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Online Social Presence … Generosity

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.

This quote is attributed to 1921 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Albert Einstein.  As we continue the discussion on an Online Social Presence, I wanted to spend some time thinking about theme of generosity.  As we think about our personal professional brand, as we look at the ways and means to package and deliver our expertise, it may be easy to assume that all the focus is inward, but this would be misleading.  The reality is that a thought leader has to have followers, and to generate followers requires intentional efforts to garner the attention of others.  For this reason it is imperative that we be generous with our time, attention, affection, and acknowledgment.

Often generosity is associated with charitable giving.  To that end, I find it interesting that according to “Philanthropic Statistics” published by the National Philanthropic Trust…65% of households give to charity and to that end, charitable giving accounted for 2.1% of the US gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009.

While generosity can manifest itself via charitable giving, online or off, being generous can include so much more.  As I instruct my own children, being generous starts with sharing.  This sentiment is echoed by Chris Brogan, who stated to the New Media Atlanta gathering in 2009 that we need to “learn how to share vs hoard.”  To Chris point, our angle should not be monetizing what we share, rather the opportunities that develop because we are sharing.  Brogan points out that 98% of his stuff is free each day on his blog.  His interest is in the lead generation that occurs because of what he puts out on his blog.

As I mentioned in my previous post on conversations, Big Businesses are wrestling with how to effectively engage social media.  They are also evaluating the how to be generous as well, just like the rest of us.  In his FastCompany article entitled “A Sentiment Detector That Reads the Social Web for You“, David Zax quotes Mike Spataro, VP of Enterprise Client Strategy for Visible Technologies … “98% of consumers are surprised and delighted that someone is trying to help them, and don’t think it’s like Big Brother trying to steer them.”  This quote is applicable to those of us who are trying to establish an online presence, with the simple advice, be helpful.

In the February 2009 article “Generation G” on Trendwatching.com, the author suggests that “sharing is the new giving”, and goes on to explain how “sharing a passion … have replaced ‘taking’ as the new status symbol”.  So what are some ways that we, as online professionals, can put sharing into practice?

Make recommendationsLewis Howes, in his article, “7 Ways to Market Yourself on LinkedIn“, states that one of the best ways to, “give to others would be to make recommendations” on LinkedIn.  He goes on to suggest that we should recommend others without asking or expecting a recommendation in return because the benefit is the impression we leave with those we are recommending, “it will give them a refreshing feeling about you and they’ll want to be helpful in return.”  But recommendations don’t just occur on LinkedIn.  Posting reviews and/or recommendations on Amazon, iTunes, UrbanSpoon, etc provide excellent opportunities to “pay it forward”.  If you had a good experience at a certain establishment good, tweet about it, post a Facebook status update, in other words share it with your friends.

Share about others … Reid Carr’s article on FastCompany.com entitled, “What Should CEOs Tweet? 7 tips to Become More ‘Socially Active” recommends that CEOs “tweet your team’s accomplishments … identify key players and give them a shout out by their twitter name.”  To Carr’s point, we should share what others are doing.  Chris Brogan suggests employing a 12:1 rule, “talk about other people’s stuff 12 times to each time you talk about your stuff.”  With in Twitter, there is something called a “retweet” which Jimi Jones explains, in his article “Measuring the Power of the ReTweet“, “These are sent by those who really feel that the original Tweet has value to be shared…”  If you find something you find valuable, share the value with others.  The benefit is two fold.  First others are exposed to a potential new source of good information.  Second, your own credibility is enhanced as someone who shares value.

Share your thoughts … In her article “Can You Be Personal and Professional in Social Media“on GigaOm.com, Dawn Foster suggestions that we, “think about the value that you can offer”.  Our observations, insights, and experiences can be valuable to others, just as we acknowledge the value ourselves. As Mike Phillips states in his article “8 Reasons You Should be Blogging“, “by sharing your ideas online you become part of the community instead of one of the countless spectators.”  One of the potential benefits of sharing your thoughts, is that you could be identified as a source of values by others.  Being a source of value has many payoffs, but it starts with sharing.

I’ll be honest, when I think of social media, generosity isn’t the first descriptor that comes to mind.  It wasn’t until reading Shel Isreal‘s book Twitterville, did I start to really think about the power of generosity that the social web offers.  I thought it was significant enough to include the notion of generosity to the conversation of what it means to have an online social presence.  Hopefully you will join me in sharing more.

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