Articles tagged with: reciprocity

The 50/50 Rule, Link Love & Reciprocity

The 50/50 Rule is something I started sharing with clients a while back. It’s nothing new or earth-shattering and TONS of individuals and companies are doing it EVERY SINGLE DAY. The idea is simple – to connect in the Social spaces where the users live, you need to spend half as much of your time talking about the users as you do about your brand/product/service/website/effort/whatever.

You need to be a neighbor, not Vince from ShamWOW (who I think is AWESOME, but not a good example of starting/having/maintaining/sharing a conversation). If all you do is pitch AT them all day, they will tune you out. If you spend at least half of your time celebrating them, encouraging them, recognizing them, sharing with the rest of the community what they are doing/have learned/successes/challenges, then they might listen to the other 50% of your “stuff”.

Link Love is described in Wikipedia as “the effect that web pages rank better when they have more and higher quality links pointing at them.” It is partly about attribution (making sure you acknowledge where a discussion or quote came from), but it is also about sharing these connections that you value with your users – and hopefully they will check out those links. This is a powerful gesture, because in the digital space, links are a currency. They have intrinsic value, links are an outward, public display of paying attention. Says Doc, “In simpler terms, humans are distinguished no only by their ability to talk, but also by their ability to point.”

Some real examples of Link Love:

  • Blogrolls are Link Love: they share with the readers of any given blog the other “voices we like”.
  • Trackbacks are Link Love: they create a connection between my blog post and another blogger’s post – a discrete, ping-based connection that says to the user and the blogosphere “hey, these things are related”.
  • Twitter posts are Link Love – I think enough of what someone is doing to share it with my circle of followers/friends
  • Comments (although sometimes NOT counted by Google thanks to comment spam) are Link Love – I think enough of the ideas in this post to not only leave a note, but also where I can be found later for thanks/feedback/comments/a beating.

How do we connect in with this link economy? Where does Reciprocity fit in?

We need to link to the voices and ideas outside our “four walls”. If our blogroll only contains the other blogs our company has created and not the blogs of the users then we aren’t using that currency properly. If we only comment on other corporate blogs, then we aren’t connecting with our community. If we have a twitter feed with thousands of followers, but only following a few users, then we are missing out on an opportunity to participate. As publishers/pundits/journalists/program managers and “experts” we need to send the link love out there first (real, authentic), without expectations that it will be returned until we have earned it – and earning it is completely in the mind of the user. You either add value or you don’t. You are sponge-worthy or you are not (to use a Seinfeld reference). Reciprocity in this context is less about obligation (“oh hell, he linked to me, so now I need to link to him”), and more about attention and intent (“X is paying attention to my ideas”, or better yet “wow, those guys from Company Y spend a lot of time talking about what the members of their community are doing”). Its about adding enough value that others think you are worthy of their currency (links, attention, comments – whatever your measure of success is).

One of the clearest, fastest ways of seeing the 50/50 Rule in action is on Twitter with users like Richard @ Dell and Zappos. Richard@DELL is one of the leaders in corporations working with social software like twitter and making business personal. He spends as much of his time sending users to other voices and links as he does “Dell Business” with his twitter feed. Zappos uses his tweet time to talk about the people he is meeting with and interacting than he does his own site (along with DMs to users who ask questions about Zappos.

Liz Strauss has this to say in her killer blog post about the 25 Twitter Traits/ Twitter Folks she admires:

Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot…
5. talk mostly about the accomplishments of others….
12. shout out good news, help in emergencies, and celebrate with everyone.
16. offer advice when people ask. Help whenever they can.

If you want people to talk to you and about you, then link to them for all the right reasons. Spend the time and the social capital to celebrate what they are doing. Show where you see the value in them. If you want them to link to you, give them lots of opportunities to find something valuable in what you are doing. A shout-out is a personal gesture regardless if it comes from the DJ booth, the radio or a blog post.

Thing to do:

1. If you are building a community anywhere (twitter, facebook, ning, wordpress, Meetup, etc.) spend the time to look at how much you are talking about “Me Me Me Me Me” and course correct NOW.
2. If you have nothing to to link to (don’t really have a relationship with the users beyond their consuming your “stuff”) then start that conversation NOW.
3. Use the features of the community to connect with users: ask them if they have blogs and add ’em to your blogroll (or have a special blogroll for your community members), send Link Love to them through microblogging platforms like Twitter, use the forums as a commons for discussion and to point out the achievements of the users
4. Celebrate your users and set an incredible example that shows the rest of the community just how much you appreciate them – small, simple gestures can have a real impact.
5. Reciprocity is like love – it isn’t an obligation, but something freely given. Hope but don’t demand, ask, but not too often.
6. Be “linky”, use the currency of the web to show your users what/who you think is valuable.
7. Be real. Don’t engage in linkbait, users notice and your credibility will suffer as a result
8. Send half of your time talking about the users, the community, the people outside your org, company, startup (the 50/50 rule)

Money on the Table

Had a great conversation with a couple of really smart guys. They shoot video for a living, specifically videoblogs for themselves and some not-small companies, and they do it really well. Part of the discussion focused on the kinds of things they are doing these days with Facebook, widgets, syndicating their stories (videos) to different platforms and how they are connecting with users via authentic forms of outreach.

Can ya tell that I really like these guys?

All of these tactics, depending on the client, their goals and the strategy defined to meet those goals is worth every dime spent. All of the different ways they are working with media and connecting with users would appear in any of my decks. There is only one thing that bothered me about the discussion. These tactics, these methods, only work if the client/company/non profit is actively listening. If you do all the right things… but forget the most important thing, the social media program is leaving Money On The Table.

