Pimping your posts and the myth of the 80-20 rule

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?

All posts

  • Frederic Gonzalo

    “Only quality builds a loyal audience. Only a loyal audience creates business benefits.” Amen, Mark! I totally agree and it’s been my approach on my blog ever since I decided to be serious about it, about 18 months ago. I stay consistent by publishing once per week in French, once per week in English, but while I certainly promote on my social networks, it’s nowhere near the 80-20 rule. Probably the opposite in fact. If I spend 5 hours to research, write and publish my two posts, I’ll put in maybe 1-2 hours “promoting” it. And it’s been working fine, thank you. As you say, we have a business to run, we can’t spend 25 hours just on this… unless it’s a professional blogger we’re talking about, which is perhaps a slightly different reality. Not mine.
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  • I love this and you are a good pimp, but stick to writing awesome articles like this please. Twitter can be such a time suck like any other outlet. I don’t find myself getting that many more followers, readers, etc. as I do if I just sit my bum down and WRITE!

    I manage marketing needs for clients and write for other clients, so my day is a mix of strategy, writing, social efforts, managing, so I need to learn how to be better focused on my own blog and side projects as I am with actual clients.

  • wyatt christman

    I would be interested to see who is saying to spend 80% for promoting and only 20% creating. For some being influenced by content as a way to market there is an overall generic take-away that quality content trumps everything. Some like Paul May the CEO at BuzzStream have good blog posts reminding that an equal amount of time needs to be spent with promoting as you do with creation. When you are starting out that might need to be more while if you are someone like Rand Fishkin at Moz or Brian Clark at Copyblogger it might be far less because you have already gained a solid dedicated audience that ends up spreading that for you. Then much more time is spent on quality because it needs to be consistently high to keep that dedicated audience. Generic recommendations are easy to attack because you are missing the specific audience to really make them work. Context and audience are important. BTW, your blog posts are great, don’t always have time to comment but sometimes like with this one can’t help it. I guess it did it’s job, eh? 🙂

  • Kristine Allcroft

    Mark, I agree with you! I think the current rendition of the 80-20 rule is incorrect – but for different reasons than you discuss in your post. All that self promotion just makes people ignore you. It’s a self-defeating practice that gets you “tuned out” instead of “engaged with”. Now another version of the 80-20 rule that does work: spend 80% of your time liking, posting, and helping others and 20% of your time promoting yourself – now that’s a recipe for success!

  • Thanks-As in anything that is all show and no blow-it is quickly forgotten.

  • But at one point, every member of that “core audience” were first-time visitors.

  • Funny, I’m currently testing on my blog whether I loose traffic if I only blog once per week. Several ‘great bloggers’ preach that you can get the same traffic as long as you promote the heck out of it. I was purely focusing on traffic numbers, but you’re making a great point here. So what if I get the same amount of traffic? What do my loyal readers want? Are they happy enough with 1 post per week or would they prefer 2 quality posts per week..? Food for thought. Thanks Mark

  • Fabio Valeri

    I agree Mark – I guess this 80-20 approach is spreading becuase it makes it easier and quicker to “pimp” numbers for the next “report”: but then the business doesn’t grow.

    like others have said here, I also think that this sentence of yours is the real golden rule “Only quality builds a loyal audience. Only a loyal audience creates business benefits.”.

    I need to make a t-shirt out of that 😉

  • Chris S. Cornell

    Excellent points regarding the percentage of time one should probably spend creating content vs. promoting it.
    What you refer to, however, has nothing to do with oft misunderstood, yet very valuable 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.

  • AlisaMeredith

    I’ve also seen the 80/20 applied to the percentage of updates on social that should be self-promotional versus truly helpful. Crazy talk! Being helpful IS self-promotional. I agree with you though, Mark. If I spend 2 hours on a blog post, which I often do, I’m not going to spend 8 hours promoting it. I’m going to make it good enough that other people will promote it for me.

  • Many thanks for commenting Frederic. I’m glad this was helpful!

  • I think this is only true if your content is bad, to be honest.

  • Good luck with that Tiana. A daily struggle I know!

  • Ha! I guess it did! I do appreciate the comment Wyatt. I know your time is precious.

    Of course we need to do some promotion but it’s balance isn’t it, and as you say, “relevance.”

  • Like that : )

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Bill.

  • Your post is flawed. Here’s why:

    #1. You’re assuming people have an audience to impress in the first place. 98% of people who have blogs get less than 1,000 visitors per month.

    #2. The 80/20 promotion rule is something I’ve popularized. Why? It’s simple. If you have no readers, and you update your blog with content too much, where do you expect the readers to come from? They going to fall out of thin air? Or are you going to wait around and “hope” the search engines send you some traffic some day? Me? I like to take control – and go get my readers. And I tell my students to do the same.

