Give before you get when marketing online

By Tim Priebe on December 24, 2012

By Tim Priebe on December 24, 2012

A key concept that many people miss out on when marketing themselves or their company online is the idea of giving before they get. You need to provide some sort of value, however small, before you can expect to ever receive anything in return.

I recently performed an experiment on LinkedIn that demonstrates one way you could apply this concept.

We were looking at building up the following for the T&S Web Design LinkedIn Company Page. I went through my connections and picked out a random set of those connections. Essentially, it was as many people as I could get to in a certain amount of time, who I also felt comfortable endorsing. I went through all their profiles and endorsed them. (Warning: Endorsing without careful consideration can be dangerous.)

Immediately after endorsing each person, they received a notification from LinkedIn that essentially said, “Tim Priebe endorsed you for this set of skills.” So that was my give.

Next, I sent them a message through LinkedIn that said the following. Let’s say I sent this one to Bob.


I just endorsed you for some of your skills on LinkedIn. Would you would mind terribly following T&S Web Design on LinkedIn? (Yes, this is bribery.)

We’re building up our company’s LinkedIn presence, and would appreciate your help. If not, that’s perfectly fine. No hard feelings.

Just go to this link and click follow on the top right:


It was a simple message, and I made sure Bob knew it was okay to say no, and that he shouldn’t feel guilty.

When I had tried to get followers in the past, I had single digit percentage return rate. So under 10%.

Within 36 hours, I had a 66% return rate. A full two thirds of the people I sent a message to went ahead and followed our company on LinkedIn.

That’s an increase of over 50%!

There are a few key concepts to pull away from this.

Give before you get

This is, of course, the essential, fundamental lesson from all this. If I hadn’t given first, I would have been back to a single digit response rate.

Give without requiring repayment

I did not tell the individuals, “I endorsed you, so follow T&S.” There were no threats. I made it fairly clear that there were no strings attached.

Let the person know you gave them something

Frequently when going the extra mile for someone, people won’t know unless you tell them. You have to be very careful how you tell them, but letting them know you did something for them is the only way to get any brownie points from it. Of course, in this case, LinkedIn did let them know. But it’s always nice to send a personal message as well.

Offer a quick, easy way to repay you

The method I mentioned for repayment was optional, and was very quick for them. If they had decent Internet speed, they could probably repay me in about ten seconds or less.

Give the person permission to not repay you

Once I’d offered the repayment method, I had to make it very clear that it was perfectly fine if they didn’t repay me.

Don’t hide the truth

You can’t try to hide the fact that you would actually like this easy repayment, if they have time. Too often, people try tactics like this and it comes off as sleazy. I find that complete transparency goes a long way to not giving that impression.

Once you start doing some basic, personal giving like this before getting anything, you’ll begin to make more headway and get more value out of your time on social media.

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