carnival barker

I have seen this advice posted or discussed three times in the last three weeks: “You should spend 20% of your time creating social media content and 80% of your time promoting it.”

This is a tweetable little sound bite that’s easy to remember and pass along. But it is so whacked-out that I just have to say something about it in case anybody out there is beginning to believe it.

Let’s play out this 80-20 rule logic.

What drives your business?

It may take me three hours or more to create a great blog post, a post that I know will delight my readers, attract comments, and be worthy of social “shares.”  On average, I try to create two of these posts every week. That’s six hours spent on content, not counting editing guest posts, responding to comments, and attending to other details of the blog like finding images, etc.

If we only count the six hours I put into writing two decent posts, which is probably normal, the 80-20 rule would suggest I spend 24 hours every week pimping my content.

Obviously, if I follow this rule, I have some radical decisions to make. If I am going to promote content at this level (plus run a business!), I am going to have to seriously cut down on the amount of time I spend creating great content. Which means I either have less content, less interesting content … or both.

Let’s put aside for a moment that spending 24 hours a week promoting my content is ludicrous. Let’s say I do it.

Exactly WHO am I attracting by pimping my posts?

Experienced bloggers will tell you that overall, the traffic you attract from channels like Google search, StumbleUpon and even Twitter are blog tourists, not residents. In fact, about 80 percent of the traffic to my blog are first-time visitors who will never come back again.

Will these people subscribe to my blog? No.

Will they hire me or buy one of my books? No.

Will they even leave a comment on the blog? No.

So why would I focus so much effort on promotion versus creation?

A social media business truth

The only people who will create long-term business value for you is your core audience — your return readers. In fact, I think “returning readers” is the most relevant metric for business-oriented content including blogs, podcasts, videos, and even Pinterest pages.

Of course there has to be an element of promotion to help attract new readers and to help your chance of being discovered by people who want and need your content. But spending four times as much time in self-promotion versus value-creation may build traffic spikes but probably not reader loyalty.

What makes a reader love your stuff enough to want to return again and again? Is it the amount of time you spend on a blog post and audience engagement, or the amount of time you spend promoting your site?

Only quality builds a loyal audience. Only a loyal audience creates business benefits.

I rest my case.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer: “People who spend all their energy at making sure people know it’s their idea, don’t have any energy left to have new ideas.”

The wonderful thing about the Internet is there really ARE no rules. If it works for some I guess that’s great. What’s your take on this 80-20 advice? What IS the right balance? Let me know in the comment section, won’t you?

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