Embracing Social Media for Growth

Play nice while growing your audience on social media with the 80/20 rule

You know that person you meet at a cocktail party who never stops talking about themselves? That’s who you don’t want to be on social media. And that’s why you need to follow the 80/20 rule.

Your organization probably already shares content on social media. But, by thinking about it clearly and strategically, you can be sure you are supporting your community and building good will. That way, when you want and need their support, they’ll be willing to listen.

It’s not about me. It’s about you.

The 80/20 rule was derived from marketing principles, applied to content marketing, and then recently also applied specifically to social media marketing. For social media, the rule is that 80 percent of your content should not be about you, but rather about things your community would find relevant or interesting. Only 20 percent should be your own content.

It’s about community.

Social media is, at its core, simply a group of people coming together online. It’s a type of “pull” marketing because your audience can choose to receive the message or not, as opposed to “push” marketing such as broadcast advertisements where the audience can’t easily opt out. On social media, your audience has the option to unlike your page or unfollow you at any point. So you have to earn their trust and good will. The 80/20 rule helps you do that.

What to post for the 80 percent

The other content should be interesting and shareable. Examples include:

  • Interesting news articles in your field or community
  • Interesting blog posts from other organizations or websites
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Relevant, topical questions or fun polls
  • Beautiful, relevant photos, videos, or graphics
  • Tips and advice
  • Posts from partner organizations (retweet it; share it; pin it; like it; etc)

To find this kind of content you can:

  • Follow your partner organizations on social media
  • Follow influencers in your field on social media
  • Set up Google alerts or RSS feeds on topics related to your work
  • Sign up for newsletters from partner organizations and influencers in your field

What to post for the 20 percent

Posts from your organization directly might include:

  • Blog posts from your own website
  • Your organization’s photos or videos
  • Appeals for donations
  • Appeals to recruit new members
  • Calls for volunteers

It’s about thought leadership and branding.

Why do you do what you do? What do you want your organization to be known for? What do you need to be seen as experts in? You want to be the organization at or near the center of everything in your field. You want to be a connector. By posting and sharing other organizations’ content, your audience will see you as a well-connected expert, and your partner organizations will appreciate you, which also means they may generously share your content sometimes (and it is okay to ask them to share it).

Consider developing a set of criteria to determine whether content is share-worthy. For example:

  • Does it support our brand message and/or mission?
  • Does it support one or more of our communications goals?
  • Would our community find it interesting, useful, or inspiring?

It can be easier to institute this kind of 80/20 split if you create and follow an editorial calendar.

In short, if an organization focuses on itself too much within social media, your audience will tune you out. By noticing what your audience is truly interested in and providing more of that – whether you created it or not – you will be building good will in your community and earning trust and thus continued engagement on social media.

nonprofit marketing
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Natalie B.

Natalie Bennon is a nonprofit communications and marketing consultant for AmDee LLC and other clients nationwide.

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Kristy Bauman

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