Social media is one of the greatest assets that an organization can utilize for promoting itself in its marketing or branding efforts. Billions of users around the globe interact instantaneously in the digital space, forming close-knit communities that collaborate and engage with one another daily. As defined in Regina Luttrell’s book “Social Media: How to Engage, Share and Connect,” a common definition for social media is the “activities, practices, and behavior among communities of people who gather online to share information, knowledge and opinions using conversational media. Conversational media are web-based applications that make it possible to create and easily transmit content in the form of words, pictures, video, and audio” (pg. 20). Based on this definition, it should come as no surprise that social media users don’t respond well to self-promotion or certain traditional advertising methods from companies in the digital space. The 80/20 rule has become such a popular concept because of this consumer behavior, where users want personalization, engagement and community interaction from the brands that they follow online. In one of my previous posts I wrote about how many organizations get digital wrong by not engaging their audiences and only posting self-promoting content. I recently deviated from the 80/20 rule and saw a dramatic negative impact on the two personal websites that I manage. As a public relations student it was always impressed upon me the importance of audience interaction rather than self-promotion, but it wasn’t until these past few weeks that I really gained a true appreciation regarding why the golden rule should be adhered to.
Deviating from the 80/20 rule
My lack of engagement on my social media platforms wasn’t intentional, but rather stemmed from a limited amount of time to accomplish everything that I aspired to throughout the day. Between work, a growing checklist of things to do at home, writing content weekly for two websites, adhering to a consistent posting schedule and posting on social media daily, things started to slip through the cracks and be placed on the backburner. Social media posting was what I put on the backburner the most; in the past three weeks I may have only engaged with other users or posted engaging content that wasn’t self-promoting a total of five times, which is far from what the 80/20 rule suggests.
Until last week I was still meeting my key performance indicators for Laz’s Lounge, but my other website and social media accounts were drastically underperforming in comparison. The reason for this involved a lot of my focus going toward Laz’s Lounge, while I posted inconsistently on the other website. I initially chalked it up to the second website not gaining traction because it was only a month old, but once my metrics declined for Laz’s Lounge I realized it was time to reevaluate what areas I was lacking in that were causing my metrics to slump.
Troubleshooting my metric slump
After reviewing best practices for my web design, getting HTTPS instead of HTTP for my domains, reindexing both websites in the Google Search Console and split-testing different article layouts and keywords with limited success, I looked back to what I started doing differently when the slump for Laz’s Lounge occurred. It dawned on me that my problem wasn’t necessarily the website or the articles; I had stopped effectively engaging with my audiences on social media. This in turn made me think about the poor performance of my second website; again, it wasn’t the posts, but rather my extremely limited utilization of social media to build that audience and retain them through targeted messaging and the 80/20 rule.
Not only were my website metrics hurting, but my post engagement rate on Laz’s Lounge had slowly declined by 50 percent by the end of those two weeks. Part of the falling engagement was due to non-optimized messaging, a change in peak posting times and creating content that deviated from my target audience, but the main culprit was from overwhelming self-promotion.
Once I made this change, I started to see improvement almost immediately for both the social media channels and website of Laz’s Lounge. While the improvement was slow for the second website due to how new it is, I’ve started to gain more followers, visitors, engagement and positive feedback for the content that has been distributed irregularly over the past month. I was close to pulling the plug on the second website and focusing my efforts strictly on Laz’s Lounge, but the results I’m currently gaining have convinced me to continue working on the second website.
The six month rule
One of my colleagues had said to give a new social media account at least six months to prove its value and allow it time to work, which is great advice that I’ve carried with me over the years that I’ve begun incorporating on social media platforms like Instagram. While I have a long way to go for both of my websites and their social media platforms, I’m finally reaping the rewards of the efforts that I thought were seemingly wasted after months of posting and trying to engage with the right digital audiences. I’ve learned from my mistake and have a deeper appreciation for social media and viewing it as a digital community instead of an avenue to self-promote with little to no effort. It’s also a great avenue to connect with others after doing some traditional networking.