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  • Writer's pictureAriella Hayden

The 80/20 rule for social media content: what it is and why you should be following it

Take a look at the last five posts on your brand’s social media page. How many of these posts were advertisements, self-promotions or were otherwise directly related to selling your product or service? If the answer is more than one post out of the last five, then you may want to consider updating your brand’s social media strategy to follow the 80/20 rule.

To put it simply, the 80/20 rule states that only 20% of your social media content should be focused on promoting your brand and selling your product or service. The other 80% should be non-promotional content, focused on entertaining and engaging your audience.

There are numerous aspects as to why you should be following the 80/20 rule, which we will be breaking down in this article. When planning your social media strategy, you should keep in mind that your goal should not be to increase sales, but to establish and maintain relationships with your audience. In order to achieve this goal, it is best to focus on non-promotional content as opposed to promotional content.

20% of your content should be promotional

Using social media to promote your brand is not a bad thing. After all, we are living in the digital age, and every brand should have an active social media presence. However, you should try and keep the amount of self-promotional content to no more than 20% of your overall content in order to avoid overwhelming or annoying your audience.

To gain a better understanding of why you should follow the 80/20 rule, imagine your brand as a person. Now imagine that this person only ever talks about one thing, ALL the time. Would you want to be friends with this person? Most likely not. And what if this one thing that they talked about was something that they wanted you to buy from them? If this was the case, you would probably avoid spending time with this person.

Now apply this idea to your brand’s social media presence. When people go on social media, they do not want to be overwhelmed with advertisements and sales messages. Therefore, if you post too much of this type of content, it will drive people away from your brand. They might ignore, scroll past or even (gasp!) unfollow you if they feel as though they see too many promotional messages. This does not mean that you should never post anything that promotes your brand, just be sure that the majority of your content is not promotional or sales-focused. As a way to make sure that you are following the 80/20 rule, try not to have more than one out of every five posts consist of promotional content.

Here are some examples of promotional content:

  • Showcasing your own product or service

  • Promoting your own event

  • Announcing a special offer for your own product or service

  • Any content that directly promotes your brand or has the intent of making a sale

80% of your content should be non-promotional

The majority of your social media content should be non-promotional. This is because the goal of your social media strategy should not be to directly sell your product or service. Instead, your goal should be to establish strong relationships with your audience. You want to use your social media presence to create loyal customers and brand advocates, who will help you to increase sales in the long run. Once again, as a way to check that you are following the 80/20 rule, aim to have four out of every five posts consist of non-promotional content.

In order to better understand why you should post mostly non-promotional content, let’s go back to the “your brand is a person” idea. This time, imagine that this person talks about all kinds of things. This person talks about things that are funny, exciting, inspiring, educational, you get the idea. You will probably find this person a lot more enjoyable to be around than the person you imagined earlier, who only talked about something that they wanted to sell you. As a result of this, you will want to stay friends with this person. Rather than avoiding this person, you will be happy to interact with them, and if every so often this person asks you to consider buying something from them, you will probably be a lot more likely to listen to them as opposed to the earlier imagined person.

Once again, let’s apply this idea to your brand’s social media presence. If you regularly post entertaining, inspiring and educational content, people will be more appreciative of your brand’s social media presence. They will be more likely to interact with your brand, and they will be more likely to continue following you. And of course, when you do post the occasional promotional content, they will not feel so annoyed or overwhelmed. If your followers generally enjoy the content that you post, they will be more receptive to your promotional messages, and they may even be driven to make a purchase now and then.

Non-promotional content helps to establish your brand’s personality

Social media provides you with great opportunities for showing off your brand’s unique personality. However, promotional content doesn’t quite convey the personality of your brand, similarly to how you don’t learn much about a person if all they will talk about is a product or service that they are trying to sell. This is another reason why you should be focusing on posting non-promotional content.

What is your brand’s personality? If your brand were a person, what quality would they have that makes people want to befriend them? Once you have an idea of what your brand’s personality is, start thinking of content that will help to showcase it. For instance, if your brand is funny, you may want to share relevant memes to show your sense of humor. On the other hand, if your brand is smart and savvy, it may be wise to share some industry tips and tricks to show off your expertise.

