly pestered with your products and pitches. Have you ever gone to a party and been continually pestered by someone peddling their Tupperware or skin care products? They have free samples, brochures full of testimonials, and a continuous need to pressure you? It’s not only exhausting to fend them off, it also takes all the fun out of the party.

Think of your social media outlets like a party. Don’t be the person schlepping a tote bag full of handmade organic candles everywhere. But don’t forget to bring your business cards, either.

The 80%: How to Fill the Void

Filling up 80% of your content with things that are not about you can seem a little daunting at first. What should you put there? Think about topics that relate to your industry that you find interesting. When you’re sifting through the daily news, blogs, and other outlets every day what are you looking for? Finding content from authoritative sources that supports your point of view, your business, your products, or the way you do business will give you lots to give to your followers.

Social Media Today outlines three simple steps to make finding content to share a little easier:

  1. Follow Influencers. Look for leaders in your industry to follow and learn what they are sharing and creating. What do they find interesting? What do they share with their followers?
  2. Share Interesting Content. When you find something that you find interesting, share it with your followers. Post a link to Twitter or Facebook, or Pin a picture of a great-looking project to your Pinterest board. If you find it interesting, it’s likely that your followers will too.
  3. Engage with Influencers. Tagging them when you share their original content, commenting on their blogs, and otherwise engaging with industry leaders will bring a bit of attention to your activity and will let others know that you are sharing their content. That way, when they find something that you’ve shared interesting, they are more likely to share it with their followers.

The 20%: Making “Me Time” Count

Once you’ve got the 80% covered, that does not mean that you’re free to start spamming your friends. Social Media Explorer talks about how people use social media to connect with friends in family in ways that were once done by phone or in person. They liken sales pitches via social media to rude telemarketers interrupting social conversations and family time. I’d have to agree.

How can you make the most of that 20% without coming across as a rude telemarketer? One way is to create useful content that you can share with your followers that is aligned with your products without directly pitching them. For example, a content creator on the web can write a blog post about not harassing your friends on Facebook with sales pitches. This lets you know how that writer feels about spammy social media activity while hopefully sending a little traffic to the writer’s website. [do you see what I did there? =D]

In other words, fill that 20% with information about who you are, what you do, what you care about, and how you can improve the lives of others. Don’t post a link to the product page featuring your newest line of organic jellies. Instead, shoot a video of your strawberry fields that show neighborhood kids helping out.

If you’re going to pimp your products directly, find a way to be interesting about it. Create an offer, find interesting statistics, link your products to a current event or holiday. “Our organic jelly not only saves a hundred pounds of chemicals from entering the ecosystem, they also make great stocking stuffers.” Still pretty salesy, but if you’re doing all of the rest of it right then your followers won’t mind the occasional well-directed pitch.