If you are new or old to blogging you know that in order to keep momentum and anchor your page, you have to perform some kind acts in order to get people to assist you on your journey. Blogging is not a lone activity because ideally you should be crafting the blog towards your audience. Reciprocity is returning the favour. Someone took some time to share your offerings to their community at large or endorse your words so you owe it to them to return that favour.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout.com lists reciprocity in one of his top 6 tactics to gain influence.
“The principle of reciprocity is one of the main principles of influence.
In simple terms: if you do something for someone, they are likely to return the favor.”
There are a number of ways you can make it difficult to reciprocate
Ever had that dilemma where you are trying to reciprocate but the lucky individual you are rewarding has nothing of sufficient quality that you could share in your networks?
Are you concerned that you are a sharing snob?
It is difficult when you get people outside of your sphere, your niche, your topic, who produce content that you find difficult to share. Hitting that like, favourite, share, reshare or +1 may be hard to commit. Commenting may be difficult because you have no affinity with what is being said and to comment poorly on a topic you are not versed in might come across making you look bad.
I try to reciprocate as often as I can because it helps build a bond between myself and a potential friend. Notice that I don’t say “lead” as they come later. The fact is that you need friends in a community and you don’t receive them without showing your value to them. Friends, as in real life, don’t last forever but should never be underestimated.
Certain individuals can make their content difficult to share.
You can still share things you disagree with
if you pose a respectful but questioning comment.
But not all content is a good match for your audience and you can act to confuse those who come to you.
It’s not always because the content was badly crafted
The content just doesn’t fit with what you know your audience will respond to. You may have your own personal feelings on the subject area and it crosses a barrier that you cannot share. It might be too salesy and promote services or providers you’ve experienced difficulties with. It might be that you want to play down your association with the originator because their inclusion may have a detrimental effect on your following and your target demographic. For whatever reason, it is a bad share.
There isn’t always much you can do about that but if you feel it necessary you can always have a conversation with that individual and see if there is a way to take it beyond the limitations of the content.
Often your friends can be your rivals
The word “Co-opetition”, a business term of phrase, suggest that if similar businesses lend each other a hand or locate in a similar space, they will perform better as a group by drawing in more of the same kind of custom. This is why jewelers co-locate, why you might see rival coffee shops along the same street and why guest posting is a “thing”.
Rivals are healthy friends. They can help you keep your focus either by deciding to steer away from what they are covering or cover it better.
Commenting isn’t as natural as you think
and this is why so few people do it.
The same can be said for likes, favourites, plusses, upvotes, shares and reshares. Getting people to click is a psychology in itself.
This is why it is important to reciprocate especially in the early days of your creations.
Now of course you could look at me after reading that last sentence and think, hey! That’s easy to say but I can’t be bothered to share and share alike. I just want people to share and make my stuff go viral, I don’t want to do all this work for them.
Optimus Prime and Sam by JavierReyes on DeviantArt
It sadly doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be like Optimus Prime because he’s a badass robot. He embraced Sam like a brother from another mother. You have to do the same with your audience.*
*Technically you don’t have to be a badass robot. Sisterly love also works but no heavy petting because that goes into darker territory. Deformed children and the like. Just saying!
Rewards are an important psychological factor in maintaining friendships and positive relationships. Those companies who seek to retain custom use rewards to incentivise. Reciprocity or returning the favour is a reward for bloggers.
Reward has a positive connotation. As a child you are rewarded for good behaviour and those sorts of lessons remain with you throughout your adult life.
The difference between friends and true readers
If you pick any Big Wig or semi pro blogger and look at the people who most commonly reward them, you’ll notice that they are converts. They’ve been following for some time, have their own weight and normally add positives even when negatives are published.
True readers, those of passive voice; absorb the noise and analyse, make quick decisions, decide in the first 10 seconds if the article is going to take them in the right place, then stay or leave. Big Wigs and Semi Pros win by having more noise. Google rewards those who know what they are talking about and social signals are taken into consideration.
What are true readers?
True readers can be like you and me. Remember a time before you were a blogger? You made scant comments, infrequent likes, barely caring as you jumped from page to page, just absorbing what you needed. Approximately 85% of visitors don’t want to interact with you in any shape or form even if you made it easier than drinking a cup of coffee. In the early days it’s more about the reciprocators and how they can help shape your social signals.