You may be wondering, is it really that important for my brand to have a personality? The answer, in short, is yes. Remember that your goal is not to make a sale, but to establish long-term loyalty from your audience. There are numerous reasons as to why having a consistent brand personality creates long-term loyalty.

First of all, having a consistent brand personality makes it easier for your audience to identify you. You wouldn’t want to be confused with a competitor, so it is important to establish your own individual brand personality.

Second of all, consumers are more likely to trust a brand that has a consistent personality, since they feel as if they know what they can expect from this brand, which in turn creates long-term loyalty.

In addition to this, consumers are more likely to follow a brand if they appreciate its personality, similarly to how we are more likely to befriend someone who has an enjoyable personality, as opposed to someone that we find to be boring.

Lastly, establishing the right personality for your brand will help to draw in the right audience. As an example, a smart and savvy brand personality is likely to attract an audience of business owners and people in your industry looking for some expert tips. Decide what your brand’s personality is, then begin posting non-promotional content that reflects it. 

Non-promotional content is interactive

Non-promotional content can invite your followers to interact with your brand. While promotional content might be able to do this as well, people may not be as willing to engage with a post that is focused on selling them something. However, your followers will be more willing to interact with you on a post that intrigues them and invites engagement.

In order to invite your followers to interact with your brand, include a call to action on your post. Some examples of this would be asking a question and telling your followers to answer by leaving a comment, or inviting your followers to create their own post and use a hashtag. Another tip, if you see that your followers are engaging with your brand, don’t forget to respond and show that you are listening to them. This can be as simple as a short reply or even just “liking” their comment or content.

Non-promotional content is shareable

Non-promotional content is also great because it can be very shareable. Promotional content that showcases your products and services may not exactly be the content that your followers want to share with their friends. On the other hand, non-promotional content can be amusing, informative and inspiring. This is the type of content that people will want to share.

When people share your brand’s content, you are receiving online word-of-mouth publicity in the form of forwards, reposts and mentions. Word-of-mouth marketing is not only free, but it is generally widely accepted. Think about it, are you more likely to believe something you hear from an advertisement that you know has been paid for, or something that a friend tells you?

People will generally believe their friends, so post shareable content and generate word-of-mouth advocacy from your followers.

Here are some ideas for interactive and shareable non-promotional content to help you get started:

  • Share a relevant article or video

  • Ask your audience a question and spark a conversation

  • Answer customer questions

  • Post a behind-the-scenes photo or video

  • Share an inspiring quote

  • Hold a contest or a giveaway (make sure to check out contest and giveaway rules on your chosen social media platform, as well as state laws before doing this)

  • Share an industry-related news update

  • Share a meme that your audience will relate to (or create your own!)

  • Share some industry tips and tricks

  • Share a fun fact about your brand or industry

  • Post a photo or video showcasing your work environment

  • Ask your audience to create their own content (user-generated content)

  • Share some information about your brand’s history

  • Highlight the people behind your brand

Final reminder: follow the 80/20 rule so that your followers will stick around for the long term

As you plan your social media strategy, remember that your goal is to build consumer loyalty for the long-term, not to increase sales. Too much sales-related content will drive away your followers, which is the opposite of what you want. In order to avoid this, focus on posting mostly non-promotional content that entertains, informs and inspires your followers. This will help to showcase your brand’s personality, invite more interaction between you and your followers, and prompt word-of-mouth advocacy, all of which will help increase loyalty and strengthen the relationship between you and your audience. 

Think of your brand as a person who has not only products and services to offer, but a unique personality as well as lots of things to talk about. You want people who decide to follow you to continue to follow you, and in order to do that you must refrain from overwhelming them with too much promotional content. Following the 80/20 rule is a great way to do this. To get started, for every post containing promotional content, plan on having four more posts with non-promotional content, and you will find that the 80/20 rule is actually very easy to follow.

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