Let’s Talk About That 80/20 Social Sharing Rule

By now most people have heard of the Pareto Principle. In essence, it’s the belief that 80% of consequences comes from 20% of causes. The origin came from Pareto’s recognition that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to 20% of the population. He came up with this in 1896, and for over 120 years people have equated it with everything from investing to business and customers to fitness and health.

Over the last few years I’ve seen it being recommended by a lot of bloggers and marketers when it comes to the concept of social sharing. The premise is that if one is trying to market themselves via social media, they’ll get the most benefit by sharing other people’s content 80% and their own around 20%.

The belief is by sharing other people’s content they’ll be so thankful that they’ll start sharing yours with their audience. In turn, you then share your new material and your newly acquired “friends” will happily put you over and make you a superstar.

I hate to be “that guy”, but I’m here to break convention and faith in this principle. Sorry folks, but not only is this not true, but you’re hurting yourself by doing it.

Let’s look at this logically if we can. I’m going to point out the fallacy of this particular endeavor point by point. You don’t have to believe me; all I ask is that you open your mind to what I’m about to share.

I’ve been doing a bit of minor research on who seems to be the most popular people on both Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m not going to share any names because it turns out I’m connected to some of these people and people I know are connected to some of the others.

1. What I’ve actually noticed about the posts of popular folks is they’ve got two things going on.

First, they have a lot of people liking their content all over the place. They might get at best a 5% response to the things they put out, which is pretty good in today’s time. However, the number of likes don’t come close to the number of views. In many cases, I’m not even sure people are actually reading the content they’re putting out.

Second, they’re posting more often than the rest of us are doing. For instance, on LinkedIn I’ve been posting my own stuff once a day, only Monday through Friday, for about 3 years. I post my own stuff 9 or 10 times a day on Twitter; if it’s something new I’ll post it twice the first day and once a day over the course of the next 10 days.

The really popular people are posting their own stuff 10 – 15 times a day on LinkedIn and upwards of 30 – 100 times a day on Twitter. At least half of it is product promotion, although there’s a good mix of content contained in many of their posts. With this level of posting, you can pretty much bet they’re not doing all of this on their own; some of them even tell you this.

2. The most popular folks don’t post anything but their own stuff.

Obviously this isn’t everyone, but it’s higher than that 80% figure people love to use when ascribing to the 80/20 rule. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen anyone doing it on LinkedIn, and only a couple of people doing it on Twitter. The people who do it on Twitter are often posting things others have written on their websites as guest posts; in my mind that doesn’t count.

branding on social media

I’ll add this; whenever I’ve seen some of the popular people posting other people’s stuff on Twitter, way over 80% of the time they’re retweeting someone else’s post of what they originally put out there… which means they’re actually taking advantage of that retweet to post their stuff again without the risk of being penalized by Twitter.

I do this from time to time but infrequently, and certainly not at the level of the experts. I also always thank the person who shared my content, whether it’s via a retweet or just a response.

3. Many likes and retweets are fake; not the people, but the actions.

It might seem like I track the performance of the things I share on both LinkedIn and Twitter with a magnifying glass; this isn’t close to being true. However, there are times when something stands out that encourages me to evaluate what the heck is going on.

What I’ve found about my own postings is that I get a lot of shares and a lot of likes on both LinkedIn and Twitter. Yet, when I check the analytics of my blogs or my YouTube channel, the number of views don’t come close to the number of shares… not by a long count.

What I’ve also noticed is that there are articles and links that I share mainly on Twitter where I’ve been able to share the Twitter link of the person who originated it that gets lots of retweets; way more retweets than I get on my own stuff.

I don’t have a problem with that; what I have a problem with is that the retweets usually happen within the same 30 – 60 minute period, whether it’s relatively soon after I’ve shared it or whether it’s later the same day. Not only that, but if the person who created it decides to retweet it with my name still listed as sharing, that retweet gets retweeted multiple times… once again, usually within the same 30 – 60 minute period. This is an impossible coincidence, yet it’s what I see all the time.

So… let’s go back and look at this 80/20 rule for social sharing which is supposed to benefit those of us who are looking to grow our popularity, which hopefully will grow our businesses.

First, sharing other people’s content is a nice thing to do. Sharing stories you’re interested in shows what kind of person you are. Sharing things you hope your audience likes shows you to be a giving person.

Second, if you want to be like the people near the top, you need to promote yourself more often than you presently are. You also need to promote your own content more than you’re promoting the content of others, unless someone’s paying you to do it for them.

Third, all of us have to find a way to get our content actually seen and read instead of only being shared. Analytics will tell you how successful you’re being at it. Things like comments on your blog or videos works pretty well. Targeting influencers… well… I’ve talked about this before, so check out my recommendation if you’re thinking about doing it.

Fourth… well… promote more often, but if you’ve got a conscience don’t be a pest. lol I’ve dropped people who are posting something every 2 minutes every hour of every day. Don’t be that person… please! lol

Finally fifth, don’t adhere to the Pareto Principle in everything you do. If you have only 5 clients, don’t spend 80% of your time with only one of them unless that one is paying you 5 times more than everyone else combined. Don’t spend 80% of your time marketing until you’ve figured out what you want to do, how you’re going to charge for it, which level of people you want to market to, what content or social sharing site you want to promote on and finally, whether you’re ready to get help doing any of it.

Pareto is a nice principle but it’s not an absolute. Don’t get caught up in false mathematics. Evaluate what works and doesn’t work for you, modify it, and try again. Just don’t forget to promote yourself!

