It's one piece of advice that really works. Forget the listicles and the fads. It all boils down to some research from Italy in 1896.
by Dan Slee
If I could give you just one piece of advice in looking after a social media profile it’s this: never forget the 80/20 principle.
All the really good social media accounts have it from Asda, a library or a police force. Most of them don’t realise it.
In almost every talk or discussion over the past few years I’ve talked about it.
But what is the 80/20 principle? It’s the balance of doing things with a little variety. It was mentioned in Richard Koch’s book of the same name in the 1990s but in effect is a sharp re-branding from the Pareto Principle from the 19th century Italian management expert Vilfredo Pareto. In this, he noticed that 80 per cent of land was owned by 20 per cent of people. Taking it further, he noticed that 80 per cent of peas came from 20 per cent of plants and his curious mind found the same formula in different places.
In business, 80 per cent of income comes from 20 per cent of the customers.
In teams, 80 per cent of the really good work is done by 20 per cent of your staff.
But this isn’t a Victorian theory stapled onto something digital in the hope that it’ll work.
I’ve blogged before how Asda with a shopkeeper’s eye on the data and the bottom line worked out that for every 10 pieces of content they posted on their Facebook page it earned them the right to post two that were about sales. So, pictures of Little Robyn on the travelator break up the calls to act to buy a Halloween cake.
Look around. Isles of Scilly Police run a Facebook page that is almost perfect. It has wit, charm, entertainment for at least 80 per cent of the time. This gives them an audience who will be receptive to police messages the rest of the time. When a man went missing on the island, the 80/20 had created an army of online volunteers who were keen to help.
Of course, there are times when a firehose of information works. So, the Essex Highways Twitter works just fine.
So, conversation, pictures of flowers in a park are fine. Because you are investing for the day you may need their help.
Often, at this point the traditional comms person often comes unstuck. Driven by calls to action, key messages and spreadsheets their social stream will be choked by calls to action.
“Yes, but how can I convince my line manager? Or a councillor that I’m not wasting time,” they ask.
Because, quite simply you are not messing about on the internet. You are following a very human but very hard-headed business model.
Alex Bornkessel, the US social marketer, has written about how the campaign with its switch-on-and-off call to actions have become obsolete by the social web:
“Our work is no longer about building a one-and-done campaign, but about creating shared experiences and building movements. To build bridges, we have to walk side-by-side with those we want to not only reach, but truly engage.”
She has a point. It’s where the 80/20 principle come it. It can build a relationship that earns the right to ask people nicely to stop smoking in the Spring because you’ve informed and entertained them. So, when the leaves fall off the trees in the Autumn and they’re ready to get help from you to quit.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.