The Social Media Ethos In Real Life

Posted on January 24, 2014

Newton had an apple to help him understand gravity and you have a bowl of peanuts to help you understand the social media ethos. I recently traveled to Madrid to celebrate the day of the 3 Kings (January 6th) and whilst over there found myself frequenting some fine watering holes. One in particular stuck out, and I think it stuck out because of the free peanuts.

Whilst it’s true that giving tapas or small bites of food with drinks in Spain is a common enough practice it’s still quite different for me, an Irish man used to overpriced pints. As I sat at the bar, imbibing and nibbling, I felt an apple hit my head (or, peanut shell hit the floor) and it dawned on me – this was the social media ethos in real life.

A while back I wrote about how you can’t under value free and it is still one of the key tenets of social media.
You have to give before you get.
You have to help before you’re helped.
You have to share before you’ll be shared.

This concept turns old business practices on their head as where is the tangible, definable ROI? Rand Fishkin from Moz recently did a video about serendipity in marketing (embedded below as it’s a good’un). There are some things that you just can’t track. There is too much chaos to be able to precisely measure what benefits your social media actions accrue but, sure as night follows day, if you put more out than you ask for in return you’ll be have a lot of credit in the social media bank.

The Social Media Ethos In Real Life

Social media ethos in real life

Social media ethos in real life

And so, what of this bar that was feeding me nuts all night? Well, we frequented it 3 times whilst in Madrid – more than any other premise. The power of reciprocity is a powerful thing and as I ate nearly my body weight in peanuts I felt like I should return the favour and at least drink my body weight in beer ;)

The social media ethos is all about giving without asking. Societal norms have it so that we (humans) don’t like people who never give and are only seen to be taking. Without the unspoken favour system we’d still be in caves. It was this favour system, or system based on reciprocity, which allowed us as a species crawl out of the caves and make huge leaps forward as we worked together and helped each other, knowing that no good deed would go unrewarded. It is the reason why giving peanuts (the saltier the better obviously) will keep punters in your premises for longer and, get them to return.

It might also explain why you always see people offering free guides, advice and help to people online. The social media ethos of giving can leave a very lasting impression on people and can help you get a lot of good social media karma in the bank. On a daily basis I try help a few people and to leave an impression on them so that if/when they need my services they’ll contact me but moreover, I like having credit in my account. You never know when you might need some help online and if you’ve actively helped people in the past you’ll quickly get helped yourself.

“But, Rob, I don’t have time to be helping people for free?” – well, that’s fine, but don’t expect social media to help you for free then. The alternative to fostering and developing social media relationships is buying your relationships. Some PPC advertising can help but is more prone to flash in the pan success whereas if you grasp the social media ethos and give people some salty peanuts, you’ll find you’ll have more longevity (but of course it may take longer).

Do you subscribe to the social media ethos? Have you seen any examples of it offline yourself? Comment below with your thoughts and questions – looking forward to them.

4 Replies to "The Social Media Ethos In Real Life"

  • Mallie Hart
    January 25, 2014 (2:06 am)

    This is one of the best takes on reciprocity and its impact on social that I’ve ever seen. As a fan of a good beer and peanuts, it educated and entertained and made me wish I was out in the town at the same time. Thanks!

    • Robert Ryan
      January 31, 2014 (12:07 am)

      Hey Mallie – cheers for the comment and glad you found it edu-taining ;)

  • Google Plus Serendipity - Blast Off with Martin Shervington
    April 15, 2014 (1:54 pm)

    […] online there is no better platform than Google Plus. Google Plus serendipity has struck time and time but when Martin Shervington contacted me to help him out with an infographic I knew the Google Plus […]

  • Niall Flynn
    March 7, 2015 (3:25 pm)

    This is something I speak to personally, when my career started I was all about giving back via my blog, I wrote articles, code snippets and more mainly for SEO, excel and other tools. I got heaps of referral, kudos and just a general feeling that I was contributing more to the internet as I saw it.

    Over the years as I got busier I have in many ways stopped giving back, this is a great call to action and it personally has me thinking more about the giving/receiving concept more than my bar bones SEO strategy.

    Super post Rob, it may also help the sale of peanuts :)

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