That’s not to say that a larger percentage of true readers can’t be evangelised or stimulated to follow kind gestures, but in the main, those who make the effort are in the minority and normally are not without agenda.
Making content that asks questions as supposed to telling people how it is
I have seen many Big Wig Bloggers shout at those complaining about lack of comments to make sure they ask questions.
Should you always craft a piece to be presented in that way if what you need to address should be directed in a more dogmatic fashion?
When people go in search of answers through a search engine they don’t always want to be open to questions or have anything detract from the solution. They want their hand to be held to the answer. If you are looking for a guide, you don’t want to be questioned, if you are in a hurry you don’t want to stop for a survey.
Begging for it and the expectation of “gratuity”
A difficult subject to broach because there are differing views overall. To maintain your dignity you should never beg for anything. It looks weak overall and can really affect how people view you.
Unlike this pug, begging is frowned upon in the Human world.
Having a negative reaction to a beggar in the street is a natural Human reaction. It is therefore no different online. Having people scrabble for your signups to mailing lists and pushing people down channels they may not really want to go might be your strategy but it also may not be a good one.
The question you should ask:
Will my content be universally acceptable?
In terms of reciprocation, it is not something you can hope to expect every time for the many reasons mentioned above and below. Those who show gratitude do so because your contribution made a difference to them but it is not something you can rely on. Such reciprocation may not be balanced and like for like. You may only ever get that one comment, reshare or like from someone and then nothing ever again regardless of how much you do.
Questioning what you do it for
Nothing living can exist in a vacuum without vital nutrients, its survival 101. You need viewers to give you writing juju otherwise your blog will disappear despite your best efforts.
Reciprocity gives you some reward to your effort. A kind word, a sign of approval. That gives you the energy to carry on.
Of course, you should carry on regardless. Because your notoriety might not be instantly apparent, it might take a person a long while to realise your genius or what you did for them. The might not rock up to you straight away with a share or a like but they definitely haven’t forgotten and if you can do a few more good turns they might be more willing to step forwards.
Truth is, there is no time limit on payback. You could have really loved that new car you bought from that manufacturer you like so much. Five years later when a friend asks for your advice, you steer them in the direction of that reliable motor that never let you down in all the time you had it. Same is true with blogging. Really move a person with your help or anecdotes and you could have countless endorsements without you even realising it.
Does positive reinforcement have a negative overall effect?
There is something that many people ask for and if you have used Facebook, you’ll know exactly what this is. The like button is the reward currency for a piece of content adored by hundreds, possibly thousands.
Many people have asked for an unlike button
Let’s head back to Roman times where the gesture of the thumb either meant life or death to a Gladiator or Gladiatrix in the arena. If you were that combat aficionado, you would want the thumb to be firmly up by dearest Caesar. If not you would face certain death. Caesar often sought the audience’s collective voice to determine the outcome which would be positive or negative depending on the viewpoint of the individual receiving the judgement.
Moving back to modern times the thumb is in use again but this time you are employed as the armchair Emperor (or Empress) in order to vote up on those topics that deserve congratulations or spectacle.
The problem is that Facebook doesn’t share that other side of the coin. Those who disagree. At worst you can report the content for abuse which requires considerably more effort than liking on your part.
However, sometimes you just want a quick way to disagree
not all social media outlets support positive reinforcement.
• YouTube has dislikes.
• Reddit has downvotes.
To counter what I’ve written so far on this I sought out an alternative view by Social Media Sun author Adam Justice. Adam goes into great length on theories behind why Facebook does not involve a like button and if you’d like to read more on that by all means take a trip with the link below:-
Two key paragraphs I pick out are as follows:
“Sometimes a like vote doesn’t seem appropriate, even when you have positive feelings for a particular status update. For instance if I posted that I was just involved in a car wreck, you would have to be bitter towards me to like that situation. I always recommend phrasing status updates so that giving a like is an appropriate reaction. Instead of just letting you know I was involved in a car wreck, a better option would be saying that I was in a car wreck, but didn’t suffer major injuries. Life is confusing enough without ambiguous moral math problems on Facebook so it’s best to make it easy on everyone.”
