Troy Media – by Doug Lacombe
The Pareto principle, aka the 80-20 rule, seems to magically apply to many areas of life, including social media marketing
Anyone who has ever managed a sales team is familiar with the axiom 80 per cent of your sales come from 20 per cent of your customers, but where else does it apply?
Remember pea pods
According to Wikipedia, early 20th century business consultant Joseph M. Juran figured it applied to land ownership and pea pods. He concluded this after studying the work of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto “who observed in 1906 that 80 per cent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population; (and) he developed the principle by observing that 20 per cent of the pea pods in his garden contained 80 per cent of the peas.”
In business the Pareto principle has been ascribed to numerous datasets. From Wikipedia:
- 80 per cent of your profits come from 20 per cent of your customers
- 80 per cent of your complaints come from 20 per cent of your customers
- 80 per cent of your profits come from 20 per cent of the time you spend
- 80 per cent of your sales come from 20 per cent of your products
- 80 per cent of your sales are made by 20 per cent of your sales staff
My theory is the Pareto principle applies equally well to social media marketing. For example, I would guess:
- 80 per cent of your weekly blog traffic comes from 20 per cent of your annual readers
- 80 per cent of your blog comments come from 20 per cent of your readers
- 80 per cent of your Twitter interaction is with 20 per cent of your following
- 80 per cent of your Facebook interactions come from 20 per cent of your fans
- 80 per cent of what you publish on social media is dreck you want to say, 20 per cent is what the audience wants to hear
It’s this last one I emphasize over and over with my clients. In monologue marketing, companies said what they wanted to say and that was it, broadcast over. In social media marketing, where there should be a dialogue, you need to adjust, publishing what the audience wants to hear instead of what you want to say.
You may want to say your detergent makes clothes whiter than white, but most don’t believe that. The audience may principally be concerned about phosphates, or packaging, or cold water washing, or getting grass stains out of Johnny’s trousers and so on. Whiter than white is a laundry pipe dream from some non-existent marketing Pleasantville, and folks are too wise to be sold a total bill of goods these days.
Talk to them and they will engage, talk AT them and they will tune you out.
My final application of the Pareto principle is in outbound publishing, meaning the blog posts, tweets and so on you send out. I recommend a nice balanced 3-1-1 ratio, a variant on the 80-20. It goes like this: eighty percent of the stuff you publish should NOT be directly about you (but should be about your “area of expertise”), 20 percent should be about you.
Achieving the right balance
More specifically, out of every five tweets or blog posts or Facebook posts, I want to see three that are generous or educational in nature, one that is human and will accept one that is “pitchy”. If five of your tweets say “Company X is a great place to work” you sound desperate and spammy. If three of those tweets say “Check out this university study on careers in our industry” or some variant, and the next one says “Can’t wait for my tropical vacation” and the final one says “Career opportunities for you at Company X, search here” then you have struck the balance between giving, taking and showing a little humanity.
And that’s what social media marketing is about – injecting a little humanity into the process while we all continue to buy and sell stuff. Following the Pareto principle might just bring your marketing into harmony with the universe.
Doug Lacombe is president of Calgary social media agency communicatto. Find him on Twitter at @dblacombe.
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