The 80/20 Rule of Social Media Marketing – and Why Getting it Wrong Can Hurt Your Success

If you are promoting your blog, product or brand via social media, you have probably stumbled across the 80/20 rule of social media marketing.If you are promoting your blog, product or brand via social media, you have probably stumbled across the 80/20 rule of social media marketing.  But the chances are high that you have heard this rule all wrong. Here is what you need to know for successful social media marketing. #socialmedia #socialmediatips #socialmediamarketing #digitalmarketing #onlinebusiness #smallbusinessmarketing

But the chances are high that you have heard this rule all wrong. Because misinformed “marketing experts” share a variant of this rule that is simply not true – and can in the worst case hurt your blog or business success.

Blindly following this “wrong” form of the 80-20 rule will cost you traffic to your website.

So, what exactly is the 80-20 rule?

Originally, the 80-20 rule for social media marketing stated that 80% of your social media updates should educate, inform your audience and be seriously useful or helpful. Only 20% of social media posts should be promotional.


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The rule was important since far too many unknowing bloggers and businesses jumped on the social media train to promote their products – and got totally frustrated because nobody wanted to follow their promotional messages and their marketing failed thoroughly.

Social media seriously changed the way marketing works. Where previously a lot of marketing had to do with conveying a promotional message, social media needed more value in the majority of the updates – or people would simply not follow the promoter and the promotional messages lost their chance of reaching many people.

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Today, it may seem rather hard to draw an exact line between promotional and educating content. Is a blog post promotional or is it informative? It depends… Is an Instagram photo of an influencer wearing a nice jacket on a trip to a nice location promotional or informative? Again, it depends…

And that makes the 80-20 rule not as relevant as it once was. What remains is the hint to effective social media marketing: Make sure your audience listens to you before you focus on getting the promotion to them.

What you can still take away from the 80-20-rule is that you have to post around 80% stuff that your audience wants to have – and you can mix in another 20% of posts that you want your audience to have.

Or as Jonathan keeps saying: In social media, you can post what you want as long as your audience likes what you are doing.

(Yes, that excludes everything that is hurtful, hateful, offensive or just bad taste.)

What people claim the 80-20 rule says

What is spread as the 80-20 rule often sounds a lot different from what the original rule said.


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“Post 80% of content from other bloggers or content creators and only 20% of your own content.”

What is wrong with this modification of the 80-20 rule? Does is not make sense based on the original rule?

First of all, I think this modified 80/20 rule is simply bullsh?t from a follower’s point of view. If I follow a blogger on social media, I do so because I like their content. And I expect to receive their content on social media. That is exactly why I follow them.

If they now “spam” me with content from random people I might not even like, I am highly likely to unfollow the blogger because I am not getting what I wanted in the first place.

Example: If I follow SocialMediaExaminer on social media I do so because they create awesome informative blog posts that could be of interest to me. I certainly do not follow SocialMediaExaminer because they are awesome content curators – no clue if they are…

Sure, if you want to post often on social media and you do not have a ton of informative and helpful content that your audience wants to have, other people’s content can fill that gap. And that is where the modified rule most likely comes from.

In times when online content marketing was still evolving, many promoters did not have so much helpful content and still wanted their promotional message out on social media. Posting other people’s content was the solution to fill that 80% of helpful posts.

But as a blogger, your blog posts should be catering for the interest of your audience in the first place. That makes your own content absolutely adequate to be posted on your social media channels – even 100% of your own content.

Why does the modified 80-20 rule cost you traffic?

Now, consider this: You built a considerable following on social media. Each post you make on your social channels gets around 10 clicks (just to have a number here.) If you now make 10 posts on social media, these 10 social media posts will earn 100 (=10×10) visitors to a website. If 80% of the content you share is from other people, 80 of these website clicks will go to other people’s websites and only 20 will end up on your blog.

Now, consider that you ignore the modified 80-20 rule that so many people have told you to follow and post 100% of your own content because your blog content is helpful and of interest to your audience. 100 of the clicks on your shared content will now go to your blog (instead of just 20 clicks when you only post 20% of your own content.)

This simple change will 5 time your traffic from social media.

Does it work?

We have hundreds of useful blog posts that we share on social media. And we chose to ignore the (modified) 80-20 rule a long time ago simply because it did not make sense to us.

Sharing our blog content – and only our blog content – has helped us grow our Twitter audience to several hundred thousand followers.

Or look at Jeff Bullas’ Twitter account – not much content from other bloggers there…

Sharing our content on Pinterest has not hurt our traffic generation either.

Take a look at the Pinterest account of Social Media Examiner. They have an awesome following of 48k people. And they ONLY share their own content.

Why does other people’s content still have a rightful place in your social media strategy?

There are still some very good reasons to consider using other people’s content in your social media strategy.

  • when you do not have so much content that you can fill the need for information from it – use other people’s content
  • Content from more famous people can help you to grow your reach – and credibility on social media. Shares can also be a good way to open a conversation or get noticed.
  • Sharing other people’s content can help to get more engagement. Sometimes you can earn likes, shares, and comments from the content owner. Some of them will simply want to return the favor
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If someone tells you that you should share more of other people’s content, don’t simply do it, ask why you should. It could be a good idea – but it could also be bad advice from someone who did not understand what the 80-20 rule was all about!

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The 80/20 rule of social media marketing is an impportant factor for marketing success. There is a modification of the rule that could hurt your business. Do not buid your social media marketing strategy on the wrong interpretation of good social media advice. #socialmediastrategy #socialmediatips #socialmedia #socialmediasuccess