    #3. A lot of people misinterpret my rule. They think when I say “promote your content” I’m telling you to share your content on social media more often. That’s not it. you can’t promote your content to the people you’ve already promoted your content to. The point is to find NEW people to promote content to. To get MORE people into your world and hopefully convert them.

    #4. A lot of people assume my 80/20 rule means I don’t appreciate content. That’s not the case. I treat my content like a product. I’ll spend 20 hours creating one piece of it, and 80 hours promoting it. It’s kind of like a book. And it only works if you have something worth promoting.

    #5. If you have a blog post that only got 1,000 visitors. There’s probably another 1,000,000 people who can benefit from what you wrote. Why would you deprive them of your helpful content? Is it because “creating” is easier than promoting? Yep. It’s also more passive, and relies on ‘hope.’

  • That would be me. See my comment above. Or feel free to read this here: http://socialtriggers.com/80-20-blog-building/

  • Yep, and you need first time visitors to grow your customer base 😉

  • Who says you sacrifice quality? Just because you promote all the time doesn’t mean you’re promoting garbage. It means you spend 20 hours (or 200 hours) on a piece of content. Then spend another 80 hours (or 800 hours) promoting that content.

  • One thing I love about your new book is the idea about “marketing your marketing.” This is very true. but of course the utility has to come first. So in my mind, it is a matter of degree and priority. What bothers me is the emphasis on “traffic.” One marketer told me “where there is traffic there is hope.” That does not seem like a very efficient strategy to me!

  • I don’t think it is ever wrong to put the needs of the readers first.

  • That would be awesome actually : ) Thanks for the support Fabio. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

  • Thanks for adding to the dialogue Chris.

  • I think that is the ideal. Something I strive for anyway!

  • Like a roasted beef, all the trim or fat might give you added flavor but it is the cut or select of the meat that will deliver the nutrients and satiate the consumer. I would rather spend my time (money) on the quality of the meat so that it is tender enough to be swallowed. Of course there will always be those inferior cuts that will need added preparation to mask the grizzle.

    I do agree with @jasonbaer:disqus that at some point those ‘core visitors’ were first time visitors but it I wager it is the fine taste that keeps them coming back more often than the pretty presentation.

  • wyatt christman

    You are always great about commenting back Mark, thank you! One key is to sometimes combine the two of quality and promotion with things such as strategic guest posting.

  • Thanks very much for commenting Derek. I’m not sure there is much here that we actually disagree with.

    1) No I’m not assuming anybody has an audience and I also think it probably does make sense to spend more time promoting at the beginning so I agree there is a matter of degree on that point.

    2) “Build it and they will come” is a lousy marketing strategy. I agree that you need to take control and I emphasize this strongly in all of my books. However, I think the emphasis on “traffic” for the sake of traffic is misplaced and will not lead to business benefits.

    3) I agree 100%

    4) If you have that kind of time, great. I don’t.

    5) A million people will not benefit from your content if it sucks.

    So I really don’t disagree with most of your points but you never address the issue of degree. If you have a finite amount of time (we all do). Should you spend 4 times more time promoting marginal content (because you are spending almost all your time promoting?) or should you spend most of your time creating something that is excellent that you can then promote to some degree but will also have a better chance to spread organically? Building an ORGANIC and LOYAL audience is what leads to purchases.

    Most people can’t do both, right? Yes, we need to promote, and if I had unlimited resources, I would spend 24 hours a week promoting my content but I don’t think that is a practical objective for 99% of the folks out there.

    I sincerely appreciate your dissent and your thought-provoking comment.

  • Meg Tripp

    It feels like what you’re *actually* saying is that you should create content 20% of your marketing time, and then promote your business the other 80% — since that’s what the content is for in the first place, no? Providing value, yep, but with the endgame of drawing people in?

    Unless creating content *is* your business, in which case spending 20% of your time creating what amounts to your primary value vs. 80% of your time promoting that thing is nutty. That’s like a baker spending one day making pies, and then spending four days talking about pie: a) your customers will love your pie most when it’s fresh, so day one or two; b) the pie’s value is directly correlated with the freshness of the pie; and c) go make some more pie!

  • Derek, it means you make a choice to spend time promoting versus creating. Your “rule” assumes people have unlimited resources.

  • Exactly Meg.

  • wyatt christman

    Hey Derek, if it works for you then perfect, no sense in breaking a few “rules” right? For others, why not experiment? As long as the quality is still there and you have the time, go for it. Experimentation is all about finding that sweet spot but first you have to ask, is it sustainable? Is it scalable? What other experiments in let’s say converting your existing traffic might you try instead? That way when you have a larger traffic influx you also have a solid net to capture them offering a way to return such as an irresistible bribe to a newsletter signup. Which is part of Mark’s point.

