Larry BraunerI revisit the 80/20 Rule (about which I wrote last September) because of something that I alluded to in my interview with Stacey Chadwell.

Web 2.0 is a virtual candy store, and our eyes, so to speak, are bigger than our stomachs.

Every day new social media sites crop up. We’d love to try them all, yet we can only hope to master and stay on top of a very small fraction of the myriad sites that are already available to us.

The 80/20 Rule to Our Rescue

The 80/20 Rule applied to social media sites would state that 80% of all results can be achieved with 20% of all sites.

However, the 80 to 20 ratio is no more than a concept or a rule of thumb. The actual ratio is quite often greater than 80 to 20. With respect to social media sites  the ratio could be as high as 99 to 1.

The 80/20 Rule applied to social media sites might be called a 99/1 Rule. We can accomplish almost everything we might want to accomplish with only 1% of all the social sites in operation — and almost everything is really enough!

I regularly use only a modest number of social media sites:

  1. Online Social Networking (my blog)
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Ning family of social networking sites (especially Small Business Network)
  6. Entrecard
  7. Business Exchange
  8. StumbleUpon
  9. Digg
  10. Delicious

You’d hardly call me an expert on social media sites, but the few sites I do use, complement each other in my social media marketing model, and I use them effectively.

Could I use more sites?

Of course I could. However, the point is that I don’t need to use more sites, at least not right now.

Other Aspects of the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule also applies to you as a person, to the people who follow you and to how you approach learning.

Rather than re-hash what I’ve written in the past, I refer you to my previous article, The 80/20 Rule, which elaborates on these issues in some detail.

In Conclusion

My advice to you is to:

  • determine what you’d like to accomplish
  • devise a plan that uses a modest number of resources
  • learn to use those resources reasonably well
  • and apply yourself with great determination and enthusiasm

People will look to you as a leader and a source of inspiration.

I’m @larrybrauner on Twitter. I look forward to your tweets.

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29 Responses to “The 80/20 Rule and Social Media”

  1. Diana on February 15th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Good reminder Larry that more is not always better!

    We can avoid overwhelm by limiting to a few selective sites that we are active on.

  2. Larry Brauner on February 15th, 2009 11:35 pm


    I’d like to underscore your use of the word “active”.

    It’s fine to join a ton of sites and set up a profile on each one linking to our main sites.

    It’s just not possible to be active on all these sites, so we have to limit ourselves to “a few selective sites that we are active on”.

  3. M.M. McDermott on February 16th, 2009 12:01 am

    I think you crystallize one of the biggest anxieties of social media - the feeling that we’ve got to stay connected at all times, else we miss something.

    Your suggestion to focus efforts on a few key applications is something it took me some time to realize.

    Dude, I coulda used this article two years ago ;)

  4. Morgan Mandel on February 16th, 2009 12:41 am

    Hi Larry,

    There are countless Ning sites, one being mine, Book Place, which I visit and maintain. At the beginning I signed up for so many, I have to go to and look up the names to find them. I’m only active on a few, but pop in occasionally on the others.

    Though I use MySpace and Facebook occasionally, Twitter seems to be the most effective because it’s no frills, and I don’t have to wait for ads to come up or play with time wasting apps. I supplement it with blogging.

    Morgan Mandel
    Morgan Mandel Blog
    @morganmandel on Twitter

  5. Larry Brauner on February 16th, 2009 1:12 am

    I don’t know about you Morgan, but the interactive nature of Twitter makes it harder to shut down my PC at night and hit the sack.

  6. Alice Coaxum on February 16th, 2009 1:14 am

    Larry, this really is good information.

    With all the new sites that seem to develop every day we can’t possibly be effective on all of them. It is better to pick and choose and then expand later if need be.

  7. Sandee Robbins on February 16th, 2009 10:58 am

    Thanks Larry.

    Just a little refresher. “History” is always good to bring up as a refresher on “the reality”!

  8. DrErica on February 16th, 2009 4:56 pm

    I have certainly experienced that sense of total overwhelm from being involved in numerous online social media sites. Then I discovered that my blogs on certain sites got me right to the top of google for several of my key words - so - I have focused more attention on those sites. Thanks for that reminder of the 80/20 rule and then the 99/1 rule. Great article!

  9. Patsy Schutte on February 16th, 2009 8:51 pm

    Great article Larry. I tend to jump on every band wagon that comes along and then lose focus. Thanks for the reminder that more is not always better.

  10. Anna Nelson on February 16th, 2009 9:20 pm

    I agree Larry and have become exhausted “checking in” with every site. I think all it takes is one good site. That’s why I like PersonaVita. It is a newer social network with out all the hoopla of advertising and gimmicks. It lets you set up an online profile of ideas thoughts and achievements that really mean something to you. I hate all of the quizzes and idiosyncrasies of other sites. PersonaVita really is a great reason to end the “checking in ” to sites and put the focus back on your life.

  11. Larry Brauner on February 16th, 2009 9:43 pm

    For you Anna, PersonaVita is the focal point of your personal branding, just as this blog is for me.

    I don’t think that any one branding venue is right for everybody.

    I looked at PersonaVita. It seems very professional. I hope that it will help you achieve your goals.

