What does it mean to build social media engagement through reciprocity?

Chances are you are always on the lookout for new ways you can grow your online business presence and engage your friends and fans. Engagement (likes, comments, and shares) is what drives your fan page reach. When your friends engage on your content, that post shows up in the sidebar of their friends who view the post, engage on the content, and like your page. So how do you get your friends and fans to engage?


You will start with your own friends and family, on your personal profile!

Let’s create two reciprocity scenarios.

  • Susan is just launched her new online shop on Etsy. She has been a passive Facebook user for years and has several hundred friends on her personal profile. She is really more of a lurker, and doesn’t engage much on her friends’ posts, nor post personal status updates about her own life. Susan builds a Facebook business fan page for her new business. She invites all her friends from her personal profile to like her new page, but only a few do. Even though she is posting good content on her new fan page, few of her personal friends and family are seeing it, and her reach is not growing. Even when she shares content from her business page to her personal profile, still very few of her friends and family engage on it. It frustrates Susan that her friends don’t seem to support her new business.
  • Sara has also launched a brand new online shop on Etsy. She has been an avid Facebook user for years and has several hundred friends on her personal profile. She is very active with her friends and social network on her personal Facebook profile. She regularly engages on their content, likes pictures of her friends’ kids, comments on their posts, and also regularly posts her own personal status updates. She has an active social network. When she invites her friends to like her new business page, many follow the invitation and like the page. When she shares content from her business page to her personal profile, many of her friends and family continue to engage. Her reach continues to grow as does her page.

So what’s different between Susan’s and Sara’s approach?

The concept of reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the idea that I do something for you, then maybe when you see an opportunity you’ll do something for me.

I like pictures of your kids, you like pictures of my kids. I comment on your Facebook statuses, you comment on my Facebook statuses.

When you develop your online personality and engage with others, you will slowly build up your online relationship network. Sara is doing this successfully, and it’s carrying over to her business fan page. Susan isn’t doing anything wrong per se, but if she wishes to leverage her friends and family network to get started with her new business, she needs to engage with them first, so they know her personally online (which differs from knowing her personally in real life).

Genuine personal engagement leads to reciprocity, which will carry over to the business page. We’re starting with Facebook, but the concept works the same on other social media as well, where you plan to have a business presence.

What kind of content should you be posting on your personal status updates? NONbusiness content.

Witty observations, photos of your family, questions that ask for your friends’ opinions…  anything that will show the real you–the personal you with whom someone builds a relationship, so they feel that they know you, and want to support you–content that will get your friends commenting and liking your personal status updates. Those same friends and family will then become followers on your fan page, and if you are following the tips for posting good Facebook content, they will continue to engage–thus growing your reach.

If you are going to have a social media business presence for your small business, start with your personal presence.

Build online relationships with your friends and family, show your funny, quirky, real personality, and let that carry over to your business. You are bringing your network along with you, and your business will grow.

Want to learn more about monetization for beginners? Grab my free e-book, 20 Ways to Monetize Your Social Strategy, here. Want to connect with fellow small business owners and build your social media empire together? Check out my free group on Facebook: Social Boss Collective.


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