Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Social Network: Online and Off

If you’ve dipped a toe into the world of social media marketing, you’ve probably heard of the “80/20 rule”.

It applies to a brand’s output on a social media channel, and generally stipulates that you should (as a company, organization, or professional) focus no more than 20% of your posts talking about yourself, and 80% talking about “other”: Other companies, other campaigns, other projects, other news, interesting factoids or humorous tidbits – anything that’s NOT all “me, me, me”.

And this makes perfect sense; no one’s going to follow a brand that’s constantly selling to them – at least, not in the that space. It’s not for selling, it’s for social!

But that 80/20 rule? It ain’t just for companies and marketers in the e-social world. Hell, it’s not even just for online.

I spent the better part of last year on the job search, which means I went to a LOT of happy hours, networking events, and the like. Consequently, I met approximately eleventy billion people (give or take) who were there with the single-minded focus of trying to promote their own companies/ideas/projects/selves. They weren’t interested in getting to know anyone or make a genuine, valuable connection – and it showed, because they weren’t following the 80/20 rule.

Look, I get it – at the end of the day, yes, we’re at those events to further our own careers or our own projects. But social is social, whether it’s online or in person. And when we meet and you instantly bombard with me with YOU YOU YOU and forget to a) forge a connection, b) fail to take an interest in ME, and/or c) offer me something of value… I start to tune you out, just like hitting that “hide posts” button on Facebook or that big fat “unfollow” on Twitter.

You may not be able to see it so obviously in my glazed-over expression, but I just UNFOLLOWED you – in real life.

(Also? It’s just plain rude. Your mama taught you that.)

In our social media marketing bubble, we spend so much time trying to figure out the online that we often forget about how to appropriately and effectively represent whatever it is we’re hocking (our brand, our project, ourselves) when we come face to face with our audience. Which is especially tragic, because that real life impression is worth a hundred digital ones.

So I’m asking you to live by the 80/20 rule… not just on Twitter, but in life. The next time we meet over drinks, don’t immediately launch into your own spiel. Instead, ask questions, inquire about others’ projects, maybe even make a friend. I promise forging real connections with people will result in more (and better) lead generation than you ever imagined.



About the Author: Rachael King graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in Spring 2006. She is currently a Social Media Account Executive at iostudio, a full-service ad agency with offices in DC and Nashville. Currently Rachael is traveling the country, speaking to and teaching the 54 states and territories of the National Guard how to use social media as a marketing/recruitment tool. She is also President of Social Media Club – DC, Events Manager for 20SB, and a co-organizer of the annual meet up Bloggers in Sin City. Follow Rachael on Twitter.


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