Hare Krishnas reveal secret to massive link-love and mega-sales…now take your damn flower!

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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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24 responses

24 responses to “Hare Krishnas reveal secret to massive link-love and mega-sales…now take your damn flower!”

  1. Oh your comment about the smiling thing had me in stitches! Yes I have done that so many times! I have one of those faces that looks kind of naturally miserable. Sometimes people will just say out of the blue, what’s the matter? And I look up, somewhat startled.

    I just had on my usual look – which obviously wasn’t a happy looking one!

  2. […] I couldn’t sleep, so I fired up my feed reader to check out a few of the blogs that I follow. I found an excellent article on Jonathan Field’s blog called Hare Krishnas reveal secret to massive link-love and mega-sales…now take your damn flower!. […]

  3. 5ubliminal says:

    Good thing this Jedi Mind Tricks triggering the inner guilt feelings that eventually make you reciprocate don’t work on me.

    Link to every page on my site, even to the comment form, but, if you don’t have anything link-worthy (in my opinion) that I would link to even if you didn’t link to me first, I won’t link to you.

    Don’t get me wrong here. These mind games work, and on too many, and this is a sad thought!

  4. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Caroline – Glad I could add a chuckle to your day, was just turned on to your blog by Yaro’s site and have been enjoying exploring it!

    @ 5ubliminal – great point, a lot of people actually mistake guilt for gratitude in understanding the reciprocity impulse. It’s not you’re guilting someone into doing something for you, rather, you are actually contributing so much value that they feel gratitude which, at some point, we all feel the need to express.

    And, I totally agree, beyond the desire for links, you’ve got to have something of value you are contributing, which is why I kept repeating the importance of having an authentic interest in the community and blogger first and then bringing something real and worthwhile to the party.

  5. When I saw your tip on ‘Thank social media followers & influencers”, I was pretty amazed that you actually went through the effort of thanking them one by one. Being grateful for every person who bothers to give your article a stumble is indeed something I would love to do but practically difficult to administer (esp if a lot of your articles get SU). Given this over commenting on other blogs, I would definitely put commenting a greater priority, esp if time is a major concern.


  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Ellesse – You’re right, it actually took a bit of time to thank each one, but I was also genuinely grateful, so I felt good doing it and a number replied back to me, sharing how much they enjoyed the article, which gave the opportunity for a longer term dialogue, too.

  7. mcangeli says:

    I’ve also found that replying to commentors and visiting their sites and commenting as well goes a long way…

  8. Jon, I was glad your gesture of thanking those stumblers brought you so much pleasure. I guess most people would have overlooked that every fact, including myself. That thanking others in the case of your case doesn’t need to have an agenda. You want do it simply because you feel good about doing so.

    Thanks (for making me feel small… haha, just joking). Love your work. Keep it up!


  9. Shama Hyder says:

    Sincerity goes a long way…and I think in the long term-when you give genuinely versus as a persuasion technique, it goes a long way.

  10. Tom Volkar says:

    I found your response to 5ubliminal’s guilt comment interesting because when you mentioned sales people in this post that’s what I first thought of. Most experienced sales people have experienced this guilt-based reciprocity in action when they’ve been stood up for an appointment. The prospect’s original feeling of reciprocity increases because he/she did not respect the initial meeting time. When this occurs, is the prospect trying to make it up to the sales rep consciously or does the guilt really kick-in the reciprocity response?

  11. Jonathan,

    This really sums up all we can do for each other and is a great source to come back to for inspiration on helping those we value so much in the blogosphere.

    Thanks to Maki for another one of his famous submissions, I have found this post and subscribed to your blog because I really like what I see.

    Thank you for a really nice kick up the bum telling me what I should really focus on in the bigger scheme of things!

    Monika 🙂

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ mcangeli – hmmm, I wonder who’s site I should visit now?

    @ Ellesse – thanks for your kind words, you’re HUGE in my eyes!

    @ Shama – authenticity always leads the way

    @ Tom – really interesting question. So, when the prospect’s own action cultivates a sense of reciprocity, yes, i wonder whether the recipocity that might be engendered by that act would be more about guilt for having slighted the sales-person. food for thought, right.

    @ Monika – Thanks so much for your kind comment and for subscribing. It’s nice to know people enjoy the community. And, a big thanks, always, to Maki’s sage words and recommendations.

    Have an awesome rest of the evening all!

  13. Neena says:

    You are right – linkin out begs for reciprocity. But you need to put a number on it. As a beginning blogger, I linked out a bit with not much in return. It felt like a lot but I really needed (and still need) to step up the effort.

  14. […] Jonathan Field wrote an excellent post about the Hare Krishnas revealing their secret of massive link love […]

  15. ms says:

    the problem is about the professional ones – they don’t smile back, and they never buy your laughs – and the problem is they have the links that matter. Your own frinds smiling back doesn’t matter, the guy who matters is on the other side of the table. And sadly, he doesn’t smile back (but his secretary can!)

  16. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Neena – I agree, as a new blogger, it does take some time, plus if you are linking to big bloggers, they get so many other links, it’s often hard for you to rise above the chatter. But, I think if the links are high quality, the link-text is highly-relevant and those bloggers get a bit of traffic from your links then, over time, they’ll begin to see who you are and appreciate your efforts.

    @ ms – I’ve heard this a lot and I am sure a lot of people experience it, but I have to say, as a relatively new blogger, I’ve gotten only respect and a number of links.

  17. […] I couldn’t sleep, so I fired up my feed reader to check out a few of the blogs that I follow. I found an excellent article on Jonathan Field’s blog called Hare Krishnas reveal secret to massive link-love and mega-sales…now take your damn flower!. […]

  18. […] 3. Link out A great way to get notified and to get links. And I’m not talking about trackbacks, but about real links without nofollow. It’s not only a way to show your readers what kind of stuff you’re reading, but the bloggers you’re linking to also watch their incoming links thanks to Technorati and to their WP Admin. By linking to them, they will notice you and might even link to you. […]

  19. Anthea says:

    Excellent post. Your article on Freelance Switch linked to your blog so here I am, and I just couldn’t help but read this post. Who doesn’t want to know a “secret”?
    I especially enjoyed seeing the truth in your words, as a digital media student and a part time sales assistant I can see the application of these theories in several instances. I hadn’t thought of my sales as “gifting time” before, but if you make people feel like they are really getting something from you, it is very true that they are more likely to give back. Even if it is just a thank you!
    A very engaging post, definitely food for thought.



    (And no, I am not commenting for a link as I haven’t even started a blog yet!)

  20. […] Hare Krishnas Reveal the Secret to Massive Link Love and Mega Sales (Jonathan Fields): Give and you shall receive. Jon makes a brilliant analogy to how when Hare Krishnas give you a flower, they subconsciously are programming your mind to give them a donation. Likewise, in blogging, give something before requesting anything. The more you give, the more rewards you reap. […]

  21. […] Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant g… […]

  22. […] Link Building Methods, by Alexandru – 7 Tips for Training Link Developers, by Justilien Gaspard – Build Links like a Hare Krisha, by Jonathan Fields – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Link Builders, by Debra Mastaler – […]

  23. […] You subscribe to her blog, leave helpful comments, and give her link love – just like Hare Krishna does. […]

  24. Drozdov says:

    This is really good, but for people who like Krishna.