How Reciprocity Influences Business Blogging

July 24, 2012By

If you’re considering a blog for your business you’re probably reading a lot about blogging. You’re probably reading a lot of stories like this one from Internet Retailer.

From European retailers experiment with wringing the most from social media:

B&Q’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were first launched as a marketing channel, Robb says, but have since morphed into a forum for customer service.

B&Q now has a dedicated Twitter account to deal with customer complaints and questions that it monitors daily, Robb says. The retailer has around 11,000 Twitter followers, he adds.

This is pretty common. Businesses have started using social media and typically start out using the channel for pushing promotions and notices. The thing about it is that social media users were never looking for messages to be pushed to them in those channels. They viewed it more as a personal and professional development area than as a marketing channel.

Catalogs are marketing channels. I wasn’t around, but I’m sure it took a long time for mailers to morph a personal channel of sending letters into a marketing channel filled with catalogs and other marketing pieces that are mailed to consumers.

Maybe there will be a day when social media changes into a marketing channel. In some ways I think it already is a marketing channel. Businesses just have to think about it a little differently.

From that same article there is this excerpt.

David Hathiramani, co-founder of online tailor and suit retailer AsuitThatFits.com, says the e-retailer uses social media to offer style advice. “All of our style advisers tweet and blog, so people know who they are talking to and we can offer a very personalized service,” he says.

He adds that it is important to keep a consistent tone and voice across all social media channels. “If you have an online personality that completes the brand, then people will be more comfortable and will engage,” he says.

Now, I don’t know about all the tone stuff, but the idea of giving in order to get makes complete sense to me. In social psychology there is the reciprocity rule that states that when someone gives something to another person that other person feels obligated to give something in return. This is true even if the other person doesn’t like the person that gave them something. The pull of the reciprocity is so strong that there doesn’t even need to be a likeness between the two parties.

Businesses have long used the reciprocity rule in their sales efforts. One popular study by Dennis Regan found that when subjects were given a soft drink even if they didn’t ask for it were more likely to purchase raffle tickets from the person that gave them the drink. This happened regardless of the subject’s feelings toward the seller.

Social media is about making profit for business. Everything you do as a business is about making profit. There may be times when you truly give back just for the sake of giving back, but it comes at the expense of time and profit.

Social media needs to have the same standards of profit. The way things seem to be working out for businesses is by using something like the reciprocity rule. If you give something with your blog and your social media efforts the people you connect with will feel obligated to return the favor.

So it’s alright to give people something in terms of advice or instructions on a blog. Ask them to subscribe to your marketing channels like an email program and then ask them for a sale.

You have to give to get in the blogging game.

It’s social psychology at work.