Being appropriate is not something you have to worry about if you are allowed to express both sides of the coin but further in the article Adam goes on to mention that:
“It’s an accepted rule that reviews and feedback will almost exclusively come from users who either display extremely positive or extremely negative sentiments. A neutral experience just isn’t worth the effort it takes to review or comment on content or products. Users who have a negative experience are even more likely to vocalize their opinions than those who have a positive one. You’re fighting a losing battle already when you aim to be liked, so why not take a page from Justin Beiber or Rebecca Black and find your way through dissonance?”
There is a noticeable disparity between negative, positive and neutral responses. As Adam suggests, making the effort to present a neutral comment is far less likely than a strongly charged positive or a steaming negative.
To finish off from Adam’s article (which I recommend you visit if you want to read some more) we reach the meat and potatoes of the problem.
“…25 percent of small business owners hate social media. They feel overwhelmed and dislike the possibility of facing a media disaster that is out of their control.”
This takes me back to an earlier point I mentioned near the start of this article.
“Commenting may be difficult because you have no affinity with what is being said and to comment poorly on a topic you are not versed in might come across making you look bad.”
With such a social platform, how you are perceived by others is important if you want to access the right heights. Go about it wrong and you can plumb the wrong depths. It is sadly like school again all thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. Are you one of the cool kids or one of the dweebs? Do you tread a morally sound line or say whatever you like and get fired whilst slated for eternity?
Some organisations are constant hate figures. Electronic Arts, Microsoft and more besides. Some topics should never be unpeeled like a plaster over gangrene lest you invite wrath. So if you are writing something along these lines you can invite the wrong side of the street to your party.
Social media wasn’t originally designed for business but they showed up anyway
Facebook was designed for people. It then twisted its focus as money became more and more involved. With the benefit of hindsight organisations such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn have had the chance to present their offerings more towards the business user.
Facebook as a social media site was okay for a time until the corporation creep started to latch on.
You can guess that of this 1.49 billion users includes many businesses. Global corporations aren’t content to be an image on the television or a flash of paint on a billboard. They want to haunt your dreams.
The Popularity Train
Is a train you want to be on if you are looking to kick it big socially but this train is entirely artificial, fickle and time sensitive so be prepared for some head scratching from time to time.
There are many inventive ways of you not needing to be behind your keyboard to automatically pump out content, quotes, images and other tidbits. Those celebrity socials have teams do this for them in order to maximise the reach and pull of their account. When celebrities and big business use accounts such as these, you can guarantee that to some degree they are stage-managed by a group of social savvy gurus.
I had to disengage my following of Ricky Gervais because of the incontinent stream of duff jokes and idiot comments. It was invading my stream on Twitter and I just had to pull the plug. If you’ve had to disavow, unfollow or otherwise shield yourself from these rather garrulous social Dweebasaurus Rex, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Those followers can change their mind quickly, put a step wrong or go quiet for a little while and they vote with their feet or unsubscribe / unfollow button. The problem is that it is very difficult to get a person back once they’ve stopped following you as it is a psychological barrier akin to an embargo or veto.
Be late to the party and you can miss out, be too early and you could be shooting in the breeze, it’s an unfortunate catch 22. The more fame you have the less time sensitivity matters because many will look to you for inspiration. If you are fame poor, expect to get your timing wrong more often than not in the early days and when you think you’ve got the hang of it, everything changes. The only constant in life is change and schedules often conflict with spur of the moment occurrences.
In Rough Conclusion
I’ve charted a number of ways that reciprocity can go off the rails and how imperfect the social world is. What you should draw from all of this is the need to define your own standards of quality, what you are happy to share and not share and with whom. You are going to make mistakes because of the artifice, fickle fingers of fate and the time sensitivity of your shared good but you should celebrate those who make an effort (even if they have an agenda).
Now share this or I’ll come around and beat you. Is that incentive enough? Also, blooming comment while you’re at it! Hehe.
As ever, I am highly available on @blogprefect via the delightful Twitter and I promise not to spam your stream like Ricky! I don’t promise not to haunt your dreams though. You can also contact me via headboy [at] blogprefect [dot] com