  12. Laurel Papworth on February 16th, 2009 9:48 pm

    The 80:20 rule is old media.

    Dr Jakob Neilsen came up with the 90:9:1 rule quite a few years ago which is more about online community participation. 90% of the time we are Passive, flicking through blogs and articles, 9% of the time we are Respondents - rate something, quick comment, pass it on to Twitter or Facebook. 1% of the time we are Creators - we see something and are inspired to create a blog post, or join a meme or invest time and content into a social network.

    If you work on a 90:9:1 rule, you can figure out which networks have the highest level of 1% for your subject matter - they will help with content (news/media creation). The heavily 9% networks will distribute (media as channel/medium). In turn they will send your campaign into readonly/passive media consumption sites.

    But hey! 80:20 works too :)

  13. Larry Brauner on February 16th, 2009 10:00 pm

    Thank for your insights Laurel.

    The 80/20 Rule was originally derived from the distribution of wealth but has some application to everything.

    To the extent that it expresses the Law of Diminishing Returns, it can apply to efforts in social media just as elsewhere.

    The 90:9:1 Rule helps us determine how and where we should use our social media time.

    However, it’s the 80/20 Rule that allows us to say that 20% of people will achieve 80% of the results from applying the 90:9:1 Rule. :)

  14. Tara on February 17th, 2009 7:12 am

    I realized a few months ago I couldn’t keep up and began removing myself from sites.

    Thanks for verification that I am not “lazy”.

  15. Larry Brauner on February 17th, 2009 11:03 am

    You’re not lazy Tara, but I wouldn’t remove myself from any site that didn’t have a recurring fee.

  16. Debbie Morgan on February 18th, 2009 1:18 pm

    Hi Larry! Thanks for this timely article. I too am on many social networks and for a long time have felt like I just can’t use them all effectively; there just isn’t enough time in the day to visit each one, make connections and interact with them. Your thoughts simply confirmed what was already going through my mind.

  17. Larry Brauner on February 18th, 2009 3:33 pm

    Hi Debbie,

    It’s fine to join a large number of sites. They all contribute to your web presence.

    It’s just not possible to network or to maximize your opportunities on more than a few at a time. You can easily spread yourself too thin by taking on too much.

    However, once you choose your niche set of sites, you should work at developing them with much gusto and passion.

    Thank you for being a regular reader and commenter here on my blog!

  18. Dragon Blogger on February 18th, 2009 5:04 pm

    I agree, I started by trying dozens of social media sites, then whittled down to about five or six active ones that I heavily participate in.

    Entercard, SocialSpark, BlogCatalog, Twitter, and Zimbio are pretty much my Top 5. All in all you should have a small presence on all of them and if one isn’t working that well for you, focus your efforts on another. There are plenty of options.

  19. Monique Hawkins on February 22nd, 2009 2:46 pm

    I used to be one who was trying to use many sites to market a free ebook I give away to help those in MLM become successful.

    I found that it was next to impossible to keep up with all of them and to build relationships.

    So,like you, I decided to implement the training I received, cut way back, and first become an expert at ONE. Then, I can add a few more.

    Personally, I enjoy Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube. These three keep me busy enough!

  20. crackgerbal on February 23rd, 2009 6:31 pm

    I am a huge fan of the 80/20 Rule, and I am glad you put together this post to show people how to optimize their online marketing resources. Thanks.

  21. Heather Kilcrease on February 26th, 2009 2:11 pm

    There are also websites that will hold all your information and post/pull information to every site at once.

    Friend Feed
    People Browsr

    This makes keeping everything up to date so easy!

  22. The Divine Miss White on March 2nd, 2009 7:47 pm

    In this case less is more in terms of keeping a very tight niche and focus.

  23. Christina on March 11th, 2009 9:05 am


    I think the most important thing you said is “the few sites I do use, complement each other in my social media model, and I use them effectively.”

    I’m glad you did. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed or excited about new tools. Your statement is a good grounding rod.

  24. Larry Brauner on March 11th, 2009 11:40 am

    So often Christina people flock to a site because it’s hot.

    While that’s a good enough reason to look at a site, it’s not a good enough reason to invest substantial time there.

    Having looked over a new site, one must determine whether that site fits the big picture and make an educated guess regarding potential return on time invested.

  25. Michelle of CrowsFeet on March 12th, 2009 6:01 am

    Good points, great post. My problem is I’m a sucker - I can’t say no to invites and since I started on the net with an extended family on four continents as well as friends all over the world I find myself on far too many places to ever cope. I have tried to prune them back to a sane amount, but then a new friend will send a new invite to her favourite section of the net and I just feel I’m being rude saying no and… there I am registering on somewhere else once again! :-\ How do you say “No”, nicely?

  26. Dennis Higgins on March 18th, 2009 2:05 pm

    Nothing specific to comment about - just wanted to say thank you for clearly illustrating the 80/20 principles.

  27. Atlanta Private Investigator on March 23rd, 2009 9:05 am

    Interesting article and comments! It’s amazing how prevalent the 80/20 rule is!

  28. Phillip Gibb on April 23rd, 2009 10:24 am

    Going point, yet your modest number is a lot.

    I concentrate on my two blogs, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg… wait a minute this list is getting big.



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