Law of Reciprocity: Why You Should Think, Twice, Before Using it Unconditionally in Your Social Blogging Channels

Law of Reciprocity

The law of reciprocity is evident that appears sparking in the social-game, after analying the comments received on this blog and in my social channels, about my blog commenting – social networking policy.
Law of Reciprocity
The reciprocity law isn’t new, indeed I think is pre-wired on most of humans (not in everybody) and it’s based in the ethical – moral principle of the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” This law has been present since all our history and today it’s totally relevant to social media plus blogging.

But, we should stick to this law completely? I believe the answer is: YES and NO.
YES and NO: Hey Gera, are you crazy? No, well perhaps a little 😉

I’ll explain it below, why you’d explore all the angles of the situations!


Law of Reciprocity in Blogging

I’ll put a vivid example that YOU must feel of your own or perhaps with a friend to whom it is happening, right now.

The typical comment-back. You comment on my blog therefore I’d comment on your blog.
Let’s do some maths to study the comment back – hey I’ve “eaten” maths all my life, even the ones that are like hieroglyphics – but this is very simple:

Let’s say you make a comment “campaign” or “visits”- call what you want – and comment on other blogs, wisely not spamming (reading previously the article), in 15-20 comments per hour during 2/3 hours per day.
Weekly, you’d done about 150 min – 300 max comments. Of course you’re a master commenting! I’m so far to that numbers 😉

Now let’s say that rate of comment back is of 50% no idea about a real number and I couldn’t find some stat about it (if you’ve one, tell me in comments). So, you’re receiving tons of comments in your blog, more than 100 per week, just for the reciprocity law, applied to blog commenting!

We must ADD to the equation, the organic comments coming from organic traffic like Google, Yahoo and Bing + the comments coming from your preferred social channels.

Overall, your blog is getting hundreds of comments per week, this is great, but really? All it depends of your objectives:

1) If your goals are only reading comments on your blog – objective, done.
2) If you blog just for hobby, and want comments, then I think is ok or not, it depends of your ego and other extra goals you can have.
3) If your goals are to convert ads into money, leads, etc, those comments presumably will not convert, perhaps a handful, depending of your niche, but in general no.
4) If you’re promoting yourself as a developer of recipes, business coach, master on web design or whatever, etc then your comments are more than comments, you’re doing social-networking and may be the effort pay off – it’s up to you. Sure, an arsenal of quality logo promo products armed and ready to be passed out certainly helps too. However, for now, you’re building trust over you and the comments back could be part of your portfolio.


Lessons Learned about the Law of Reciprocity on Blog Commenting:

* Probably not everybody returned your comments, this is fact. Is it worth the efforts? I don’t know it depends, where you enter in the 1-4 points of before or perhaps you have other targets in mind.

* Remember also that you need to write, share posts of you and others, engage, read, to do marketing, SEO, copywriting and learn new tech skills often to go on increasing; this machine never stops!

* I assume and I bet you too, that you want to increase traffic and subscribers. Consequently more traffic, means also more human spam, more comments coming and phew…for how long will you be doing comments back?

You’ll have to take a moment for pondering this exponential-spiral: I comment over you – you comment on me. This is crazy and you’d stop it or you’ll be commenting and nothing more, or worst you’ll be totally burned out!
(Unless, you want a static blog that never grows and this phenomenon should not happen)

Hence my advice about the law of reciprocity is, do it but filtered, be extremely selective and really manage your time properly or you’ll be mad! As you see it’s a YES and NO, all together.

I started in this spiral unconsciously and stopped long time ago. As I explained on my blog commenting policy, I comment, when I can, perhaps back or not. Also only if the article is good or I’ve something to add, if not I move on.

Then, about commenting on other blogs, have your clear your goals in the long term blogging-strategy for your blog?


Social Networking Reciprocity

Let’s see examples of “real” offline life and move these concepts to the social reciprocity law.

You just meet new people in a party, business meeting, convention or a long trip. Now you’ve their business card, or perhaps their emails or phone numbers.
Are these persons your friends? NO, today! Why?