  • Meg Tripp

    So it’s the first or the second? You’re not articulating the first, and the second is b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

  • If you have a finite amount of time, like I did when I started Social Triggers, I still say promote more , create less.

    Here’s the data: When I started Social Triggers I updated my blog 2.53 times per month for the first 13 months (that’s obviously an average).

    With that, I spent the time promoting my content and attracted my first 27,000 subscribers in 13 months.

    (I have since went on to leverage the same idea of promotion and creation over the next year, and now I’m pushing more than 130,000 subscribers at Social Triggers. And they’re not just “any” subscribers. They’re loyal. Take a look at SocialTriggers.com and I think you’ll agree. Why? Because I focus on creating the BEST content. period. It’s never about my need to create. It’s about their need to benefit from what I create).

    I then went to share this idea of promotion and creation, and loads of students over at Social Triggers experienced great results with promotion as well.

    Here’s why it works:

    You don’t need to create as much content to build a relationship or loyalty as you think. No one ever unsubscribes from a mailing list because you only send them 2 articles per month.

    In reality, everyone is starved for time, and if you can give them 2 articles per month that truly change the game for them, they’ll love you for it. The problem is, most people write content that doesn’t help anyone. Luke warm content generates poor results. 😉

    Eventually you can focus on creating more, and promoting less. But you can only do that once you have a large subscriber base of people who will do the promotion for you.

    At which point, you can STILL benefit from more promotion, but you can ease up a little ;-).

  • It’s bananas.

  • Respectfully, you missed the point, or perhaps I did not articulate it well. You need to start with great content and then promote, in my humble opinion.

  • Meg Tripp

    I’m probably being dense — I’m just a writer, it can’t be helped — but I’m trying to figure out (if we’re talking my first option) what kind of time period these 20 hours creating content and the 80 hours promoting it are stretched across. And what are the “promoting” activities? SEO? Social? Networking?

    And if it’s the second, a business that expends 20% of available time on generating the primary value of the business vs. 80% on marketing is… a Kardashian.

  • If you’er getting paid for the number of articles you write, then creating less is dumb ;-p. If you’re getting paid for the number of ‘views’ your articles generate, promoting more is smart. It all depends where the incentive is. A baker gets paid for creating more pies. When your business is content, the reason why you’re creating content is because you’re trying to generate business – and you cant do that if you dont promote it.

  • Here’s an example of promotion:

  • Meg Tripp

    If your business is content, you create content to generate business? I think you’re creating content as a function of your business. If your whole business is to promote your business, we’re right back to the Kardashians. If that’s as much value as you want to bring, more power to you, I guess, but there’s no “there” there.

  • Meg Tripp

    (And you’re welcome for helping with the 80%)

  • Wow. I’ve been away from the {grow} comments sections for too long. I love the debate. It’s always interesting to see how provocative your posts can be. And it’s refreshing to see how welcoming you are to contrarian viewpoints. I’m impressed that Derek took time to engage and that you and other {grow} participants were so professional and polite in the exchange.

    I’m thinking 50/50 on this. I don’t want to come off like I’m sitting on a fence in the middle of the road, but I agree with about half of your case and half of Derek’s. So you could say, or I could say, I disagree with both of you but I’m in too good of a mood this morning to be disagreeable.

    Great post. Great comments. Learn something new everytime on {grow}. Thanks!

  • Amanda Hoffmann

    Absolutely quality over quantity. I doubt the 80/20 rule will work long term. Consistent effort, loving what you do with genuine passion will always succeed. Love your work ethic Mark and can only say you lead through your example ?

  • Experimentation sounds good, until people waste 2 years creating content that nobody reads. Or you can just do what works. This post isn’t an opinion ;-p.

  • Sander Biehn

    I will leave out the ‘it depends’ disclaimer and cut to the chase. I spend about 12 hours per week promoting ALL the content I have and about 3 hours per week writing new blog content. When I say ALL that means making sure older posts still have legs and promoting new posts too.

    This works for me. I think that writing good content is the golden rule, though. I am loving the comments from others here too!

  • I was replying specifically to the comment above saying “people will ignore self-promotion and tune you out.”

    I think that’s true if your content is mediocre and lacking in value.

    But if you’re genuinely fulfilling a need for people in interesting and entertaining ways, why would people tune you out? They would be tuning out something that fulfills a need they have, educates them, entertains them, etc.

    I agree with you on the point that great content comes first, but I’m not sure that necessarily precludes a person from applying the 80/20 rule.

