“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I’m sure at some point in your life someone has recited that age-old adage to you. Well, today I’m going to preach it to you again. This time, however, I’m adding a little spin to it and applying it to social media.

Whether you’re a small or large business, well-known company or are just beginning to build your brand, there’s one thing that remains the same: You must give back to your followers.

As the Content Manager here at Flying Cork, a large chunk of my time is spent living and breathing all things social media. Whether I’m creating custom content for each platform, practicing my personal golden rule of social listening, or engaging with others, I’m constantly trying to provide value to the end user. It’s this type of content that I believe helps build a strong bond between brands and their consumers.

It’s a cyclical approach because let’s face it, you can’t have success without an audience. You have to go above and beyond to reach your audience, grab their attention, provide value, and keep them coming back for more. So how do you do it?

One word: Reciprocity.

I’m a big supporter of reciprocity in social media. I think it’s imperative and should always be factored into an overall social media strategy because the value that it provides is beyond your average ROI. Sure, we have to worry about numbers and making sales, but doing that becomes harder if you don’t have an engaged following that’s backing your brand.

So how exactly do you infuse the golden rule of reciprocity into your social media strategy? Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Don’t expect anything from your followers.

I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out. When I say this, I mean that you shouldn’t expect your followers to do anything for you if you haven’t done anything for them. You should have the mentality that you’re going to provide your audience with some sort of value in every exchange. Whether it’s an infographic, a helpful tip, an informative blog post, or some piece of content that’s going to be worth your audience’s time to consume, always, and I can’t stress it enough, always give your audience more than what they give you.

Always put the consumer first.

When you do this, you’ll produce content that directly addresses their needs, which speaks volumes to the end consumer. In this day and age, so much of the consumer’s attention is given to social media, so what better place to mine valuable data than the source? When you uncover the interests, trends, and pain points of your audience, and create content that addresses those, provides a solution, or simply is of interest to them, it will ultimately show that you’re listening and that you care. When consumers feel a connection and that a brand is relevant to them, they’ll be more likely to take action when asked.

Shift your mindset.

As marketers, we’re programmed to sell and are focused on the ROI of each piece of our overall strategy. But given the current landscape of social media, you can no longer rely on obvious plugs of our products on our social profiles. Instead, you have to realize that consumers don’t always want to be overtly old when they’re catching up on Facebook. Rather, they want to be told a story that clearly explains the benefits of the product/service and how they essentially can’t live without it. When you take the time to thoughtfully craft content and don’t audible to the easy way out for quick wins, you’ll realize that your return on investment of giving more than you get will be creating a strong, avid, loyal following of people who care about your company and what you have to say. Always remember that social media marketing is a marathon. When you set yourself up for a sprint, sure, you have quick returns, but it’s impossible to maintain that pace time. Slow and steady wins the race, and in this case, always keeping your consumer top-of-mind and providing value in every exchange will ultimately drive you to the finish line.

Reciprocity is something that all marketers should practice, particularly on social media, because it puts the consumer at the forefront of every action you take. So, when it comes time to create content, lead with value and build your following; then, when it comes time for you to ask your audience to do something in return, they’ll do it without a second thought.

Do you need help implementing the golden rule of social media to your efforts? If so, I’d love to chat!