You may have heard about the 80/20 rule over the past few years. It has become a tenant of the content marketing craze that has pervaded the brand-boosting strategies of everyone from the mom and pop store around the corner to Fortune 500 companies. It goes like this; 80 per cent of the content you post to social media should not be a direct sales pitch for your company or its products and the other 20 per cent should be.
The 80/20 rule is a great start point in understanding how to build a successful social media strategy. As with most things in life, it’s better to realize and act upon the logic behind this rule than to take it as an infallible law. You don’t necessarily need to take 10 pieces of content and ensure each and every one is split along the 80/20 border. However, you do need to make sure the content you are posting has a good balance between a hard sales/promotional approach and an engaging, fun approach.
The logic behind the rule is centred around the goals of your audience and your goals as a business owner, fundraiser, association executive, etc. Your goal, quite simply, is to expose people to your organization and have them spend money on your products or services. The goal of regular individuals on social media (ie. your audience) is to discover information that is valuable. This value might come in the form of information, entertainment or social interaction. The key is to bridge the goals of the audience and the goals of your organization. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in.
Imagine your organization’s social media account is like a store in a busy marketplace in the middle of a park. Not only are there so many choices for the regular person to buy from, but many of the people who come to the park aren’t even looking to shop; they just want to come and have a good time at the park. Your store needs to not only attract customers, but also keep them coming back. You need to let the shopper know what you are selling and why shopping at your store will bring more value to their life. However, you also need to make the environment of your store a place where people want to go even if they are on a leisurely walk with their friends.
In this scenario, a hard sell is not the most effective approach to the create the aforementioned environment. Catering to the interests and wants of your audience is. If you are selling sports equipment, what is more likely to intrigue casual passerbys with no intention of buying anything: A pitching tutorial from the local baseball star or a banner that says, “Our shoes are the best in town and we have them in every colour you want!” The safe bet would be on the first option. It’s interesting, educational and entertaining all at once. It also gets customers in the door and looking at your products.
Transferring this logic to social media, it’s easy to see how the 80/20 rule breeds success for brands. People are more willing to visit your Facebook page, share your tweet or like your Instagram post (thus increasing exposure) if the bulk of content is something that engages them and doesn’t attempt to embark on a one-sided sales pitch. That is why content marketing is such a hit. Instead of writing a blog about the attributes of your sports products and posting it to Twitter, a smart marketer writes a post about the best places to play sports in their city and posts it to Twitter. That is information that engages people, offers solid advice they use in their real lives and drives traffic to your website, thereby increasing the likelihood they will at least consider spending money on your product.
So the next time you are building a marketing plan or content calendar for social media, make sure you establish a good balance between the hard-sell, aggressive marketing content and lighter, edu-taining (educational and entertaining) content that engages your audience and their interests. Your bottom line will thank us.