  • You know the interesting and ironic thing Meg? The Kardashians can sell stuff. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is a place for 80% promotion.

  • You really do walk the talk Derek, I’ll say that much. You’ve turned the comment section into an ad for your business. Well played.

    I’ve already agreed that you need to promote more up front. No question. But I also know enough about weak versus strong connections and buying behavior to regard your stats skeptically. I congratulate you for establishing social proof of a large following, however. There is some power in that but at some point you need to back it up, and I’m sure you do.

    Your base assumption is that people, brands and businesses have unlimited resources, which is simply impractical. People have to make a choice where to focus.

    I say in the long term the focus should be on content. You say promotion. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Thanks for the dialogue.

  • Good point. Thanks for the clarification Jonathan.

  • Thanks for commenting today Anneliz.

  • I don’t think we really disagree. Promotion is essential. It’s just a matter of degree and focus. Always an honor to have you comment Billy.

  • Thank you for your very kind and generous comment Amanda!

  • Thanks for the dissenting opinion Sander. Much appreciated.

  • Mark: I’m not doing this for traffic. Commenting on other blogs is easily the worst way to ‘get real loyal readers.’

    I’m doing this because Im tired of people saying “just create content, and share on social media” as if that’s going to help businesses get bigger.

    That advice alone, focus on the content, is a fools’ errand. And I think it’s WRONG to send people on that errand.

    My base assumption ISNT that people have unlimited resources. My base assumption is that people DONT have unlimited resources. Which is why I tell them to create less, and promote more. It’s easier to promote one piece of great, world-changing content, than it is to create that type of content day in and day out.

    So, I tell people: Create something they’ll happily etch in stone. Then promote that. Don’t settle for 1,000 readers on one piece of content. Strive for 1,000,000 readers for each piece of content.

  • Meg Tripp

    There is definitely a place for them, no doubt. Everyone has a right to make money as they choose. I’m just not sure I would build my biz model around it and call it “providing value.” 🙂

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  • I would crash and burn my business if I spent 80% of my time promoting. And I think I would run off my readers. Holy cow. Some days it pays to be clueless. LOL

  • Commenting on blogs actually is an excellent way to connect with people and build an audience. A whole new group of people has become aware of you and perhaps have visited your site. : )

    Nowhere in my post do I say to focus only on content. I’m not sure why you even claim that. Quite the opposite. Of course you need to promote, but not if it gets in the way of establishing a portfolio of exceptional content, which is the only way to stand out and build an audience of people who return to you and hopefully build the strong connection that results in a measurable business benefit.

    In my opinion, establishing an extreme focus on promotion — four times the amount of time over creating content — is not applicable or sustainable for most people. In fact I think it is dangerous advice.

    Philosophically, we agree. Tactically, we probably will not. That’s what makes the world interesting. : )

  • Jay Perkins

    I think a few people are assuming a weekly publishing schedule when querying @DerekHalpern:disqus’s point. If you spend 10 hours to write a piece of content, then yes he believes that you should spend 40 hours promoting that content.

    What he is NOT saying is to do that every single week. The point is, if you create great content then you need to promote it so that it captures the minds of as many people as possible to create a community.

    You dont have to create a post of exceptional quality every single week (but great if you can).

  • Konrad W Gorak

    I have to agree with Derek. When I work with clients I always tell them that it doesn’t matter if you make shoes, sell coffe or create content – you own a marketing company. So you work on something and create it within 20% of your time and the rest is promoting your stuff. Big factor here —–> the size of your audience. And because of that you can’t really say what is right or wrong here. It’s still a matter of choice.

  • Ailin Martinez

    I love this post and my favourite sentence is: Only quality content builds a loyal audience

    I believe there is something about getting the balance right and I will say the focus should be on creating new content 60% and then sharing it 40%.

    Of course every single piece of content has its own story, but making sure that what you say is actually engaging is what creates long term relationships.

    BTW, perfect timing on this post as I am working on developing a consistent and engaging content plan for my organisation (will definitely use this post as an example)

    Keep on the good content!

  • Jeffrey Slater

    When I stopped worrying about the quantity of visitors and focused on the quality of the post, my relationships with readers got deeper as my writing got clearer. Deeper relationships are so much more important than being a mile wide and an inch deep.

    My rule of thumb is if I am excited to read my own post when it goes live because it brings something fresh to the community, then I am confident that the right audience will show up. I’m working on writing better posts that in fewer words to make my point.

    Another thought-provoking post Mark.

  • Susie

    I wish we could getaway from glamorizing the term “pimping.” There is nothing glamorous about a grown man beating women and children into forced prostitution. I’m sure that’s not the writer’s intention. I just hate the term.