18 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About That 80/20 Social Sharing Rule”

  1. Hi Mitch, I had to come by on this one! Having others RT what I tweeted from their blog or content seems selfish to me. I normally don’t do it.
    It’s a pet peeve of mine when the only time they RT me is when it is their content I’m tweeting.
    But you are RIGHT in that we do need to promote ourselves. I have to do it more myself. I can’t tell you how often I run across people I know and they don’t know a thing about my business or that I’m even running my own business!
    I also have clients that don’t like to promote themselves and I have started doing video to show by example that it MUST be done to succeed today.
    Thanks for the tips and I have try a few of those RT’s – maybe the folks that only RT my stuff and if they share from Triberr I’ll RT them instead of the usual thank you for the RT tweet πŸ™‚

    1. Glad to see your thoughts Lisa; isn’t it an interesting mix of mess and message? lol

      Those of us who are in business for ourselves definitely have to promote ourselves way more often than we do. Time and timelines move fast, and it’s almost impossible to reach potential clients if they never see anything to share on social media. Staying visible by posting other people’s stuff more than ours (unless they’re clients) won’t get it done if, as you say, people are left wondering what it is we do for a living.

      As for that RT thing… well, we’re having a good laugh about it at the present; what you’re going to try is worth an experiment. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks Mitch, I guess I will be trying it out and YES, you are right. I’ve been doing more of the promoting on my own FB page with video – InspireToThrive
    every Thursday now. Do check it out!
    Now if I could only share more on my personal page but that idea makes me cringe a little πŸ™‚

    1. That one I understand. I only share on my personal page when I’m telling stories and not specifically talking business. The one about the last time I sang at a wedding did pretty well. πŸ˜‰

  3. Gee Mitch, I doubt that I can promote myself more than I already am lol. I agree with you, though, I also think that 80/20 rule isn’t all that they make it out to be. Maybe it was right in 1896, but I reckon a lot of things have happened since then.

    1. Actually, you could promote yourself way more often than you do Pete. I rarely see you promoting any of your stuff on Twitter, and it’s the very place where you can not only promote your new stuff but some of your older stuff that you’re proud of. True, you’re locked into your posting process on Facebook because they’re goofy about what they allow people to do, and your stuff wouldn’t fit anywhere on LinkedIn that I know of. I don’t know a lot about Reddit, but I have a feeling you’d find a big audience there with some of your material.

      I think a lot of people jumped on that 80/20 thing without thinking it through more or testing it. Every once in a while it’s actually true, even if it’s not quite an 80/20 split. Years ago I got to this hospital that was having a major issue with a lot of codes. I fixed the first 5 and it eliminated at least 75% of the errors, if not more. I still think that was more of an anomaly than the norm.

  4. Hi Mitch,

    I’m not enough of a mathematician to dispute or confirm the accuracy of Pareto’s Principle. However, based on what you’ve written, either your interpretation of Social Sharing is mistaken, or it is accurate and the proponents of Social Sharing are shoe-horning the Pareto Principle into what bloggers used to call the Law of Reciprocity (Golden Rule).

    I agree with you, it just doesn’t make mathematical sense to equate two independent variables (tweet your stuff vs. tweet other people’s stuff) in a power law distribution.

    Generally speaking, this is simply a case of mixing metaphors. πŸ™‚



    1. There are a lot of articles written by content marketers and such saying that sharing other people’s content 80% while sharing your own 20% will get you more business; it’s a fallacy. I’ve seen it a lot over the past couple of years, and it’s never made any sense. The people who seem to be everywhere are those posting their own content. They get many people sharing their content, and I wonder if those people are following the recommendation because no one’s ever heard of those sharing stuff. lol It sounds good and might be inspirational… but it’s false. πŸ™‚

  5. Yes you catch the right point many of likes and retweets are fake, infect we are seeing such likes in our count but these are not contributing to the success of our product, I recently experience the same. For one of my page I hire a social media marketing expert he return me thousands of likes but those likes are not helping me to met with my targets. For me the result is “only I can promote myself”.

    1. I know what you mean, but I actually do think someone who knows what they’re doing could promote you very well. If your likes increased but you got nothing out of it, you were paying the wrong person to do it for you. But I’m with you on the “fake” likes and fake shares; it benefits no one.

  6. don’t adhere to the Pareto Principle in everything you do. If you have only 5 clients, don’t spend 80% of your time with only one

  7. Everything is energy Mitch! How we feel dictates the effectiveness of our promoting. I did better promoting me a bunch, and other folks a lot, but less than me. If we get clear, all we do brings success. If we mindlessly follow tactics from a fear-based, scarcity energy, failure follows.

    1. I agree with this Ryan, although I still think most of us should have some kind of standard that keeps us from the point of being irritating. Still, I think the overwhelming majority of us aren’t promoting ourselves enough, and this 80/20 rule was never meant to be an absolute. If we find what we’re doing doesn’t work, it’s time to change the game. πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Author,
    i have read your articles and
    i found that many important and relevant thing you have
    discuss being a bloggers.
    It true promoting other content is like giving
    more important to their work
    In order to avoid that we should focus on our work
    so that we will get more traffic and information on how to be a better content writers.
    Seeking example from other is good but promoting or copying their is like cheating to our self.
    Thank you author for sharing and talking about80-20social sharing rule.
    Keep it up.

  9. Hi Mitch, interesting article thanks for the share. I use Facebook to share post but probably not to the extent needed. Inspiring to know this strategy works on Twitter, which I’ve never had much success from.

    1. I’d give Twitter a shot Tim, but you have to fix your Twitter button on the bottom. I went to your site and tested it, and all it did was keep opening the same blog page over and over. The one on your About page worked okay, but it doesn’t give anyone your Twitter handle; gotta always be promoting! πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *