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The Most Important “Law” of Social Media

I have found that among its other benefits,
giving liberates the soul of the giver.

-Maya Angelou

One our agency’s clients once asked: “I noticed you are Tweeting content that has nothing to do with driving sales. How does that help our bottom line?” It was a valid question. We were posting “how-to content” in order to generate discussion and endear the community to the brand. The client was paying us a lot of money and wanted to know why we were Tweeting content that did not directly drive their bottom line.

Answer: It was—by engaging the Law of Reciprocity.

Gary Vaynerchuck said it, and I agree: We are in the midst of a “thank you economy.” When you genuinely help people live better lives, they will be inspired to return the favor. It may take a minute, a month or six months, but most people will reciprocate. And when they do, via social media, it can have big impact on your bottom line.

What most brands don’t understand is this: why would a person engage with your organization in social media? Why would they follow you? No, really: why? To be marketed to? To be sold? Absolutely not. They get enough of that in their lives. Social media was created as a very refuge away from the sales-driven bacchanalia of corporate marketing.

The brands that serve up a steady buffet of relevant, useful and sumptuous content inspire people to dine–and to engage with them. The socially-savvy brands nurture the relationship. They give. They might elegantly weave in a product offer, but they will have built sufficient social capital; their community won’t mind the errant promotion.

Let’s say you have a travel company. If you Tweet entertaining and informative content about “how to pack” or “how to stay safe overseas,” for example, you will earn people’s trust. You will win their hearts. You may inspire them to retweet you or even to write a blog post. It’s all powered by the Law of Reciprocity.

Your social media strategy should be to give, to deliver value and information that is so good and so compelling that it inspires people to pass it on.

Remember: The magic isn’t in the Tweet; it’s in the retweet. Post share-worthy content. Just ask yourself: “Would I share this with my friends and family?” That’s a good litmus test for deciding what to post in social media. Would you share it?

If you give and give and give, people will give and give and give right back.

Eric Harr is the new Social Media Expert for CBS News and the Founder & President of Resonate Social Media. This post is excerpted from his best-selling new book: “The REAL TRUTH About Social Media: 8 Timeless Truths Uncovered & 8 Monumental Myths Revealed” available online and in bookstores across America. [Use code “GIVEBACK” on the REAL TRUTH Website and receive 10% off. Proceeds benefit CARE, to defend dignity and fight poverty worldwide. For more information, visit:


Join The Conversation

  • Jan 12 Posted 5 years ago kissocialmedia

    Eric - very succinct and well written article. 

    I would be interested to hear how you believe this balances out with several recent pieces of research that suggest that the most common reason people choose to follow a brand is to receive offers and not to interact with them?

    My thoughts on this would be that you have enough offers to add a tangible / monetary benefit to following the brand, interspersed with useful and interesting content to keep them engaged.

    Looking forward to your response!

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