  • People could spend more time on strategically promoting their current and old content but if you’re going to self publish, you need to show some consistency I think and commit to regularly producing content. The trick is in making sure that content is high quality and valuable to your ideal potential clients and not just the blogosphere. It’s too easy to get caught up in trying to impress other bloggers so they’ll share your posts or write about your take on things. Regular, client-focused content will naturally attract new people through WOM anyway. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  • Lefty Williams

    Great point. I stumbled across you through twitter. I look forward to reading more.

  • Alice Ackerman, MD,

    Mark, great and thought-provoking as usual. I have no idea how I would spend that much time promoting my content. Granted, I am in a different business than most of your readers, but since one of the reasons I create content is to build a loyal (mostly local) following that will use my services, I would go nuts and so would they if I spent more time promoting my content than I do. Unfortunately, my “real job” sometimes consumes over 60 hours a week. No real way to add much more than the time I spend writing a post, which like you, can take 2-4 hours per post. When, exactly would I sleep?

  • Susan Avello

    I am with you, Jeffrey. I think (or hope) we all find balance on that pendulum swing. Thanks to folks like Mark who keep us in check!

  • I completely agree with this. I have posts that I wrote over a year ago that are still popular (relatively speaking – I have very little traffic) and that I still spend time promoting. Without the constant promotion I wouldn’t even have the little readership that I do.

  • Ana Isabel Canhoto

    I am sooo relieved to hear that you may take 3 hours to write a good blog post. I always felt ridiculously inadequate when I read that people can write posts in 15
    minutes or so. I feel normal, again.

    Oh, and regarding the 80/20 rule, I agree. I suppose that it is like with any other brand – you promote to build awareness, after that you do not have to promote so heavily. And there is no point in having great / lots of adverts but a lousy product.

    Have a great weekend.

  • Great to hear from you Ana. Some posts take longer. After writing comes re-writing, adding links, tags, categories, illustrations, and then more re-writing. And then, “publish!”

  • I don’t think your situation is unusual. : ) Thanks for taking a bit of that precious time to comment Dr. Ackerman!

  • Thank you.

  • My friend Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial) wrote about this a while ago. He pointed out the danger of writing for your peers instead of your potential customers. Easy to fall into that trap!

  • Point taken and thank you for offering this valid perspective.

  • You just summed it up better than my original post! Well said sir!

  • I think balance is the key term. I am not saying “don’t promote.” I think though if you have to make a choice in where you spend your time it should be on delighting and serving your readers, aiming at the organic sharing.

  • Hey there! Great to hear from you Ailin! Thanks so much for your comment and good luck with your project.

  • I do think there could be that “annoying” factor too. Thanks Pauline.

  • Perhaps you are proving my point. If you are spending most of your time promoting and getting little traffic, what would happen if you spent 80% of your time on the content instead of the self-promotion?

  • I am a marketer so obviously I believe in marketing : ) Every strategy depends on the product, the customers, the industry structure, and your position in the industry. A company like Coke may very well spend 80% of its budget on marketing. In fact, it is ALL marketing. A company that makes chemicals or coal may spend less than 10% of its resources on marketing and that might be a very appropriate level. So I have to disagree with you. What you make, how you make it, how and where you sell it makes a very big difference in your marketing strategy, budget and resources. Strategy is rarely a choice. Your ability to maneuver is often dictated by the structure of your industry.

  • Still not sure I follow you buddy. Let’s say you have 10 hours a week that you can devote to your content marketing. For a small business, that is a generous amount of time. There are many factors that go into deciding what to do with that time and there is no single solution. However, I would recommend that a business focuses on building a loyal audience instead of “traffic.” There is no shortcut to that. It has to come through quality content and engagement and that is where most of the time should be spent. I just don’t understand a strategy that would emphasize sizzle over the steak. You need both but if you don’t have the steak, your customers won’t come back. If you depend on sizzle, that would be an exhausting effort because you have to keep attracting new traffic, new traffic, new traffic hoping that somebody buys something. It is always more cost effective to sell more to existing customers than to keep spending the resources on customer acquisition. This is especially true on the Internet.To me, these are simply marketing truths — consumer behavior truths — no matter what the platform may be.

  • Jake Parent

    I totally agree with what you are saying here.

    To me, if you focus more on being useful, you are going to naturally build up the following – and it will be made up of people who really appreciate what you do. In fact, done well I think you will eventually hit a tipping point where the “pimping” is done people within your customer community. And that is infinitely better than any amount of shouting you can do about your own stuff.