If you have a blogging platform and don’t have comments turned on, then you are missing an opportunity for your users to say “hi”. You are leaving money on the table.

If you have a YouTube channel but no one bothering to watch the comments, then you are leaving money on the table.

If you spend a fortune on an agency or consultant to help you design and execute a social media strategy, but don’t plan for the resources and effort required to maintain it for the long term, then you are leaving money on the table.

So whats the point of all that work, money, connections, copy, personnel if you are leaving money on the table. Until you can take the time, via comments or trackback or twitter, to say “thanks” to a blogger or forum or twitterbuddy who took the time to mention you, then you aren’t ready to move on to the next step.

<mom> What do you say? </mom>

When we were little kids, my little brother and I heard this all the time. When Mrs Kennedy (not that one, the one on 138th street in the Bronx) gave us an ice pop, when grandma gave us a quarter, when someone told us we looked great in our leisure suits (if i ever find the photos, I will scan and add to flickr). Mom used that phrase because we were little, didn’t know any better, were too busy trying to scarf down the ice pop and because we were learning the social customs that (some) grownups already knew: when someone gives you a compliment or a gift, you say thank you.

How does this all relate to Social Interactions on the Web? Any decent Social Media effort will have some kind of Outreach program:

1. Identifying bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers, forums, communities, social spaces that have something in common with the Social Media Effort
2. Joining the spaces and conversations in a forward, transparent manner
3. Add value to the discussions and attention without expectation or demand of reciprocity (pay it forward slick ad guy)
4. Make good stuff, not marketing taglines or “socialized” press releases
5. Keep the effort going – this is more about bringing big corporations down to eye level with the user than “eyeballs” or “share” or “Audience”

So now a Social Media Effort is doing outreach the right way, is adding something to the conversation, is getting people talking. Users start talking. 2-way dialog meets the 2-way web:

Users start leaving comments on the Social Media Effort’s YouTube videos
Users start threads in a forum dedicated to some topic or subject that the Social Media Effort is engaged in
Users start twittering about it (thanks Pistachio!)
Users start blogging about it
Users start mentioning it in their podcasts, videoblogs, screencasts
Users start participating, giving you their clicks, their eyeballs, their intention, and their voices

Did you remember to say thank you?

In the “little kid” example, it starts in direct personal interactions and continues in the dreaded process of writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents. In this Social Media world of ours, when a user leaves a comment on your blog do you look to see where they are coming from? Do you respond to their comment? Do you check out their blog? Do you look and see what they are writing, what they are into? Do you leave a comment on their blog? Do you add them to your blogroll? When they mention you in a forum like Videoblogging do you respond on-list or leave them a note or tweet? Do you have the processes and procedures in place to listen AND respond?

Not all users will have something to say that is profound or game changing or even nice. Sometimes it will be mean, or bitchy, or completely negative. Sometimes it will be missing the point entirely. Sometimes it will be a simple, anonymous “thanks guys” – and thats it. Its on their terms.

The point is, you are becoming a neighbor, joining a community, being part of something that is smaller and bigger than yourself. Scoble and Godin can’t answer every comment and no one expects a Social Media Effort to mean “direct, personal, immediate, one-to-one communication”. But they do expect that you are listening and they expect you to show it. Demonstrative examples of “hey, we aren’t asleep at the switch or using this Social Media stuff to scam you”.

Are YOU actively participating in the architectures of participation you are spending so much time and money and effort on? Are you showing the community you are trying to engage that you are both interesting AND interested? Social Media Efforts ache over how many ways they can engage the user and get them to hit the SUBMIT button, register, leave a comment or write a wiki entry. If you are spending all this time creating “feedback loops”: platforms, code and process to get users to interact and participate and join in, are you closing the loop?

Some Social Media Efforts spend a fortune (things like Radian6, BuzzMetrics, employees, PR/Ad/Social Media agency personnel) on listening to the places and spaces where users are talking about them. Some more grassroots or startup Social Media Efforts utilize Technorati/Google Alerts/Summize/TweetScan/Etc. and brute-force (human capital) to see where they are being mentioned.


  • Have a blogroll – it is an outward, persistent sign of the sites, people and voices you believe in.
  • Linklove – be “linky” – link to the users, call it out when they add something to the conversation, send the attention of the conversation at your door to their door
  • Celebrate the things happening OUTSIDE your four walls – if your entire conversation is “me, me, me” the conversation will become a monologue. Call out the wins and ideas of the community, show you are participating by checking out their flickr feed, their blog, their tweets, their Second Life island. Spend a % (make it a hard rule if you have to – “one story every day or week or hour will be dedicated to THEM”) of your time and blog space and twitter feed and flickr experience on the community
  • Participate – in the comments, forum, NING ring on your platforms AND the platforms where your users live. Don’t be radio-silent. Show them someone is there and her/his name is Susan or Fred not ADMIN or MODERATOR. Humans don’t have conversations with MODERATORS. In the same way that you call out what users are doing outside your four walls also participate on the user’s sites/platforms. Leave a comment on their blog or Flickr feed. Reply to their tweets. Show you are listening AND visiting
  • Don’t trust one person to be the “community manager” and be responsible for all the commenting and listening and responding – it is everyone’s job. Find ways to get individuals inside the company or org interested in participating. Give them small things to do, get their opinion on what they can do/interested in/would be willing to try. Not everyone wants to be on camera or a blogger – and they all have day-jobs. Make it as frictionless and as fun as possible. I would rather interact with someone inside than some hired blogger or agency wonk

When a user paid you a compliment with their attention, did you remember to write a thank you note?