Reciprocity: A mutual or cooperative interchange of favours or privileges, especially the exchange of rights or privileges of trade between nations.
I first learned about reciprocity while working at a large Canadian IP firm, MBM Intellectual Property Law LLP. As you most likely know, if a Canadian inventor wants to file a patent in the US, the inventor must hire a Canadian IP firm, and the Canadian IP firm will then file the patent with a US IP firm. I’m using Canada and the US as examples, it’s usually the same case for every country.
As you can imagine, if I sent one particular firm a lot of patent files, I would expect that firm to send me patent files back. We kept careful records of reciprocity, and our business relationships flourished.
During my time at MBM, I realized social media marketing is just traditional marketing done online – all the same rules apply.
How Reciprocity Works in Social Media
I started my legal social media career in 2011. I started following other legal marketers, social media organizations, and lawyers on social media platforms, and I also read their blogs.
If their information was interesting and useful, I shared their content on my social media platforms. The author of the content would be notified that I shared their content because I’d mention their Twitter handle or leave my name on a blog comment.
The more I shared other people’s content, the more they shared mine. My blog posts started to get massive amounts of exposure due to reciprocity. I would share everyone’s content – other legal marketers, lawyers, social media specialists, etc. I always site the source and the usually know I’ve done it. They will often thank me and/or share my content in return. People often wonder why I share my “competitor’s blog posts” – most people won’t do it. I think there’s enough work for all of us!
Reciprocity in Action
Here’s an example of how reciprocity works in social media. My blog posts get retweeted on Twitter often (thank you to everyone who retweets them!), and I receive a notification for each retweet. I go back to each person’s Twitter account, and look for content I can “retweet” back to my community.
If they are in a different industry and their content isn’t relevant to my audience, I’ll publicly thank them or comment on their blog etc. I created a Twitter list specifically for people who share my content. I scan the list multiple times per week to see if I can share their content. That’s why reciprocity is so important to social media. Another benefit is you get to meet cool people that like your content – and I formed a lot of great friendships this way.
There are all sorts of ways you can practice reciprocity online – blog comments, LinkedIn recommendations, YouTube subscriptions, etc. It’s one of my biggest social media “secrets” and like I mentioned above, a large part of my success is due to reciprocity.