What are content rules? 3 Strategy Examples from Experts

What are content rules? 3 Strategy Examples from Experts

Producing good or even great content isn’t the hardest part of digital marketing. If you have a brand that you’re passionate about, your passion will likely translate into your content. The tricky part about the process is knowing what and when to post. This is where content rules come in.

Content rules are the unwritten laws and etiquette of digital marketing. 

There are many ways to publish your content, but this blog will go over 3 main content rules that can help you organize the structure of your brand’s digital voice. 

Being content geeks, we take our content very seriously. Our strategies all revolve around telling a story, giving our audience something worth reading or viewing. If you want to learn from the best, keep on reading through. Your first lesson on content rules is about to begin. 

What social media content rules are there?

The 3 content rules we’ll touch upon in this blog are the 4-1-1 rule, the 90/10 rule for social media, and the 80/20 rule for Instagram. 

These content moderation rules exist to ensure your brand plays into the digital marketing world without overwhelming your audience. With so much noise on social media platforms, you want to be sure that your content doesn’t fall into the background. You can make sure of this by regulating what kind of content you publish & by following these social posting guidelines.

What social media content rules are there?

After all, having a content mix is the key to “sell without selling.” By balancing useful, educational, and entertaining content with a subtle mix of sales-focused content, your brand has the power to become a compelling industry competitor.  

Choosing the content rule that fits well with your objectives can be tough. It’s even more tough when you don’t know your options. Let’s jump in with the 4-1-1 rule and explore the rest afterwards. 

The 4-1-1 rule

“What’s the 411?” 

This popular saying refers to the American hotline number 4-1-1, which is essentially the equivalent of calling an operator. Over time, this number evolved into a conversational shorthand meaning “what’s the scoop,” “what’s the deal,” you get it… 

So, what is the 411 on the 4-1-1 content rule? 

The 4-1-1 rule divides the type of posts you share into three categories and frequencies:

4 pieces of curated content shared from external sources 
1 piece of original content, produced, created, and designed by you
1 piece of promotional content aimed to make a sale 

Unlike the other content rules, the 4-1-1 rule isn’t an overarching ratio but rather an alternating schedule. By following the 4-1-1 content mix, you’ll gain optimal traffic and drive more conversions. But how? 

Content marketing rules: The 4-1-1 rule

This rule works like a cycle, similar to parts in a play. You get the intriguing introduction, get comfortable, then a plot twist happens, maybe a redemption arc, then the grand finale – everyone lives happily ever after.

In the language of social media, limiting your promotional content to just one post at the end of the alternating cycle allows you to achieve that grand finale. And then the cycle repeats. This way, your followers are mostly exposed to entertaining and informative media, resulting in a higher chance of generating more shares, story reshares, and overall exposure. 

Start with 4 posts from industry leaders, influencers, and even competitors. Doing this will generate engagement and build relationships with other content creators in your industry. 

Next, demonstrate your industry knowledge and expertise by sharing original content – still meant to benefit your audience. 

Side note: Think of it this way – give more to your audience than you’re taking.

Now that you’ve shown your community what an asset you are to the industry, you finally get to post something promotional. And now’s the best time to do it! You’ve already generated plenty of reach and momentum with your prior content, and the promotional post is what’s going to drive conversion. 

Do you think this content rule is the one for your brand? Great! If you’re still a little hesitant, let’s take a look at the other options you got.

The 90/10 rule for social media 

Back in the old days, the 90/10 rule was used by brands as a budgetary guideline. It said that only 10% of the budget could be used to produce content, while 90% needed to be used to distribute content since print content distribution was so expensive. 

Well, it’s 2022, and distributing content (in theory) is totally free, thanks to the variety of digital social platforms that exist! But does that mean that 100% of your efforts should go into producing content? 

Not really, and here’s why. 

Due to accessibility being at an all-time high, and content being relatively free to publish, everybody and their mother is hopping on the content marketing train. But just because the content is there doesn’t mean it’s adding anything. And since everyone is doing this, the competition is more robust than ever before – meaning, you need to produce valuable content in order to become a viable competitor. 

