Structure Your Social Media Content with the 4-1-1 Rule

Corinna Keefe
Corinna Keefe
These days, no marketing strategy is complete without social media content. But how do you plan and organize your posts? And are you including a healthy mix of shared posts, new posts, and sales promotions? Read the Easypromos essential guide to 4-1-1 social media content.

Whenever you sit down to plan a promotion, post, or strategy, start by thinking about your goals. What exactly are you trying to achieve with your social media content?

In this post, we’re going to focus on the goal of content marketing through social media. Of course, social networks are generally useful to interact with customers, build your brand image, and share content in general. But today, we’ll focus on a single aim.

Content marketing is the art of understanding exactly what your customers need to know, and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way to grow your business.

The classic definition of content marketing comes from Joe Pulizzi, the internet’s favorite content marketer. He recommends focusing on one clear, simple goal: sharing valuable information. That should be the whole point of your content marketing strategy.

You may well be asking why information is so important. Where’s the hard sell? Where’s the offer your clients can’t refuse? But content marketing takes a more subtle approach than that. So let’s break it down into three stages, in line with the three types of content in your 4-1-1 strategy.

What is the 4-1-1 rule for social media content?

We’ve already mentioned the importance of sharing quality informational content. In fact, it’s so important that Pulizzi named his content marketing rule after the American informational phone line, 411. (For readers in other countries, that’s like calling the operator, or looking up the Yellow Pages.)

4-1-1 is a simple rule of thumb that divides the information you share into three types:

  • 4 pieces of curated content, shared from external sources
  • 1 piece of original content, produced by you
  • 1 piece of promotional content, aimed at making sales

Start with four posts to generate engagement and build a relationship with other content producers. That could include popular industry blogs, influencers, and even competitors! Next, show off your own expertise with an entertaining, educational piece of in-house content. Finally, mixed in with those five pieces of content for content’s sake, you can post one promotional piece.

Think of it as the golden ratio of social media content. Of course, you don’t need to share the different content types in any particular order. Just make sure that for every six times you post, there are four curated pieces, one original piece, and one promotional piece.

How to increase engagement with social media content

Attract followers with curated content

Sharing curated content is a great way to boost your presence and reputation online. So show your followers that you’re in touch with the latest updates. You can build your authority within your industry, too. Finally, by sharing content from other producers, you’ll attract their attention and respect.

Curated content can take a few different forms. It partly depends on which social media channels you use: your audiences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube will have different tastes and expectations. But it’s a good idea to mix things up, wherever you post. So here are a few suggestions for what to include in your social media content:

  • Classic blog posts. These are quick, easy to read, and there are literally millions of them to choose from.
  • News stories. Look out for events that are relevant to your industry, or your customers’ interests.
  • Memes. This strategy takes skill – but some brands have had huge success by tapping into online trends. Check out this infographic about meme marketing.
  • User-generated content. Share comments, reviews, case studies, and even competition entries from your own clients and followers. This has the benefit of boosting community spirit, too.

To illustrate that last idea, here’s an example from the organizers of Australia Day. They asked followers to share photos and recipes of iconic Australian treats. Then all the competition entries were posted in a public gallery, ready to be shared online.

Notice that the competition prize wasn’t directly related to Australia Day. The organizers chose a reward that foodie participants would love, without making it too obviously promotional. Encouraging user-generated content like this is a great way to bridge the gap between curation and creation.

Add value with relevant, original content

Now that you’ve started to build your authority through curated content, it’s time to show off your in-house skills. But that doesn’t mean just writing about your products. Try to offer added value to your readers. Remember the old BBC slogan: use your social media content to inform, educate, and entertain.

  • Inform. Offer your take on updates, innovations, and changes in your business niche. Share reports, blogposts, and even ebooks on key issues.
  • Educate. Share your expertise with your followers! By educating others about best practices and smart strategies, you will improve your authority even further.
  • Entertain. Find a fun angle on your brand! Start a conversation on social media, or share games and quizzes.

Social media isn’t just about communication: it’s how people relax, unwind, and have fun too. So tap into that atmosphere by sharing activities that your followers will enjoy.

Take a look at this example from a travel agency. They knew that online users love taking quizzes and personality tests. So they designed a series of quizzes to choose the perfect holiday. But even though the quiz gave suggestions for holiday destinations, they were careful not to push for sales. Instead, the brand allowed the content to speak for itself.

Tourism travel quiz social media content

Or take this heavy machinery brand. They decided to go all out, with a different challenge for each of the twelve days of Christmas. The series featured riddles, guessing games, puzzles, and even this seasonal twist on a “Where’s Wally” contest.

Instant win Christmas social media content
instant win puzzle

Here’s a screenshot of the first day of the competition. If you can find the penguin with a Christmas hat, let us know – we’re stumped!

Lock in subscribers with promotional content

Let’s move on to step three. Your social media content is thriving, with curated posts and original pieces galore. Now it’s time to lock in your subscribers, qualify leads, and nurture them towards a sale.

At this point, you can take the risk of sharing posts which directly describe your products and services. Of course, you should still make an effort to produce content which is timely, relevant and informative. Don’t just regurgitate a sales pitch!

Remember the paradox of social media: it’s great for attracting followers, but horrible for moving them on. So you need a way to reach your followers outside the “walled gardens” of social networks. Here are a few ideas to try:

giveaway registration
  • Limited-time offers. Use your social media to alert your followers to special deals and flash sales.
  • Coupons and promotional codes. Share vouchers, gift cards, and coupons to drive traffic to your store – online or offline.

We hope you’ve found this post helpful! Now it’s time to create your own content. Since you’ve learnt all about the 4-1-1 rule, get started with contests to collect user-generated content, original games to challenge your followers, and giveaways to convert leads into customers.