Want a ton of inbound links? Want to sell mountains of product, book yourself silly or hit the bestseller list?
Think it’s all about killer content, great design and rocking service? Well, you’re half-right. But, that, alone, won’t juice you into the big-leagues in any of these professional and personal quests. There’s something else. Something really, really big. Something that plays into the very fabric of human nature.
Let’s use blogging as a starting-place, okay?
What does every blogger in the planet want? Massive, stinking, barrels full of grade-A links. Yes, my friends, link-love is the holy grail of blogdom. Because, with links come readers.
But, what makes the big-wigs link to you? In his recent post over at SEOmoz.org, Rand Fishkin shared many of the emotions underlying the impulse to link. But, there’s something beyond emotion, something that runs much deeper. A secret. No, not that Secret, I’ll have plenty to say about that very soon.
It’s a secret so powerful it builds the biggest blogs and launches the greatest ideas, companies and lives. And, nobody knows it better than our old airport-bopping, hair-tufted buddies…the Hare Krishnas.
Here’s how it works (take yourself back a few years, before anyone with scalp ponytails and robes was summarily frisked and tossed from the jetway). You’re walking around the airport, just minding your own business, when a sweet-looking man with a salmon-colored robe and a tuft of hair sprouting from his crown approaches.
You’re about to learn a giant business lesson without even knowing it.
You’re a little freaked, but he seems harmless enough and, as he holds out a fresh flower and presses it gently your hand, you smile and thank him. Thinking the transaction is done, you begin to turn away, when he asks if you might donate $1 in exchange for a beautiful pocket copy of the Bhagavad Gita. You don’t want to, but somehow, you hear the word, “sure,” spill out of your mouth as your hand offers up not one, but five bucks.
As you walk away, befuddled, you look down at the flower and the mini-Gita and, not wanting either, drop them into the nearest trash bin and tumble off to your flight. Knowing you’ll do this, your Hare Krishna friend trails 100-feet behind, forages both from the bin and reuses them on the next unsuspecting donor. Wacky story. But, there’s a serious method to the Krishna madness and learning it is a golden ticket to getting massive blog link-love.
Human beings are programmed to reciprocate!
In his fascinating book, The Happiness Hypothesis, UVA professor Jonathan Haidt revealed a simple, yet immensely powerful human trait—we are all programmed to reciprocate. Smile at me and, no matter how crappy I may feel, I smile back. Give me something, even your time or attention, and I feel beholden to return the favor. It’s not a voluntarily thing. It’s just what a combination of genetics and environment compel me to do.
And, if we don’t do it, seconds, minutes or days later, even knowing you never asked to receive anything, you feel guilty for not returning the favor. Remember the last time someone smiled at you, but spaced out, you kept your frown until after the person passed and you realized you were just smiled at. Didn’t you just want to run down the hall and say, “hey, I am not a stuck-up scowly-boy, I’m really nice, I just didn’t see you smiling until it was too late to smile back.”
The best sales people use it all the time.
It’s the reason they’ll offer up something of value before asking you for a dollar. It’s why you’re more inclined to buy something after receiving a free sample (yes, even if you didn’t like the sample) or having a sales clerk “give” you an inordinate amount of her time and trusted, totally objective guidance.
The Krishnas knew people were programmed to reciprocate, too. Which is why they pressed the flower into your hand before asking for a donation. They were priming the reciprocity pump. So, this is a great lesson for anyone looking to encourage someone else to take a specific action, be it blogger, entrepreneur or salesperson. We’ll talk about how to work the business angle in detail in a bit. But, let’s stay focused on blogging for now.
Who else want to learn to use tap the reciprocity impulse to build readership and links?
Many of the smartest pro-bloggers, people like Maki, Merlin Mann, Darren Rowse, Anita Campbell, Steve Rubel, Guy Kawasaki, Cyan Ta’eed, John Jantsch, Penelope Trunk, Gina Trapani, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Jay White and Robert Scoble use it like crazy, though, likely more intuitively than consciously.
Added to original, high-value content and great designs, these bloggers do something on a daily basis that puts their reciprocity engines on overdrive and, in doing so, end up with a ton of link love and readers coming back their way. What, exactly, do they do? And, how can you do it, too?
Here’s how to get the blogging link-love engine going by relentlessly triggering other bloggers’ reciprocity impulses.