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  • Nadeem Ahmad

    Clearly the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply to everything, especially social media. The dynamics of the market and how we communicate has really changed. I don’t think Uncle Pareto knew about social or viral marketing – but he was definitely a game changer. However the flip side is very true. Spend 80% on your content and 20% promoting and if you have valuable, relevant and engaging content with an element of Youtility then let “social media” take care of the initial 80% promotion!

    – Great article Mark!

  • Gerry Michaels

    So the fur purple hat and white platforms are not a good idea????

    seriously, this is so much food for thought. Here’s my two cents, which will probably piss both sides off as usual.

    When I first started in this business I was told by some “experts” that I didn’t know anything about marketing, social media etc. I was “doing it wrong”. Funny thing, those “experts” are out of business and I continue to roll along, oh I am not in great demand, but my business continues to grow each year. Blogging is a big part of that success, now here is my point. I think there is no right or wrong way to do this stuff…(within common sense limits).

    Who among us had not re-evaluated what we are doing and have changed our approach. What works for one isn’t necessarily going to be the sweet spot for another. The sweet spot for me in an article like this is, it gets me thinking about my own practices, and the real gold mine is in the comments. Always so much great info in the comments of posts.

    I guess my long winded point is, if 80/20 is working for you, stick with it until it isn’t, if you are using 80/20 and not getting results, try something else. The most important rule here….do what works for you

    (stepping down off soap box)…

  • Thanks for adding to the conversation Jake. Well said.

  • I think some sort of balance is necessary and that will be determined by your strategy. Thanks Nadeem!

  • Great comment and i actually agree your sentiment is how I ended the post). We do not live in a world of absolutes and my objective was to point that out. There is no 80-20 rule. Thanks Gerry.

  • Wow, Mark!!

    I can’t remember the last time I read every single comment 😉 Love this debate.

    Such a great post and I loved reading the back-and-forth between you and Derek. This is an interesting discussion and like Billy, I think I’m right smack in the middle.

    I like Social Triggers and get a ton of value from Derek. He doesn’t post that frequently and has very rich posts that he promotes the heck out of. His strategy is very similar to Jon Morrow’s and you certainly can’t argue with their success. To be 100% honest, I kind of admire his chutzpah. He is very, very good at promoting too.

    Mark, I think you know how I feel about you. You’ve been a huge help, and have influenced me on this two-year blogging journey. The best part is the fact that you don’t sugarcoat your advice and you have a very common-sense approach to online business. I can relate 😉

    Now the {grow} model vs. the Social Triggers model? Well, I know this isn’t a contest (but it is fun to compare) … but like everything else, it depends on what you are trying to do online.

    And a very important fact: It also greatly depends on how well connected you are when you first start out … when I started two years ago I had zero experience in blogging and social, so the peaks and valleys of the last two years have been like an advanced college experience. (If I could only get back some of the time wasted on some of those webinars ;))

    I honestly still don’t know what is right for me. I do have a new blog in the works (which has nothing to do with online marketing) so I’ll be experimenting.

    I do also run a business which takes up, um 80% of my time 🙂

    Lesson? No one model is the right one for you. Keep experimenting, but please make sure you’re loving the trip. Otherwise you have a blogging ball and chain.

    And my years of experience have taught me that good things just don’t happen overnight. They don’t! Success is a slow burn. It takes a while. Quality content is the key, but you need dogged determination and focus and must realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    Sorry to be so damned long-winded 😉

    Have a great weekend, Sir!

  • Thanks for the wonderful comment Craig. Always an honor to have you weigh in.

    I don’t think I have taken a position where I am presenting a model. I’m saying quite the opposite. There are no absolutes. In most cases, your strategy is dictated to you any way. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. Would take another blog post to explain that and maybe i will have to do so : ) How you act and market as a leader is different than if you are a new comer. How you approach the world is different if the entry barriers are low versus high. How you go to market is different if there is relative market stability and few players versus a market that is being disintermediated. There is no such thing as a model that fits everybody, including 80-20.

    Your content plan has to start with your business plan.

  • TelmeaStory

    Attraction rather than promotion.

  • Eric Roach

    I would say spend 95% of your time on the content and use apps perfectly gen’d to promote it. Agree too that being the most boring person at the party starts with talking “only” about yourself.

  • What’s the point of promoting lower quality content in the first place? I’ve seen everything from you should post every day to once a month as long as it’s regular but surely once a month for quality is easier to promote than 30 days worth of crap. Or am I missing the point?
    BTW I’m a first time visitor 🙂

  • I’d like to read that post, Mark, on how you approach marketing as a leader vs. a newcomer since you have a mix of readers here who would appreciate and relate to both perspectives (and could then weigh in with their own).

    Enjoying the debate!

  • Jake Parent

    Well said Jeffrey!

