He doesn’t know it, but Drew McLellan is one of my favorite people that I’ve never met in person.

We’ve been “connected” since the early days of social media. We’ve stayed connected because, like me, McLellan has always been less focused on building an audience to sell his business and more focused on finding common ground and having conversations. Heck, he even compiled a series of books on The Age of Conversation.

I’ve been thinking about digital connections and conversation since I heard a couple of people comment that they don’t understand why there’s so little of both. More precisely, they were lamenting that people no longer cross-share (i.e., I share your post, you share mine). It’s true — if you discount the Triberr and Instagram pod models. (Please, discount them.) But does that matter?

To be fair, they have a point. Sorta. Like the Facebook relationship status button says, “It’s complicated.”

The case for digital reciprocity.

The way to digital reciprocity

I appreciate people, like McClellan, who take the time to share my work. It’s always gratifying to know when your content resonates. Moreover, it is nice when people care enough about your avatar (and, hopefully, you) to look at your blog, website, or LinkedIn profile. It says I’m here not just to push myself and my product but also to learn about you and yours.

Moreover, it builds relationships. People who say you can’t make real friends on social media aren’t trying to forge friendships on social media. I have great friendships that started online. People who say you can’t have conversations on Twitter don’t have conversations on Twitter. I have them every day.

In a world where people do business with people they like, being curious and generous are good traits to have.

Reciprocity is overrated.

Digital reciprocity: share because you care

Share because you care. Because a blog post, video, podcast, or photograph is interesting, thought-provoking, or speaks to you and your audience.

While there is a case for digital reciprocity, expecting people to share your content or otherwise cross-promote “just because” is unrealistic. Sometimes, it’s fair to ask if a person is just too self-absorbed in pushing out their content to care about their audience. But often, it’s not deliberate. We all have reading lists, and maybe your stuff doesn’t make their cut. Or what if they’re reading and loving your blog but your content isn’t relevant to their audience?

More important: Why do you write, curate content, or otherwise post to a blog or social media feeds? What’s your goal? Who’s your audience? Are you trying to win a popularity contest or run a business?

As I’ve said before, there’s a reason I don’t have a marketing blog.

In the early blogging days, lots of people would share and leave comments on each other’s posts. It was a good way to build an audience, and it helped me discover fresh voices and make new friends — some of whom, like McClellan, I’ve kept to this day. Often, however, that audience wasn’t an audience of potential clients that, ultimately, we all need to have.

I share what matters to me, and I likewise want people to share my content because it’s valuable to them. The more relevant it is, the more likely it is to reach my target audience. Digital reciprocity is important, but it’s not all that.

Way by Kai Gradert (Unsplash); Mural by Wyron A (Unsplash).

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