Reciprocity: what you need to know

Reciprocity? Referrals? This is a bit off-topic for me but it is something I feel very strongly about.

When I was first introduced to the idea that reciprocity could help me in my business and, potentially, lead to referrals, I was a bit mind blown 🤯 and it took me a little while to get my head around it.

So, today, I’m taking a step away from content repurposing, creation and all those tips and tricks and I want to try and explain how this reciprocity thing works.

I’m sure you’ve heard the many knowledgeable voices out there telling you that it’s important to share valuable content. Your audience doesn’t want to just see sell, sell, sell posts. They want to learn, see what you do and how you do it.

You totally understand that part, right? By displaying your knowledge and expertise you’re building credibility with your audience. You know what you’re talking about and you’re worth listening.

But you’re still not 100% sure on WHY it’s so important. How does reciprocity fit into the equation and how could it possibly result in referrals?

What is reciprocity?

According to Google reciprocity is:

the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit”

Using the most common example I can think of, let’s consider gift giving.

If I get you a birthday present 🎁, you’re naturally going to want to do the same for me (I hope).

It’s wired into our very person and if you chose not to reciprocate you might find that you, and the world around you, find that unacceptable.

If someone gives us something, we should want to offer something of similar value in return. It’s happening around us, every day.

In service-based businesses (especially), you’ll find that each of us has a different perception of the value provided to us by our connections in their content and engagement with us.

As a connection of mine once said:

“This need for social balance is hard-wired into your brain and creates a powerful trigger when anyone gives you something for free.” – Anna Iveson.

You can easily apply it to your business and the content you’re providing.

How do I create this feeling in others?

It’s simple, really.

  • Provide your audience with value

  • Give them access to your knowledge

  • Give actionable information

Your aim should be to provide helpful content for your audience.

It needs to be consistently helpful, providing valuable tips and insights, actionable items and should be friendly and honest.

Once you understand what value you offer in your content, you’ll also need to consider how you can provide value elsewhere.

Now, please, don’t go spruiking your wares on your connection’s posts. That’s not OK.

What I mean is to:

  • Engage with their content

  • Add value to their posts with comments

  • Give advice (when asked)

  • Be yourself!

Why should I care about this feeling of reciprocity?

Stick with me here.

By providing your audience with value, help, advice, tips and tricks, you’re building a small bank account 🏧.

Most of the time you, and your audience, don’t even realise that it’s happening but with each little nugget of value you’re creating a feeling of debt. The feeling that they owe you for that information. That little nugget gets put into your bank account and they begin to build up.

The bank will grow with each passing day. With each read of your content and with every new connection. It will also grow as you contribute to your connections' content through meaningful interaction.

You probably won’t see the results right away but be sure, that account is there.

In the short term, it might show itself in increased engagement. As you engage with your connections, they choose to reciprocate.

In the long term, it can result in advice and even business referrals by way of gratitude.

You have a little bank account with each of your connections and as you continue to build your audience, provide value and engage with others, you’ll find these little bank accounts all over the place.

And here’s the point – you never know when you might need to dip into that ‘bank account’.

True story:

A while ago, I took part in this reciprocity – thing!

A connection of mine is a graphic designer. We’d been connected for quite a while and I thoroughly enjoyed what I was learning on her #wednesdaywisdom posts.

All the tips on graphic design for DIY to those who are artistically challenged (me!).

I tried, and failed, a few times to implement some of the tips provided and was particularly frustrated at one thing I couldn’t seem to ‘grasp’.

Being the stubborn person I am, I slogged on for a few more weeks but eventually built up the courage to message her.

Although we had a great online relationship and we engaged on each other’s posts regularly, I don’t think I felt I deserved her help. My opinion of the value I was giving her vs the value she was giving me didn’t seem to balance out (in my head).

So, courage built, I messaged her asking for help in choosing a font that contrasted well with my chosen business font.

Lo and behold, she responds.

“I’m a bit busy this week, Lizzi, but send me your email address and I’ll take a look at it as soon as I can.” – Bhavini Lakhani

I waited patiently and I was seriously gob-smacked with what I received a week or so later.

So kind. So helpful. Such thorough research.

I didn’t just receive one font recommendation, I received many. I received an email full of information on how to use them, where they came from and the links to download the ones that were a little more unusual.

So, do you see how this reciprocity thing can work?

Bhavini either felt that I’d given her enough value in my content and engagement, to support me in this question, or I have a nice little debt now sitting in her account. I will, of course, be happy to reciprocate when the time comes.

Reciprocity at its best.

Top tip 1

Don’t see your content creation as this massive chore that isn’t worth your time.

If you’re creating valuable content, you will, eventually, trigger something in the minds of your potential clients that is powerful enough to move them to take positive action.

When you’re sitting there, on your content creation day, feeling deflated about what to write, just sit back and remember that if you provide a valuable tip or trick you’re planting a seed and adding to your bank accounts.

Top tip 2

Don’t forget to reciprocate!

John Espiran once said that for each post you publish on LinkedIn, you should engage (comment) on at least 5 other posts in that same day.

Take the time to engage with your connections, audience and fellows in the industry away from your posts. Be present for them, too,

And how does this lead to referrals?

While referrals, truly, shouldn’t be the reason you provide valuable content and reciprocate with others online, it can be a nice, added bonus.

By providing this value and reciprocating with your connections and audience, you’re continuing to display your knowledge and worth.

If someone has experienced your help first-hand, they’re more likely to think 🤔 of you when their friends, family or business connections need the type of support you offer.

They may display that in quoting your teachings. I spend a good amount of my time talking about:

John Espirian

Darrel Griffin

Anna Iveson

Or they may display that through direct referrals and connecting you with your ideal clients.

It may not happen often, but it can happen, believe me.

In the meantime, enjoy the ride, learn as much as you can and share as much as you can.

So, what can you do?

As we come towards the end of the year, I’d challenge you to consider what value you’re giving your audience and connections.

Is there something you can do for your audience and connections that’s a bit out of the ordinary?

  • Engage with their content more often?

  • Leave them an endorsement on LinkedIn?

  • Review their services (if you've used them)?

  • Follow them on another platform?

  • Sign up for their newsletter?

For me, I’m putting myself out there and offering more advice to those who ask for it.

If you want to know something about:

  • Blogging

  • Podcasting

  • Content repurposing

Just pop me an email, a DM on your preferred platform, or comment below.

If the old adage of ‘you’ve got to give, to receive’ is true, what are you going to give back to your audience as we come to the end of the year?

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