It’s been a few months since the startup became real. The investors came through; you are in business. It’s going well – except for the company blog. While news sites are starting to write articles about your product or service, your blog sees only a comment or two per post. With only a few followers on social media, the posts are rarely shared. To say there was customer engagement would be nearly fabrication. Now, it’s time to fix that with simple strategies that will inspire content interesting enough to share.

Blogging for fun and profit

The main goal is to create content that is worth sharing over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your platform of choice. To do that, you need something to link to: your company’s blog. The very first step in improving your company’s social media standing is improving your blog, the backbone of engaging your customers.

The key is to post in your niche. There will always be news for whatever product or service you offer. New laws, other company’s products that your company can comment on, a new take on a service in the industry – all are ripe for a blog post. Comment on the news, explain to the average reader what it means for your niche, and how it affects your company. The goal is to show your company is knowledgeable, that your expertise makes your company the best choice in the industry.

How often should you post?

If the gaps between posts are weeks or even months, you are not posting enough. Between one and three times each week is a perfect for a startup. While major corporations may have the capacity to post daily, posting that often can burn out a startup’s writers and overload the audience.

Even just once a week may be hard in the beginning. Remember that not posting means not engaging a large customer base. In early 2016, 68 percent of adults had created at least one social media account. About 79 percent of those adults had a Facebook account.

Numbers are climbing with seniors, as adults 65 and older are adapting to the times. Almost a third of seniors use Facebook – 62 percent, to be exact – and that number is rising. It’s a 14-point difference from 2015. Text-based social media isn’t the only type of platform, however, as nearly a third of adults have an Instagram account.

The golden blogging ratio

Your first blogs tell customers about your newest service, your product that is just out of production and will be on shelves by the end of the month. You elaborate on why customers should choose your company over all others. The posts sound exactly like press releases. Unfortunately, this type of content serves to harm your brand. It frustrates readers, driving them away. To them, the promotional tactics you are using are transparent. They want more than just posts about products.

To fix this, we must first go back in time to 1896, when Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto published a paper that would give rise to the Principle of 80/20. His research found that 80 percent of Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population in the late 1800s. But the ration didn’t stop there.

In his garden, 20 percent of peapods contained 80 percent of the peas. The ratio was found in a variety of applications, though it is often used in business. For example, 80 percent of a company’s profits come from 20 percent of its customers. The same can be said of complaints. Only 20 percent of products make up 80 percent of a company’s profits.

When applied to social media, it sets a goal of non-promotional to promotional posts. The vast majority should not be a hard sell of a product or service. It should just be content related to your niche that engages the audience and invites comments from readers. Offering insight and information is a great way to encourage sharing, which in turn spreads your company’s name, increasing brand recognition.

The 80/20 Rule in practice

What are companies and organizations posting to get shares? Let’s take a look at a few examples. You’ve just started up an accounting office. Writing blog posts about money or your services won’t be engaging, and won’t be shared widely. You need to pull back and get a 10,000-foot view of accounting, possibly unrelated to your office, but something interesting and in the niche.

What are other accounting blogs writing about? What can fuel your content? Here’s an idea: a blog post from a university on uncommon accounting jobs. In the niche? Check. An authoritative post that you can link to in order to build credibility? Check. An idea that is share-worthy, due to the jobs being uncommon? Check. Use this post to write your own post, using knowledge from being in the industry. We’ll come back to how to research for blog ideas in a moment.

Let’s look at an example in the fashion industry. You sell hats – not just baseball caps, but fashionable hats like bowlers and top hats. You could write about fashion trends, but there’s hundreds of other websites doing exactly that. What’s something that can set you apart? Writing about fashion trends in a popular TV show – especially a show that takes place in a different era – to provide current fashion advice, as well as give some history of fashion.

This takes a common article and twists it to be uncommon. Not only is it an interesting new take, it provides information for a potential client. As discussed earlier, a reader who learns something is more likely to want to share the post, and sharing the information they found. This method was used by Buzzfeed, leading well-known search engine optimization company Moz to coin it the “BuzzFeed Approach.”

Remember, the object of the post is to inform. A company that sells tickets to attractions in San Diego garners good will (and shares!) by writing about all the free things to do in the city. It’s the antithesis of the company, but by sharing the information – curated by a travel expert – the company promotes itself and its employees as knowledgeable – meaning the next time you need a ticket to an attraction, you’ll go to them first. It’s brand recognition at its finest.

Bigger companies do something similar. Let’s take a look at Intel’s Instagram account. A newer post is simply a link to the company’s blog with an image that evokes upgrading a computer. In the post is an infographic showing exactly how to upgrade a processor – where the image on Instagram was pulled from. Both the infographic and the original Instagram post are extremely shareworthy, as it’s a how-to – a type of post that will find plenty of shares with the right audience.

Another important note on this post – while there is plenty of branding for Intel, it’s generalized enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s a full promotion of the product – Intel just so happens to sell a product that you could use while following the how-to. This is similar to another post – a modding competition that Intel hosts. The finale episode was viewed more than 25,000 times. Again, it’s not a direct “buy our product” post, but rather related to Intel in the world of computers.

This leaves us with the remaining 20 percent from Pareto. Use these posts to directly promote your product, discount, service, or event. A good search engine optimization practice is to link to other parts of your site. For example: You operate a company that sells a wide variety of light bulbs and fixtures.

Your goal is to make an informative blog post – information, remember, that has value to readers and is thus share-worthy content  – while offering solutions with your own products. Write a post on decorating with antique light bulbs, linking to the specific product pages you discuss in the blog. It’s promotional but offering valuable information – much like the Intel post from earlier, but with a larger focus on your products.

Fuelling posts through research

Now that we’ve seen examples, it’s time to write a post. It has to be something that engages readers, a post that will lead to discussion in comments. If you can figure out what your current readership already likes, you can get inspiration for posts. Moz’ Rand Fishkin proposes researching customer needs and profiles on social media.

By finding patterns in your readers, you can get a sense of what they currently enjoy reading and where there might be gaps you can fill with content. Information on anything from a certain media outlet being more popular among your readers to what TV shows they watch (Remember the hat example?) can be leveraged. If it’s content your readership enjoys, they will share the post. Their friends, who share the same interests, will share. And a chain reaction of sharing occurs, increasing brand visibility.

It’s all in the timing

Your post may be perfect for sharing, but it’s still not getting the numbers you expect. The reason, social media guru Neil Patel says, could boil down to incorrectly timing posts to specific platforms. There are optimal times on optimal platforms for different topics of blogs. His researched indicated Fortune 500 companies posting videos on Instagram during local working hours averaged 22.5 per 1,000 followers interacting.

But, that rose to 33.4 per 1,000 when posted at the end of the working day. A clothing-related pin – such as a link to the hat post – on Pinterest, will see the most engagement pinned at 3 p.m. on a Friday. People are receiving their paychecks, and looking forward to a Friday night date.

They seek to answer a simple question: What should I wear? This extends beyond fashion, with Facebook posts from nearly all industries gaining more comments and shares when posted at the end of the work week. Patel himself saw a 39 percent increase in web traffic after he began posting at optimal times.

Follow these tips and you’ll have ideas for blog posts based on patterns of current readers, posts that don’t blatantly promote your product or service, and above all, an active blog ripe for social media use. Follower counts will increase, and your blogs will foster comments and discussion.

A former professional journalist covering crime, court and fire stories, Cole spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and slowly writing a crime novel.