Like many things we have talked about so far, this particular conversation really comes down to a sense of balance. Nuance. Subtleties that do not then explode into massive generalizations. And in particular, this topic we’re going to discuss for the letter G is more relevant if you are marketing or running a business and using social media tools as a part of those efforts. If you are here for other reasons, the myth can perhaps become truth.
The Myth – Give To Get
I’ve talked about the “give to get” thing before. In truth, the concept is a really nice one. If you promote someone’s post, they might promote yours later down the line. If you help someone out of a pinch, they’ll think of you when they need to buy the kind of service your company sells. It’s all part of the “be human” thing we talk about so much in the online world. Promote others. Share information. Scratch someone’s back, get your back scratched. In principle, it seems like nothing could go wrong here. But in fact, I’ve noticed two problems that can arise from this overwhelming urge to “give to get.”
Problem 1: You give, but you might not get
I have bad news for you. Are you ready? Take a big deep breath. OK, so…look. The world of social media – it involves people. You know, those yucky, hairy, 2-legged creatures that roam the earth. Ever since that whole apple incident, humans have proven to be a tad unreliable. A tad fickle. Maybe even a bit sketchy. To wit, if you give to some people, they might not even say thanks. They night not recognize your giving as the great gift it is. They might not give back, either. At that point, you have a decision to make. Do you keep giving in the hope that maybe that person is just really busy and will get to you eventually, or do you decide you’re throwing pearls before swine? These are tough, very human decisions. But such is life. Online and off.
Problem 2: If you give everything away, it’s hard to make money
Here’s the real problem that the “give to get” myth has caused for people trying to do business in the world of social media. Niceness does not pay the bills. A lot of the problems we run into now in the online world, like controversy surrounding people wanting to charge for their content, are the direct result of the initial philosophy that social media is all about “giving to get.” It’s not to say that you can’t win business by supporting others. It has happened. Referrals can happen. But that can take a REALLY long time. An indeterminate amount of time. Meanwhile, you are not making money. That’s a shaky plan for a business, right?
As companies and other folks navigating the social media waters discovered that they were not making money, that they were in fact bleeding money, they attempted to backtrack and are now trying to raise money for content they send out there. Unfortunately, in many cases, this is a significant flip-flop from where we were 3-4 years ago, when money in the online world was not the point.
Be nice, but be realistic
At some point, if you are hoping to use social media to grow your business, you have to think about making money. Sadly, we do not live in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trekkian world where everything is based on your talents and how well you get along with other species. Not yet, anyway. You can be nice. You can promote others. But you need to balance that with growing your own company. You need to try to make sure you are “giving” at least occasionally to people who might buy from you. For me, as a marketer, me “giving” to lots of other marketers isn’t smart. They’re not going to need our services. Now, can I promote my friends who happen to be marketers? Sure. But if that’s all I’m doing, I’m not going to find myself in any better position 15 years from now than I am in right now.
Same goes for you and yours.
So what do you think? Is social media really all about glorifying others? Is it really all about giving to get? Or is there something else we need to focus on here? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yoursecretadmiral/5349322938/ via Creative Commons