The Pareto principle states that for the majority of events, approximately 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the causes. Named after famed economist Vilfredo Pareto, the principle has been applied to many areas of economic theory, business management, and even everyday life. For example, a business might find that roughly 80 percent of its incoming revenue is supplied by roughly 20 percent of its client base, or a police officer might find that 80 percent of all crimes are committed by 20 percent of the population.
Obviously, the Pareto principle isn’t a precise scientific measurement (in fact, it would be spooky if it was). It’s a general rule of thumb that helps the average user understand that there will always be sharp inequalities between different influencing factors.
In my experience, I’ve noted the Pareto principle applies heavily to how influencers in social media account for growth in your social followings. That is to say, 20 percent of the influencer relationships you develop will account for 80 percent of the growth you achieve.
There are two main appeals of influencer-based social media marketing as a follower growth strategy. The first is that it holds the potential for massive follower growth. Assume for a moment that you have 1,000 followers on Twitter, and a reputable thought leader in your industry has 100,000. If you can get him to post an article of yours on his account, 10,000 people might see it, 2,000 people might be interested in it, and 1,000 people might become long-term fans of yours. That’s an instant doubling of your following based on one influential post.
The second appeal, as potentially evident from my above hypothetical scenario, is that influencer marketing is strangely easy. You don’t have to undergo any special training, learn any special skills, or pay money to get the job done. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask for a favor, and the influencer, if he/she is in a good mood, will be happy to oblige.
If you’re interested in growing your social media following at a rate faster than the natural word-of-mouth spread will allow, influencer marketing is the best way to go.
Let’s take a look at the justification behind my assertion that only 20 percent of the influencers you reach out to will result in the most significant increase in your own followers. Again, this is not precisely scientific, so we’ll be looking at approximate figures here, but based on my experiences in the social media world, this is more or less how things go.
Imagine you have five potential candidates as influencers in your industry. You look at each of them, and they all seem like they’re well respected in the industry, so you reach out to them individually and ask them if they will share some of your content with their audience. Two out of five will either ignore you or reject your request. Influencers are busy people and they generally don’t have time to respond or comply with every single request. Don’t take it personally. Immediately, 40 percent of your potential influencer audience is thrown out. They simply don’t have the time or the opportunity to do you any favors.
Let’s look at the remaining three then. All three of these influencers have agreed to help you out. Of these three, one has a relatively small audience—still more than yours, but not as large as those belonging to the other two. For example, you might have 1,000 followers, your other two candidates might have more than 100,000 each, and your third follower might only have 8,000. This might get you a handful of new followers, which is always appreciated, but comparatively, it won’t have near the potential impact of the others.
Now we’re down to two, and each is willing to do you a favor with 100,000 followers or more. Sounds juicy, right? Unfortunately, audience sizes can be deceiving. It’s possible to pay for followers directly, and these end up being false foreign accounts with no activity. It’s also possible to artificially inflate your numbers by engaging in mass following and unfollowing tactics. In short, 100,000 followers doesn’t always mean 100,000 active, organic followers. It’s very possible that your penultimate influencer candidate only has about 10,000 real followers—which is still impressive—but 90,000 fake, spammy, inactive, or uninterested followers. None of these are helpful to you.
You’re left with one influencer, who wants to help you out, who has 100,000 real followers, and will provide you 80 percent of your total follower increases.
Your first step in identifying prospects is scouting for individuals in your industry with large followings and an active posting schedule. It is from within this group that the Pareto principle is applied. From there, we can identify three major possibilities that interfere with an influencer’s ability to earn you new followers:
The second two points are easy to filter out; if you’re interested in maximizing your influencer impact, immediately disqualify influencers with small followings or those whose followings appear contrived (you can do this by seeing what types of people follow the main account and measuring how often those users engage).
The first point is the hardest to avoid. No matter how you approach the situation, some influencers simply won’t be able to help you out. The best you can do is introduce yourself warmly, and try to build a relationship before you make a cold request. It might take some more time, but it will help you get more “yes”es, and more opportunities to boost that 80 percent of your growth.