Content Rule 90/10 Social Media

Key takeaway: content is only ever going to make an impact if you socialize it – meaning you apply a distribution process to the content you turn out. So, how does the 90/10 rule play into this? Let’s talk about two variations and how to incorporate them in the digital age. 
The 1st variation of the 90/10 content rule for social media says that you should spend: 

90% of your time paying attention and listening to your network; i.e., engaging your audience 
10% of your time producing content; i.e., talking about yourself 

Social media is a network of real people cultivating real relationships. You can’t just schedule posts once a month, call it quits, and expect to build a community. Your followers expect more. 

Pay attention to them, the 90%, and they’ll pay attention to you. Spark dialogue, engage them, connect with them, and in return, you’ll see higher conversion rates. 

The 2nd variation of the 90/10 content rule says you should spend: 

90% of your efforts doing just one thing exceptionally well on one platform
10% of your efforts can be experimenting with everything else on other platforms

Ever heard the expression, “1% of something is better than 100% of nothing?”

I hate to break it to you, but something is not always better than nothing. You may feel like you’re moving forward, but you’re wasting your time by publishing something average, and other competitors are doing this. So now is your time to stand above the rest!. 

That’s why this variation of the 90/10 content rule allows you to focus your energy, resources, and budget on being a remarkable competitor on one platform. Don’t feel ashamed to grow your platforms one at a time. Your chances of getting big on one platform are much greater if you’re not stretching your efforts across the board.  

The two variations of the 90/10 rule are open to interpretation and you’ll need to test it out to see if it works for your brand. If none of these rules sound like “the one” for you, we’ve got one final content rule you should check out.

The 80/20 rule for Instagram

Last but not least, let’s talk about the 80/20 content rule. This particular content rule follows a more rigid curation, so we dedicated an entire blog to the matter. Head over to get the 411 on the 80/20. We also include examples of what kinds of posts fit into this particular content rule. 

If you prefer the Cliff Notes version, here it is. The rule states that: 

80% of your content should be educational, informative, and entertaining 
20% of your content should be self-promotional 

Like the previous content rules we’ve gone over, the 80/20 rule has a majority focus on the audience. That’s because you need to give a reason for people to follow your account. 

Content marketing rules: The 80/20 rule for Instagram

Say you run a B2B marketing firm. Suzie from an industry-leading ecommerce company stumbles across your page. If all she sees is a sales pitch, she won’t stay. You just lost a lead! 
But let’s say she stumbles upon your page and sees content that’s valuable to her and her company – she sees the latest ecommerce trends, inspiration from industry pioneers, valuable tutorials, and insightful podcasts. She might stay! And more importantly, she will feel inclined to share your content. Imagine the reach she has with that network of hers! You just gained several leads and maximized your conversion. 

Why should I follow a content rule?

So, we’ve given you the how, and now you’re probably wondering about the why. We encourage you to follow a content rule for optimal reach, which in turn drives maximal conversion. 
Social media platforms are like a game, and we’re all just playing to win. When over time, your account reaches more people, you’re unlocking new levels of the game. The more your engagement, the more your reward. 
The bottom line is – if you’re strictly sticking to self-promotional content, you won’t advance in the game. 

Why should I follow a content rule?

As SMM experts, we totally get the hesitation in straying away from non-promotional content. We’ve had clients fear that it’s a “wasted” post. Resources – designers, content writers, copywriters – “wasted” on a post that’s not outright designed to land a sale.  
Turns out, it’s quite the contrary. These posts, the 4-1, the 90%, the 80% – whichever content rule you choose to adopt, are the ones that will make your followers convert. These are the posts that sell. As you begin to speak the language of your audience,  they’ll begin to know your brand and voice on a more personal level.
So, while yes, these posts are disguised to seem like non-promotional content, they are designed to promote your brand. This is how you win the game – but on a more wholesome note, it’s the way to your followers’ hearts.   
At the end of the day, the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.  

Wrapping up 

As a company, you won’t succeed with self-serving content. That’s why we seriously suggest following any one of the content rules we’ve talked about today. These content rules are tried and tested methods that are meant to serve you and your brand. We get that it may not feel that way instinctively, but it’s just human psychology. People like people (in this case – brands) who cater to their needs. 

If you’ve wanted to apply a content rule to your marketing plan but still don’t know where to start, reach out to us. Not only are we masters in content rules, but we’re marketing experts! 

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