- One, write remarkable, original content. It must be “link-worthy.” There’s simply no end-run around this step. Sucky content don’t get no love (trust me, I’ve written enough of it to know)!
- Two, instead of asking everyone to please, please, pretty please come check out your blog…stop being a leach and asking for links and start linking out like crazy, long before you even think about asking anyone for anything! Remember, you’ve got to give first to receive. Link out for days, weeks, months even years to the site, blogs and websites you find truly valuable and the trust in the process.
How else can you work the reciprocity impulse to grow your blog traffic?
- Comment on blogs to prime the link pump – Hmmm, what do bloggers love to see on their blogs? Um. How about smart, conversation-stimulating comments? Not, just one or two, but big fat streams of them. The more the better. So, when you leave smart comments (not dopey “come check out my blog” or “great post”), you are “giving” something of value to the blogger, without asking anything in return. At some point, there’s a pretty good chance, the recipient of your comment “gifts” is going to feel compelled to reciprocate (again, provided you give them something valuable enough to link back to). Big warning-flag, though–keep it authentic. If you are just commenting for the sole purpose of engendering reciprocity, save it. But, if you have something genuine and interesting to contribute and you are aware that sharing will also have this secondary benefit, have at it. Just yesterday, Yaro Starak over at Entrepreneur’s Journey, wrote an entire post about one of his regular commenters, Caroline Middlebrook. And, when many blogs hit a size where they have trouble keeping up as a one-person operation, they often turn to top commenters as early guest writers.
- Offer amazing content to prime the subscription pump – Duhhh! Not so fast…great content can not only build organic interest, it can trigger the reciprocity impulse. How? When a blogger digs deep down into her soul and spends her precious time creating value for you, she is “giving” you something that makes your life in some way better. It’s hard to keep receiving that value without feeling like you “should” be paying for it in some way. And, that way, very often is helping that blogger grow her blog and succeed by returning the gift in the form of becoming a loyal reader, subscriber, commenter, linker and evangelist. Maki, over at DoshDosh.com is a perfect example. He writes extensive, well researched and immediately actionable articles that are so useful, they make you look for ways to return the favor. Sure people subscribe because they want to read more. But, there is a deeper impulse that drives readers to “pitch in” and give thanks on a bigger scale.
- Thank social media followers & influencers – Whenever somebody expresses an interest in what you are doing in one of the main social media sites, thank them for supporting your effort. A recent post on this blog was Stumbled by about 40 people and I thanked every single one for two reasons. One, I genuinely was thankful for their support and it’s just common courtesy to say thanks. And, two, I knew that while my gratitude was authentic, it would also help build loyalty by priming the reciprocity pump.
- Vote, bookmark and review posts with integrity – If you like a post, go to town helping to spread the word through your chosen social media outlets…BUT, be genuine. The fundamental reason these website exist is to allow people to identify and then share information that is either high-quality, high-profile or in some way would be of interest to others. If hordes of people just start voting and promoting not because they had a genuine belief that the content was worth the effort, but, rather, purely out the desire to do favors with the expectation of a returned favor down the road, then, over the time these communities lose their integrity and along with that loss goes their utility as valid promotional tools.
- Learn what bloggers value and offer it up without asking for anything in return – Look at the blogs you’ve been following for a while, the ones that genuinely interest you. See if you can get a beat on the bloggers’ preferences, what they value, where they are going professionally and brainstorm ways you might be able to help facilitate any of their goals. For example, if you happen to know a particular blogger likes to write research-intensive articles on a specific topic, spend a bunch of time finding great sources for them for a future article and then e-mail them links to those sources…without asking for anything in return. It helps prime the reciprocity pump, plus, it’s just a nice thing to do, it makes you feel good about helping out someone you admire and who has very likely helped you by delivering great content.
These are just a few examples of ways to use the reciprocity impulse to build blog readership. I am sure you can come up with countless other ways. So, take two minutes and lets all share our ideas about other ways to effectively prime the reciprocity pump in the comment section below.
But, what about the bigger picture?
Now, I wonder how we might use the reciprocity impulse to sell more products, services or even downloadable materials?
Tune in for Part 2 of this series, where I’ll detail, with specific examples, how use the reciprocity impulse to turbo-charge service and product sales, both on and offline…and, hey, if you’ve found Part 1 of this series valuable, maybe just subscribe, tell everyone you know about it, bookmark it, Digg it, Stumble it and link to it (heeheehee, so sneaky!)
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