I’m probably going to get some stick for this or at the least a lot of disagreement but my years of working in social media, developing content and learning how to market to customers online has made one thing very clear to me: the 80/20 rule does not work. And I don’t recommend adopting it as a strategy to grow your business.

Let’s wind back and start at the beginning. The 80/20 rule is a concept that’s been around in many facets of business for a pretty long time. In a social media sense, the 80/20 rule refers to the idea that only 20% of the content on your page should be your own content that focuses on promoting your business and generating sales. The other 80% should be interesting content about, or from, other sources because, as social media marketing blogs like to bleat ‘nobody likes someone who only talks about themselves.’  Even reading that back, it just doesn’t sound right to me and here’s why I beg to differ.

The people who ‘like’ you

Think about why your fans liked your page in the first place. My primary area of expertise is hospitality marketing so I’m going to use that as an example. I am confident that my fans like my client’s restaurant page because they’re a local and want to keep up to date with what’s happening at the establishment, they had a fantastic night at the restaurant and out of loyalty or maybe nostalgia gave the page a like, they want to be in the know when there’s a great deal or offer available, they’re meeting friends at the restaurant and want to know where they’re going and what they can expect. The list goes on. But I can guarantee that far down the list of reasons for liking the page comes ‘they share other people’s articles’ and ‘they keep me up to date on sports results.’ That will undoubtedly interest a small number of fans on your page but it doesn’t get to the heart of your audience and why they’re on the page in the first place.

Getting the content right

Rather than focussing energy on a mix of your own content and others’ content, the focus should instead be on the balance and types of content you’re sharing. And if you can generate enough variety from within your own business then I see that as a positive.

For one of my restaurant clients, we fortnightly feature a different spirit from their cocktail cabinet with a blurb all about the drink to interest the liquor connoisseurs of the page. Once a month we showcase one of our staff members with a photograph and funny anecdote about them. Weekly we’ll post about one of our daily deals and what punters can expect, we’ll also highlight a band who’ll be performing at the bar over the weekend while providing photos and an explanation of what kind of music they play. When there’s a big event on in the city we’ll mention it but in relation to what our offerings around the event are. We post links to menus on our website, feature different dishes throughout the week and sometime post short videos of food prep and plating. The content is 100% our own but provides enough interest and differentiation that the page does not come across as one big promotional poster board for the restaurant. Yet we’ve achieved that without feeling that only 2 out of every 10 posts can be about our business.

Why 100% can work

Of course for some businesses, my approach might not be feasible. In fact, when marketing for my own social media business, I embrace and enjoy sharing the gems of other marketing professionals but if I had the capacity to produce all of my own content I have no doubt that, when positioned properly to the right audience, it would still be a success. But for the hospitality businesses I work for – they have more than enough of their own content to create a highly engaging and interesting page even if 100% (yes that much) of the content is focussed on their own business, deals, offerings and upcoming events. And that’s ok, because really, that’s what their fans are on the page for in the first place.

When you do use others’ content

Dispensing with the 80/20 rule does not mean that you must never share others’ content. That’s not the case, instead your approach should be fluid and focussed on what is interesting content, what relates well to your business, and yes, what will help grow your business (either in terms of leads, sales or loyalty). In fact, I always recommend creating a tangible link between your business and the external content you’re posting, if there is nothing obvious, then why are you posting it? For example, you might be a local builder creating content for your ‘Smith and Co. Local Builders’ Facebook page and you choose to use someone else’s content and post an amusing cartoon about a bad day at the office. But make sure you get something out of it and relate it back to your business without being overtly ‘salesy’.

There’s no need to shy away from using others’ content to create an opening for promoting your business. Done well, this can be amusing, tongue-in-cheek and gentle while still pushing your business offerings.

The changing Facebook landscape

As Facebook becomes more and more of a commercial platform and more businesses embrace the Facebook advertising platform, competition with other businesses is increasing and we are continuously vying for eyes on our products and offerings. There are always exceptions to the rule but really, we can’t afford not to talk about our business every time.