Content Marketing Tips for Lawyers
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Content Under Pressure

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Your Content Marketing

By Susan Kostal

The 80/20 rule is so ubiquitous that many of us have lost touch with its origins. Input/output? Sales leads/conversions? Clients/revenue? Greens/grains? Sharing my day/your day?

Conceived by Vincent Pareto, the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, holds that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Writ large, it’s widely applicable, and for good reason. It’s a highly valuable indicator of where your focus should be. And that brings us to promoting the content you produce.

80 Percent You, 20 Percent Me

Other than direct distribution via newsletter, client alert or website, today most content is shared on social media. Sharing content successfully on social media — whether LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook — means you must first build a following. And that means adhering to the 80/20 rule.

Translated crudely, the 80/20 rule applied to content and social media boils down to: “It’s not about me, it’s about you.” For social media, the rule holds that 80 percent of posts are not about you or your content, but about things your business and social sphere would find interesting or relevant. Only then do you earn the right to share your content in the remaining 20 percent of your online interactions.

I’m pretty active on social, so for me the ratio is more like 95/5. But the principle remains. No one wants to sit in front of my branded megaphone. They want valuable information.

People will stick around for the conversation and won’t ditch you for the free drinks if you have appropriate content to share.

Here’s How It Works

You have a client alert, newsletter, article or blog post. Terrific! But your audience isn’t sitting there waiting for it, no matter how good it is. Ideally, you need to establish yourself as a purveyor of useful information before you add your own content to your social media mix.

social media marketingSo how do you accomplish that on social?

Use your LinkedIn or Twitter account to share relevant articles about your practice area or industry. Think of yourself as a news service, republishing the best information you can find on the topics your contacts are most interested in. That makes you a curator, a portal. Followers will see your name and your posts and know that you will thoughtfully share what will be of interest and value to them. That’s the 80 percent. Once you establish that, you can begin to add the 20 percent: your posts, links to your firm blog, white papers, client alerts.

You can apply the 80/20 rule to your direct communications as well, such as client newsletters. In my newsletter, I usually include a short blurb from me, likely linking to a longer piece I’ve written, and balance the remaining content with a selection of links to pieces by respected outlets and folks much smarter than I am.

Publishing successfully, especially on social media, implies a social contract — one that is mutually beneficial. Don’t find yourself in breach.

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Trends at Work columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and content strategy consultant. She is a former contributing editor for Attorney at Work and previously wrote a monthly column, Content Under Pressure. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at

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