What Is Your Content Giving?

by · March 18, 201319 comments

The rule of reciprocation says, essentially, you must not take without giving in return. We are programmed as human beings to know this. ”There’s not a single human culture that fails to train its members in this rule,” psychologist Robert Cialdini told NPR in November. Alix Spiegel’s story then even discussed experiments with tipping and charities by distributing return address labels that showed when a gift is included in the transaction, the amount of tips, purchases or donations go up.

This is perhaps the psychology at play in social media. Companies and brands that give — be it content, gifts, prizes or perhaps discounts — tend to see some measure of return. Those that give generously, or in a way that illustrates the giving more prominently, are more likely to see greater returns.

Companies and brands that give tend to see some measure of return

But the rule of reciprocation also helps to identify what brands may be doing wrong with social media marketing as well. Not seeing enough, or any, return on your social efforts? Ask yourself, “What is it that I’m giving?”

More often than not, if you’re honest, you’ll determine that you are “giving” product sales pitches, advertisements masked as Wall Posts and little else. When you turn the corner from “giving your brand” to “the giving of your brand”, then you’ll see a difference in reaction.

During an analysis of the social content of several major brands last year, I found two very similar posts on Facebook and Google+ from Dunkin’ Donuts and Coca-Cola. Dunkin’ Donuts posted a picture of a cup of its coffee with the caption, “Doesn’t this make you smile?”

Coca-Cola, just minutes later, posted a product shot as well — a full bottle of Coke sitting on the dock of a bay at sunrise. The caption, though, was different in a subtle way, but worlds apart in meaning. Its caption? “What makes you smile today?”

Audience-centric (dare I say, “giving”) content is not hard to conjure; marketers just don’t typically think that way.

The next time you post something on your social networks, draft a blog post or even develop the content for a webinar or white paper, analyze the content and ask of it, “What am I giving here?”

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/Jeff_Machado Jeff Machado

    There’s a lot of truth in this, Jason. I would say this extends to relationships and promoting others as well. There are some people in social media who RT regularly and share with their followers while others are holding back and stingy with the love – a very un-giving action. I’ll make sure that I’m doing more to give this week, that’s for sure!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Jeff. Glad we could inspire a bit!

  • Dara Khajavi

    All viral content has something in common. They offer value. Anyone developing content must constantly ask themselves, “What is my content giving?”

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Dara.

  • chatmeter

    Very good points. We are trying to “redo” our social media because we didn’t really have any rhyme or reason to why we were posting things. The company I work for, chatmeter.com, is a little bit harder to think of posts because we are a reputation management company and we don’t really have a tangible product for our followers.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Think expertise, not product. That will help.

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  • muhamad fawad

    Great read.Really awesome work.Thank you for sharing.
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  • Dave Coustan

    I think I agree if framed up a bit differently – when I think about content strategy for a brand channel, I help them find the overlap between the business goals and the audience’s wants and needs. For me it’s not a question of “giving” so much as providing utility for what that audience is trying to accomplish, and in a way that makes sense for the brand’s objectives and point of view.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That’s fair. It’s a fine line, though. As soon as brands being business goals into the equation, they tend to muck up the usefulness and push too much.

      • Dave Coustan

        That’s where I respectfully disagree, though. Of course business goals should be in the equation – from day one. If you’re setting up the channel strategy properly you’re aiming for that intersection between what your users are trying to do (in life, not just the channel) and a rational,smart, aligned area for the brand to participate, not just adding in free gifts and unicorns as the honey used to catch flies. If you don’t, the fine line you are walking is between gifts and bribery/false “surprise and delight”. Not to get endlessly regressive here, but that’s fulfilling a business goal too in point of fact – you’re writing about it as marketing strategy, aren’t you? End/means?

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          We don’t disagree. But I’m talking reality, not theory. Let most of today’s marketers do anything that touches business metrics and they forget the utility, giving and usefulness and just pitch, pitch, pitch.

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Most small-business owners know they need to be in the world of viral marketing, but it’s not always as simple as it sounds. It not only requires hard work but care to avoid making a blunder that could hurt a company’s reputation, among other scary consequences. Remind yourself of two things: You can either write content that is dry, safe, and has no personality, or you can write something daring and transparent — something that will shake the floor beneath your reader’s feet. Great share.

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