  • Jake Parent

    Tiana – Do you block off time for doing your own stuff, or do you just try to make time for it as you go? I’ve found that if I don’t actually put it in my calendar I will find other things to do instead. Hope this suggestion helps!


  • Jeffrey Slater

    Thanks Jake. I actually post a photograph of a reader on my wall when I blog. I’m writing to that one person not an audience of thousands. I did the same thing with my new book titled UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF MARKETING. Write for a real person to make sure you are relevant and adding value.

  • Hi Jake, I do block time for my own blog, I just find that there aren’t as many hours as I would like in the day, story of our lives. ;-).
    Luckily, I am motivated with my current client projects so that keeps the momentum going, just need more focus on mine. Working on it!

  • Thanks Mark!!

  • Jake Parent

    Sounds like you are doing the right things Tiana. Keep up the good work!

  • Interesting idea.

  • That’s nice of you to say Susan. Thank you!

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  • Jay Perkins

    Just pointing out that Derek seems to say if you spend 10 hours on one piece of content, then you should promote it at the 80:20 ratio but he’s not suggesting that you should create a piece of content every week if that’s the time taken to create it.

  • Great post. Great comments. My favorite quote: “The wonderful thing about the Internet is there really ARE no rules. If it works for some I guess that’s great. ” 80/20 COULD be someone’s sweet spot, but not everyone’s.

    Mark, I’m curious, — what was the actual % time you spent creating/promoting for *this* post?

  • This 80/20 approach seems to be targeted at newcomers with small (or no) audiences. I can understand why it’s attractive for that reason. I don’t disagree with the promote more, create less strategy for newcomers since I’m in that boat. For me, it’s more of a 50/50 create/promote approach (I’ll explain more).

    What I do disagree with are the specific tactics — or tactic — attached to the 80/20 rule. Cold emailing people with a sort of “bait and switch” email tactic in which you tease them with a “I’ve got something you might be interested in, email me back if you want the details” script (I’m paraphrasing). Even if your initial email doesn’t include a link, you still want them to promote you and your content.

    Without a vested interest in the content (beyond being in that industry), this just comes off as spammy and self-promotional, regardless of who you are. We are after all a skeptical bunch with the amount of unsolicited email we get every day.

    So since we all agree that promotion IS necessary, I’d like to see more discussion (or a blog post, Mark, wink, wink 😉 ) on non-spammy promotional tactics, especially for newcomers. I understand there aren’t any absolutes when it comes to Internet marketing but I’d like to hear some success stories (and tactics used) from people who have built audiences organically and ethically.

    For what it’s worth, I am focusing my promotional efforts on building relationships with influencers as well as members of my audience. Much of that’s done in the comments section and it works (that’s not an opinion). I’m also beginning to experiment with guest blogging as a way to build an audience but more importantly establish credibility & deepen relationships with influential bloggers around the web. Given limited time and resources, I’d rather go deeper than wider (strong vs. weak ties) in building connections online.

    Finally, I understand the importance of traffic. More traffic, more leads, more opportunities to convert readers to subscribers. But it’s not the ONLY metric. I’ve recently booked over $1,000 in sales (and three more referrals for potential business) off a single blog post (one that will maintain its relevancy and usefulness over the long haul). That post has been read by fewer than 100 people but it reached the RIGHT people at the right time.

    Like Mars Dorian recently said here on the {grow} blog, vanity metrics only pay for your ego. But blog posts that have made me real money (even without huge page views)? That I can take to the bank.

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  • Thank you Eric.

  • Welcome to the blog Lorraine. I hope you’ll come back often. See you around the comment section!

  • 95% creating (including answering questions) 5% promoting, maybe less.

  • A fantastic comment Sarah and I will write that blog post. After all, I am a full service blogger! : )

    I think you steady, organic approach is smart. I can attest to the fact that focusing on “real” relationships instead of “traffic” has paid dividends to you. Your approach has worked on me! Thanks for the great comment.

  • Neil Patrick

    Thanks for this post Mark and for being so open with your metrics. I was encouraged after reading about yours that my own are not too shabby…good SM benchmarks are hard to come by in my experience. And I do wonder why the 80/20 rule ever became accepted as some sort of universal and ubiquitous truth?

  • I think this 80/20 rule makes sense if you have a content marketing/digital marketing team that can afford to do so. If you’re an independent consultant, or operate a very small team, it doesn’t make sense to spend 80% of content time towards promoting – there are other aspects of the business that will suffer from it.

    I also think that if you have the right back-end automation tools, you can still achieve a great amount of promotion without having to spend too much time on it.

