I’ve been hearing the term non-linearity ad-nauseum for more than a couple of weeks everywhere I go. The context here is that for businesses to grow (and prosper), they need to move away from linear revenue models – towards something that is non-linear.
Fair enough – and sounds good too. Problem is, when rubber hits the road, all the fancy ideas about non-linearity vanish, and what’s left behind are pieces of linearity to pick up. At least until we can take a step back and really think through and apply the non-linear strategies in our life, work and play.
The Pareto Principle – or the 80/20 Rule is something all of us learnt in school. Almost everything we do in life – online and offline – follows this principle, in some shape or form.
As a refresher, here is the Wikipedia definition of the Pareto Principle:
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
Goes without saying, Vilfredo Pareto must have been a pretty intelligent man. Pity, he didn’t have Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging to support him in his research. Had these tools been around then, we would have had some pretty interesting social media success principles handed down to us on a platter.
Success in, and with social media is definitely non-linear. It’s way different than a 9-5 job, or even an hourly gig. You can certainly spend eight solid hours on Twitter (or Facebook) and not make a single penny.
Johnny Laird had a pretty interesting interview with Mike Cliffe-Jones last week. And like it is for anyone who is starting out, Mike’s growth as a blogger and in the social media world was anything but linear.
To quote Mike from the interview:
I do remember days when we both worked 16 or 17 hours and ended up earning less than a dollar!
But the beauty of this non-linearity is that when it works, it’s a windfall!
Drawing once again from the same interview:
Blogging for an income is anything but linear. I was looking at figures for Lanzarote Information the other day. The income on that blog doubled from April to July last year, and did the same again from July to September. It’s like a snowball.
The same sentiments about non-linear success in social media keep resonating through the problogging wisdom.
Peter Lang, a leading social media strategist captured this non-linearity principle in one of his blog posts, Time and Growth of Social Media is Non Linear:
The art of social media success comes from trying to figure out what’s appropriate given the situation. Growth will come, but only with high levels of effort. Developing a social media strategy and aligning it with the your business and personal capabilities is vital when working in a non-linear environment like social media.
It’s also important to note that the 80/20 rules becomes much more skewed in certain scenarios with a tendency to approach the theoretical maximum of 99/1. Social media is most certainly one domain where this tendency holds good.
There’s only so many hours in a day, and if you can’t get it to go non-linear at some point, it won’t work!
When it comes to success with social media, The Principle of Non-Linearity rules. There’s no beating it, no exceptions.
Here are some of the ways this principle impacts all of us in social media.
Let’s define the variable factors that govern our social web life here:
- Number of posts
- Number of comments
- Number of visitors
- Number of subscribers
- Number of followers
- Number of tweets
- And the three omnipresence variables – time, effort, money
The Pareto Principle breaks down into the following assertions for social media success:
20% of your posts will get you:
- 80% of your comments
- 80% of your visitors
- 80% of your subscribers
- 80% of your followers
- 80% of your tweets
- And will also take up 80% of your time, effort
- And will get you 80% of your revenues!
Bring in the other variables on the 20% side of the equation, and you’ll pretty much get the same story.
The key message here is, you don’t know which 20% of your posts will get you here. And that’s where you need to bring your experience and insights in.
Every few days, you should take a step back and sieve your top 20% variables – and replicate them.
Success breeds success – and unless you make an educated effort to replicate success, you’ll always be firing in the dark.
This periodic evaluation will also ensure that you can free up your resources to activities that matter the most – for you. Everything else, is just a pipe dream in thin air!
And on a more philosophical note, the message is simple:
If you are currently spending 99% of your time making 1% of your income, stay put. The Law of The Farm is at work!
The same principle of non-linearity that holds you back will throttle you to success.
You’ll get to a point where you spend 1% of the time that you’re currently spending making 99% more than what you’re currently making.
(Image Credit: tabogarcia http://www.flickr.com/photos/tabogarcia/)