The New Social ROI: Reciprocity of Influence

A lot of people would like to tie Social Media efforts to old school “Return on Investment”, considering profits in relation to capital invested. I would challenge that notion by offering another view.

4476928956_8a1c881e12In psychology, “Reciprocity” is described as responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. Think of it as a social expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways; responding to gifts and kindnesses from others with similar benevolence of their own, and responding to harmful, hurtful acts from others with either indifference or some form of retaliation. And it has been shown that the possibility for reciprocal actions increases the rate of contribution, giving evidence for the importance of reciprocity in social situations [1]. There are numerous examples of these positive and negative forms of reciprocity online, many found on The Consumerist.

Let’s talk about Influence. We know that Social Influence occurs when someone’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. It takes many forms and can be seen in leadership, persuasion, and marketing. I’m not going to bore you with the fine details but there are two aspects that really apply to us here. Normative Influence is an influence to conform to the positive expectations of others. Once you begin your community you will set down some rules for what is expectable behavior. Your normative influence will encourage people to stick to those rules and further go on to help guide and assist those who might not follow or know the rules. Informational Influence is to accept information from another when there is an uncertainty due to ambiguity or disagreement. This would be you, as an “Official Voice” of the community or brand.

As a Social Media or Community Manager we should strive to make our Social Impact as positive as possible, reaching out to help and support our communities, and encouraging them to reciprocate by sharing their positive feelings and experiences with their circles of influence with the hope that their friends and followers will find their way to your communities and brands. From there it will fall to you to once again ensure that they have a great experience themselves.

Within Social Media, the real measure of ROI is the Reciprocity of Influence generated through engagement and social sharing in your communities and brands.

Image: “Social Circles of Influence – Influence occurs in small circles of influence”
Graphic produced by Bruce Dupree

1. Fehr, Ernst; and Simon Gächter (Summer 2000). “Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity”. Journal of Economic Perspectives 14 (3): 159–181. doi:10.1257/jep.14.3.159. ISSN 0895-3309.

Not Just Circles

Circles are a beautiful thing… but they are more than Circles, they are also topics of interest.

In the past week as I’ve watched my Stream fill with G+ tips, LOLCats and Viral stuff. A fair bit I have no interest in, but because I’ve elected to have them in my circles, I see what they post to whichever circle they’ve put me in. Because of this, I’ve made an effort to actually consider what I’m send to whom. I’ve been extremely selective about who goes where.

Now when I post content, I really consider who will be interested in what I’m putting out there. If it is Community Management stuff it only goes to that circle, interesting gaming info there’s a circle for that too.


As the banner says, share the right things with the right people.

Community Building: Know Your Audience

I recently inherited a few twitter accounts with well over 3000 followers each that were following almost as many twitter feeds. Unfortunately the quality of these followers and those we were following were not that great. A significant number of them wouldn’t typically be interested in what we were posting and we certainly didn’t want to see “$50 FREE SLOT PLAY” every few minutes in our feeds. For our feed to be valuable to us, we need to know our audience so that we can communicate things that are valuable to them. You have to get to know the users the community will potentially serve.

Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others. – Seth Godin: What do you know?

Start by gathering information. If you can, have person interviews.  Ask what your users need?  Do they have problems?  Where do they hang out online and how do they participate?  What are their likes and dislikes in those communities? Who are the most important people in the community?

Leverage this listening data and make changes. From there, keep two questions in mind. “What are we doing wrong?” and “What are we doing that we can we do better?”.

Tips for Community Managers in a Social Media Age

I’ve been sitting back for a few a bit trying to take in all the changes that have been going on with Community Management and the “Rise of Social Media”. I put that in quotes because most CMs have been doing Social Media forever, we just didn’t call it “Social Media”. So here are a few things that I think today’s CMs should really take to heart.

Be Human

Today, being a Community Manager is so much than running a forum and posting news and updates. Be a real person, if you are having a great day let the world know! If you are having a busy day, drop a tweet or status update that says, “Leaving one meeting, heading to another”. Anything you can do to become someone they want to know.

You should also be engaging beyond text-based mediums. Get a podcast going, or make yourself available to other podcasters. Hold webinars and plan face to face meet-ups with your audience. Record interviews with interesting people In and around your community. Be visible in as many ways as possible.

Go Easy On The Marketing

You represent the brand, but you shouldn’t be the total marketing force. Do not let yourself become a “Social Media Marketer” where your only goal is to drive numbers and analyze metrics. Some marketing is fine and you do want to help promote things, but try not to be overly formal. Your forums, Facebook Pages and Twitter are all great places to drive marketing but you want them to be sociable too. Engage your users and be friendly; make it fun to keep up with what you and the community are doing.

Take Your Days Off

This, is a tough one. We all know that the Community doesn’t sleep, doesn’t take vacations or even take the holidays off. We often feel like we need to check in every day to make sure things are running smooth. And you know, it’s fine to check in, but don’t get sucked in. You need to have time to process things and to have a life beyond your community. If you have a team working with you then make sure you have people there to help, if the community needs it. If you need to make announcements, Tweets or Facebook posts there are a number of tools to help automate things so you don’t need to be “on” 24/7. Relax and get away for a bit or you will burn out.

I hope you found this useful and good luck with your Community.

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1 Card for 1 Soldier (Please RT and Like)

When filling out your Holiday cards this year, please take ONE CARD and SEND it to this address:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

I don’t care what your feeling are about the ongoing war, these men and women deserve to be remembered this holiday season.

If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these soldiers could get to bring up their spirits!