The 80/20 rule for social media has long been used by marketers to ensure brands maintain a good balance between promotional and interesting / engaging, but non-promotional, content on social media feeds. But is this rule still relevant, or has it become slightly outdated?
What is the 80/20 rule?
The 80/20 rule suggests that in order to succeed as a business on social media, 80% of the updates you post (tweets, LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts etc.) should contain non-promotional content that is valuable in other ways to your followers. For example, 80% of your updates should be relevant to your business and:
But, crucially, not directly promoting your products or services.
In the business world in general, the 80/20 rule comes from the idea that 80% of your revenue is generated from 20% of your customers. So you ideally want to attract more customers like that 20%. In other words, focus your time and effort on the things that matter.
This rule can easily be applied to social media, particularly for b2b companies, as your clients and customers are unlikely to buy from you as a direct result of your social media activity.
Social media should not solely be used as a way of selling your products or services. Instead, you should focus on creating an engaged community around your brand that relies on you to provide them with relevant and interesting content.
After all, social media should be ‘social’. Use great content to start conversations with your followers, rather than just push information about your products and services onto their mobile phones, laptops and computers.
What does it look like in practice?
I’ve picked out a couple of brands which appear to be using the 80/20 rule to guide their social media activity. For comparison, I’ve chosen one b2b and one b2c brand. First up, discount travel company Travelzoo.
Here are 5 recent, consecutive tweets from Travelzoo UK’s account which demonstrate the 80/20 rule:
In honour of Euro 2016, Travelzoo UK have produced some great content in the form of alternative guides to some of the participating countries. The links in these tweets take users through to the Travelzoo UK website, where they can read some interesting facts about each country.
This content is educational, entertaining and engaging, but it doesn’t directly promote any of the offers they have on at the moment. The idea being that once users are on the website, they’ll be likely to navigate further, discover offers and possibly convert.
The final tweet, however, is directly promoting a travel offer for Singapore.
Here are 5 recent updates from Microsoft on Linked which also demonstrate the 80/20 rule:
Microsoft’s non-promotional updates include a jobs newsletter, an industry guide, a recruitment update and a Twitter chat call to action.
For b2b companies, the line between promotional and non-promotional content can appear more blurred. Although these 4 updates are still about Microsoft as a company, none of them attempt to sell directly to the user.
The final update, however, is promoting a special offer on Surface Pro 4.
Is the 80/20 rule still relevant?
In the era of Content Marketing, in which brands must develop ever more creative, original and inventive ways of engaging audiences on social media, some have suggested that the 80/20 rule is no longer relevant.
Arguments for the irrelevance of the 80/20 rule include:
- All business social media posts are inherently promotional in nature
- An exact formula like 80/20 doesn’t work for a creative medium
- Balance can’t be standardised and is contextual
The post linked to above suggests a different approach to social media for business: striking the balance between ‘generative’ and ‘curatorial’ content. In other words, content you create vs. content you find and share.
I agree that there is no universal winning formula to successfully building a social media presence for your brand and keeping your audience engaged.
However, I would suggest the following: use the 80/20 rule as a guide, to ensure the updates you post for your business provide variety to keep your followers interested in what you have to say and coming back for more.
As with any aspect of Digital Marketing, you should be constantly analysing and refining your social media strategy to be as successful as possible, and find the perfect balance for your individual brand – whether that’s between promotional vs. non-promotional content, or generative vs. curatorial.