I’ve talked about this more in my “tips for building a kick-ass blog” article, but I’d like to expand on the idea a bit more.
The basic idea is that you cannot grow as fast by yourself as you can with the help of others (leverage other peoples’ resources). There are two ways you can get the help of others – ask them (nicely, of course), or get them to volunteer to help you. Asking (especially if you’re paying for it) works wonders, but right now I want to focus on the second option – having people help you of their own accord.
How do you do this as a blogger?
By helping other people – your readers, fellow bloggers, your contacts, your advertisers and your employees. In terms of your relationships, this means going out of your way to help others, doing them favors when asked, and being there for friends when they need your help. You’ll have to give first before you can expect anything and for someone who’s impatient for results (like me), it would help to remember that this isn’t just you giving the store away, it’s you investing your resources in your future. Investments, when done in the right place and the right time, can bring about fantastic returns down the line, and so it is with people.
In terms of your blog, this means giving first (providing value to your readers) and giving a lot (don’t assume that you can ‘ask’ them for something after just one week’s of good blogging). And what are you ‘asking them’? Their trust, their loyalty and their support. You won’t ask for it explicitly, but once you’ve given a lot to your readers you will notice that your readers will start giving back – in terms of comments, praise, feedback, mentions on other blogs and forums, respect, and if you’re selling something, money too.
If you’ve read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini (highly recommended), you’ll know that ‘Reciprocity’ is one of the six key ways to influence people (the others are: Commitment / Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity). When you give first, you create a subconscious debt on the other person’s conscience which they will feel the need to repay or risk suffering from guilt. It’s how we are socially wired.
What we’re NOT socially wired to do is to give first and ask later – in fact, we’re selfish (like it or not) and do exactly the opposite. If you want to succeed as a blogger, want to grow your blog and want to do both of these things super-fast, bite the bullet and invest in your future. The relationships you build as a result, with your readers and your friends, will be the foundation for your rapid growth in the future.
Personally, I don’t care whether you help people because you genuinely believe in helping others or because you’re looking for a quick return on your investment. I’ve had this tendency to go out of my way to help others as a kid and I’ve learned to harness that habit and use it intelligently. If you’re the same, then focus on making a smart use of your time and while you should still volunteer, make sure you don’t over-commit.
If you’re in it for the fast return, then remember that the whole act of doing others a favour in order to get a favor from them in return pisses people off. We don’t want to be used (even if in the long run that’s what’s happening) and in most cases a reciprocal exchange like this is rejected unless it is overwhelmingly in our favour. Take the short-term hits and settle in for the long-haul in such investments because if you play your cards right (and you will if you’re patient about it), the returns are HUGE.
This article was originally written on 26 Sep 2007 for Performancing.com.