    Great post Mark 🙂

  • I’m not sure it has. It was just buzzing around the past few weeks and I felt i needed to say something about it. Thanks for commenting Neil.

  • Valid points Daniel. Even with a huge team, though, there is a cost associated with that. Of course the answer is different for every business but personally I would look at the numbers pretty carefully. I personally do not believe sales leads come from “traffic” for most businesses. It is a vanity metric. Look at the cost/benefit and I think most people would put the funds on content development. In an information-dense world, t’s the only sustainable solution.

  • Thanks for the reply. I guess 95/5 feels more accurate to me than 80/20. However, the problem with any ratio that’s been discussed here is that there are no other metrics in play that determine success other than the amount of time I spend promoting my stuff. Does the amount of time I put in relate directly to reach? Or exposure? Or share of voice? Or some metric like that? If so, then why can’t I stop at 5% when I’ve hit one of those metrics? Any create/promote ratio seems like a dull knife to me.

  • You are exactly right. You need to start with goals and work backwards.

    I am by no means saying 95-5 is ideal. I am probably sub-optimized. However, my business “capacity” is full right now, I am profitable and having fun. My most important blog metric, return visitors, is climbing steadily. For me, at this time, the mojo is in balance with my business goals.

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  • Konrad W Gorak

    I completely agree with you. It always starts with “it depends”. So as i said earlier – you can’t really say what is right or wrong here. The main factor here is what type of business we talk about.

  • I really guess that Quality wins!

    I often take a look at my posts and just think about the Quality.

  • Thanks for commenting.

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  • Good stuff, Mark! I spend no more than 30 minutes promoting each new post, and most of that is due to the email I write. Lots of simple shares and automation.

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  • optioneerJM

    Thank you for your Blog. I especially liked the quote by 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.”

    I probably am the opposite: I spend 80% time writing my Blog and only 20% promoting it. My stats show that my first time visitors are from Twitter tweets and secondly from Linked In. I would say most of my audience comes for Sales and Social Media content.
    I sometimes comment on Linked In or various articles like this that I particularly like and agree with … being sure to add my Twitter handle and Blog link — is that the norm and/or OK do you think?
    Jeannette Marshall

  • Same here Jon.

  • sounds like a good balance to me : )

  • Jennifer Bulman

    Thanks for this post.
    Really happy to hear you say it may take you three hours to create a good post, I can stop feeling quite so inadequate for not being able to create one in much less than a half day.

    I’m also tired of the posters/tweeters who e-x-t-e-n-d scanty content with multiple promotions where the most substantial part is a kickass headline, and the content is, well, thin. I’d rather see good content a couple of time a month than vapour content daily.

  • Glad to see you join the discussion and sharing the post @DerekHalpern:disqus . I agree, we all have to experiment a little. The 80/20 rule might have worked for you but for others it could be 30/70 or even 50/50. You have got to make a start somewhere and find the sweetspot.

  • That’s really interesting!!

  • @Simplicityadmins:disqus- You might want to check out http://www.backlinko.com by Brian Dean. He writes few posts but they are of the best quality. So traffic is never an issue for him.

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  • Mark,
    Spot on post. I’d say it’d be better to flip that one on its head… the 20/80 rule, as it were. It would be so much more advantageous to focus on great content. It will after all, take care of itself. Then, be very strategic about promoting your content. If it really is as god a the 80% you put into it, don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of help.

    It’s more about where you promote it and to whom, than what percentage you devote to it. Here’s an idea, why not spend that time building real relationships with people in your market that actually matter. THEY’LL promote your posts too and do a heck of a lot better job than you probably would have!



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  • I tend to agree with you here.

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  • Yay!!! People were telling me I was crazy! I focus most of my time on creating content and waaaaay less time promoting it. Though, I still wonder if the 80/20 rule should shift as one becomes a more experienced blogger.

    What I mean is, I’ve always thought a new blogger should focus more on creating a lot of quality content,then later down the road focus more on promoting it and less time creating… Maybe it’s just a trial and error thing?

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  • Mark,
    That’s a huge breath of fresh air in an arena where most is tinged with halitosis. You nailed it. The numbers just don’t pencil out. Creating great content is time consuming. If you’re running a business, there’s precious little time left to produce any.
    In fact, we grew out start up out of this reality, creating content for a slice of tech industry business owners who are flat too swamped to create their own compelling pieces, if they even have the ability to do so. (That’s open for debate).
    Ironically, that, plus working for my own private clients, means I have little time to create any for my main business. I’m actually promoting content I created many years ago. One way out is leveraging influencers to help you promote. How to pull that off? Enlist them to help create it in the first place. It’s worked well for me and it’s a double win, in that the content has some terrific perspective and high value.
    Thanks for the post!

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