She's So Not Into You [with a correction - 02/17/09]
And the Oscar Goes To....This Year's Winning Promotions

The Reciprocity Rule

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia

One of our clients is having a tough time with her new blog. Let's call her Ingrid.

Last week, Ingrid wrote me a note to tell me how disappointed she was in the results she was getting from her blog (that's not yet two months old, by the way). She was wondering whether it was worth the time she was spending writing.


Ingrid is a well-respected expert in her industry. She's got great content. She writes well. And, she's got an  exciting way of communicating her thoughts.

So, what's wrong? A few things...the first of which is: Ingrid wasn't practicing The Reciprocity Rule.

Before we started working with Ingrid, I informed her that launching a blog isn't just about writing content.

The whole social media movement is built upon the premise of reciprocity - something I call The Reciprocity Rule. The Reciprocity Rule is, admittedly, a rip off of The Golden Rule.

C'mon, what does everyone want for their blog?

  • They want people to link to their blog posts - especially the ones that are interesting and generate good conversation.
  • They want people to comment - and comment thoughtfully.
  • They want people to "favorite" their content and add links to it on social bookmarking sites.

The Reciprocity Rule says that you do for others what you would want them to do for you. Simple.

If you want people to make intelligent comments on your blog. Take the time to leave intelligent (not self-serving) comments on someone else's blog. For every 5 posts on your blog, you should be posting a comment on someone else's blog.

If you want people to "digg" your content, "digg" someone else's content. Take a moment each week to shine a light on someone else besides youself. I can say this, my most remarkable week on Twitter (in terms of increased followers and people re-tweeting my tweets) was when I linked to a bunch of content written by other people.

Lather, rinse, repeat. And, expect to repeat this for some time. Most blogs don't get comments for months. Many times your readers will email you before they comment. You'll have to train (read: ask) them to put those same email comments into a comment on your blog. It takes time. It's simple, but it's not easy.

Now, getting back to Ingrid. When we first started talking about working with her, I informed her that she was going to need to devote time to celebrating content that other experts in different-yet-related industries would post. She agreed. Almost too quickly.

Not even two months later, she's unhappy with the results of her blogging experience. I went back through the notes of our conversation where we identified some good blogs for her to post comments. I asked if she had written one comment. "No," she replied. I went back to look at her blog posts. Not one of them contained links to anyone else's content. "Oh," she stammered. I logged into her "digg" account and she hadn't "dugg" anyone else's blog posts. And, that's when someone cued the crickets.

Creating a successful blog is possible, but it takes more than you and your content. I'm sure you've heard the expression "give to get"? With social media, you've gotta "give to give". Just for the heck of it - and like any good relationship, it'll come back to you. Promise.

Are you willing to come from behind your own content and publicly savor someone else's?


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Lena L. West


Thanks for your kind words. We're glad you like our blog. We try really hard to provide content that is funny, thoughtful and actionable - we also don't like to take ourselves too seriously!

Thanks also for writing about me on your blog.

Keep up the great work!

Thanks for reading and commenting...

Rhonda Geneva

Thank you for this article. It has only taken me a few months to get the hang of finding great articles and sharing them with others. Recently we've started a networking group in a region where unemployment is rampant (where isn't it?) and working on connecting women to stimulate their business growth, prospects, and flow of information. I will sharing this article with them.

Lena L. West

@Freida: Congrats on being "about to start your own blog". Be warned, social media is like riding a bike, you can take all the classes you want and write all the notes you want and read the manual all you want, but until you actually get on the bike and ride it, you won't ever learn how to ride the bike. So, I hope that you're not suffering from analysis paralysis and that you'll launch your blog soon!

@Ben: I understand what you're saying, however, I don't think it's that simple. There are new ways of doing things, but it's more than swapping and sharing - although there is a lot of that. It's about ensuring that the same values we uphold offline are bought to our interactions online.

Thanks to you both for reading and commenting!


I really liked this post. I'm in the "I'm about to launch my blog site any day now" phase...but feel 'nervous' about starting. I've taken lots of classes, have mounds of notes, and have binders filled with meaningful information! I have not made comments on other blogs because I'm already in 'overwhelm' and felt that would be just one more thing to do! However, your blog put a whole new propsective on it, and, when it makes sense and I have something to say, I will definitely follow The Rules of Reciprocity! Thank you. BTW - I was introduced to the topic of social media by you in a teleclass you did with Principal Insurance a few months ago.

Ben Calvert

I'm coming around to the idea that "everything stays the same". There are really not too many new ideas out there, just some really clever ways of doing old ones. In these tougher times, I am thinking back to growing up in the country. Swapping, helping, collecting, getting-by, being frugal - people can relate to these concepts. How do we deliver something online that satisfies these needs? And, as a business person, how do you make any bugs bunny out of doing it???

Lena L. West


Hey, how are ya!?

Yes, the more time I spend working in social media, the more I realize that it's all just a mirror of how people act in real life. I always say that if you understand sociology, you understand social media.

Thanks for reading and writing!

Jason Wisdom

Great post. I like "online" concepts that mirror real-life concepts. For example, the Rule of Reciprocity applies to accumulating and sustaining real-life friendships.

Lena L. West

@Womenkind LLC: I'm glad you liked the post. I guarantee that if you use The Reciprocity Rule and you are consistent and on-target with commenting on the right blogs, you'll notice the shift in your metrics. The change is measurable.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Womenkind LLC

This is a great read. As an advertising agency who is struggling to bring our blog back to life, these are some great tips that we will definitely keep in mind!

Lena L. West

@Lynn: VERY well put: "Starting a blog is different from strategizing for its success." I agree totally unfortunately many people don't think beyond their first blog post -- even when they have an expert telling them what to do and how to do it.

@Pat: And, don't forget to link to other smart posts from your blog posts. Ya gotta give link love to get link love :)

Thanks to you both for reading and commenting!

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