This is a guest post by Lisa Morosky, whom many of my readers probably know as my virtual assistant.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to some of the senior staff at a company where I used to work (I only work for myself and my clients nowadays, with much thanks to Dave for the push to follow my dreams!). The topic of my presentation was social media and how this particular company could effectively implement a strategy that would create online buzz, push website traffic, and further brand themselves as experts with a good reputation.
I’ve given a similar presentation to a couple other companies in the past and it’s always gone over well. In this presentation, I usually spend a lot of time stressing the fact that social media is 80/20 (some even believe it’s 90/10), 80% giving back to the conversation (anything that isn’t all about you and your products), and 20% promoting yourself.
After an agonizing 90 minutes, one of the audience members came to this conclusion:
“I don’t buy into this ‘contribute to the world, make the world a better place’ stuff. I don’t give a shit. I think we can take a lot more than 20%.”
Obviously he doesn’t get it, I thought. I was so mad that he didn’t get that social media is about community, and you give back to your community. I chalked it up to ignorance and the fact that we’re in different industries and maybe it wasn’t a direction they were ready to go in. That is, until I had the same type of conversation with three other people, in all different industries, that same week.
It turns out a lot of people are wondering why in the world they need to give in order to take when it comes to social media. Maybe this will help to clear it up.
Giving helps you to emotionally connect to your audience.
Ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Maslow says that, amongst other things, people have social needs. People need to feel like they belong and are respected. When you retweet someone’s blog post, they feel like they’re included in your life somehow and you respect them and their work enough to pass it on to others. If they feel like they’re included in your life, and they feel like you sincerely want them to succeed, well then they’ll think the same of you!
Translation: a retweet for someone else = a retweet for you down the road. A promotion of someone else’s product = a reciprocal promotion for your product. I’ve seen it happen time and time again for me. The more I build others up, the more they build me up as well.
A great example of this idea is my friend Sharon Hayes. She interacts with each and every one of her 32,000+ Twitter followers.
Giving shows you’re trustworthy.
Look, if I see you tweeting out useful links, or bookmarking helpful stuff on Digg, I’m going to think you’re a lot more trustworthy than that other guy who’s just pimping out his own products. When you say someone else’s work is good, not just your own, that shows that you’re honest.
Giving helps you build a following you can tap into later.
Perhaps this isn’t exactly the most selfless way to think about it (but some of us need to know “what’s in it for me”), but if you’re always giving to others, then you’ve just built up a huge list of people who owe you one!
Here’s the thing: if you’re contributing to the conversation 80% and only straight promoting yourself 20%, it won’t even matter in the long run. You’ll have a lot of thankful new friends who will do your promotion on your behalf.
So here’s my challenge for each of you. Spend one day only giving to others: answering every Twitter reply, promoting blog posts of others, helping someone in your niche solve a problem. See what rewards come your way later because of it.
Lisa Morosky provides specialized virtual assistant services to bloggers and internet entrepreneurs who are looking to offload a portion of their to-do list to someone who “gets” what they do. She’s currently working on developing three other blogs about entrepreneurship/social media, travel, and her marriage. Follow her on Twitter to see what she’s up to.