You can see immediately or as time goes by, that this could happen (and it happened to me):

# You’ve no mutual interests
# You’ve different timings, due to works, or because you’re nocturnal and the other is diurnal
# You’ve different tastes in almost everything
# You’ve different concepts of life or politics or whatever



No matter the first mutual contacts, you aren’t friends; real friendship can take some time. So, how you feel that if immediately after the first contact, this person bombards you with phone calls or goes to your home to sale something.
“Hey I’ve your data and I allowed social reciprocity law”. It sounds weird and disgusting, right? Then, why you allow the law of reciprocity online, indiscriminately?
Now we can these cases applicable to Twitter (but the same applies to Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google Plus, etc)

You receive a notification from Twitter that somebody is following you.
Are you going to apply the law of reciprocity? “Hey If I follow you, you’d follow me.”

Let’s see with some examples and tell me, why should you follow back to them?

These persons (or bots) are:

* Only tweeting their own links.
* Only tweeting random links about a theme.
* Has zero tweets and no bio.
* Never mention nobody, always tweeting about herself/himself
* Has a bio but I’m not interested at all, on the topics
* Only tweeting offers, typical of company without a social strategy in mind (really this is broadcasting)
and list go on and on…

Therefore, I repeat, why should you follow-back to them?

The only reasons I could imagine are:

* You know those persons from other social sites
* You know and are interested in what that company is offering
Both cases are valid and I could eventually follow them, but if not, I personally DON’T use the reciprocity law with them!

I know that not everybody think in that way and I respect other opinions. If you’re interested in following people that are not interested, at all, in what you tweet, it’s your call and eventually you can do it automatically.

See a screen-shot how Twitter Manage the Reciprocity Law

Twitter Reciprocity Law

Extra problems of following indiscriminately is start seeing SPAM in your email via direct messages and if you’re not careful with those messages, your twitter account could be hacked (hundreds of account have been hacked before, because owners clicked on “wrong” links)

Regarding spam, Chris Brogan got tons of spams from emails via Twitter DMs and the reaction to cut the same, derived in his Twitter unfollow experiment, unfollowing thousands of accounts for that motive (trying to reduce spam). As an unexpected result, he experimented also the reciprocity law in action on different forms.

I think it’s more appropriated to talk about blogging collaborations between bloggers in social media, instead to meaningless following-backs that can lead to a reciprocity failure.

* You must be vigilant before entering in reciprocity.
* Study if you’ve something in common and not following unconditionally. Why would you follow if you don’t have anything in common?

Is the law of reciprocity valid in social media? YES an NO. It depends a lot of your goals and the way you see the world.

My own advice, utilize the law of reciprocity but classify, manage and be particularly careful when you are in that game, to avoid problems in the future. Don’t make these social mistakes!


Do you use the law of reciprocity often? In comments, in your social networking or both? I’d like to see your standpoints about this matter in comments!


Technorati Tag: Blogging


    Gera is a techie & foodie passionate about how to succeed in social media. He focuses also on successful blogging tips and food connections. You can connect with him on Google +. Subscribe to his Free WPulsar Newsletter about WordPress Plugin & Theme Reviews, Blogging and Social Media.

    Justin Germino

    How many bloggers remember the original Infopreneur owner, he rocketed his blog in less than a year to < 20k Alexa and got a ton of traffic by leaving 150-200 comments per day. His policy was drive interest by socializing like crazy. When he sold his site the new owner didn't follow same policy and site though still having some degree of success shows Alexa over 300k. Commenting for the sake of getting reciprocal comments is a no win scenario, it is like backlinking to other sites hoping they will link back to you just because you did.

    No, comment for two other reasons, A) to build an organic backlink to your own site (worth more than 1 comment typically) B) to potentially interest the blog owner or other readers of that comment to want to click your link and know more or engage you further.

    This is why comments shouldn't be plain as day but should invite conversation, start conversation. I barely have time to leave 5 comments per day on other sites, I wish I could. If I had the time I would leave 50-100 comments per day, still I wouldn't be expecting any reciprocal comments nor should someone comment on my site expecting me to visit their site back, I only do about 10% of the time. This is where CommentLuv helps, if I see a post that is really interesting title it may interest me enough to go visit to read the article. But I also will do it if I think the user left a really good comment just to see what kind of site they run.


      Justin good example of boosting traffic having a strong policy of commenting daily.

      The analogy of backlinking randomly to get a link back is totally valid. And as you mention, commenting should be to encourage conversation (unless you’re only for the sake of backlinks)

      I’d like to be commenting more everywhere, but the time-factor is crucial, and when I do, I don’t expect reciprocal comments in the majority of cases (and this is completely impossible if the comments are done on A-bloggers, whoever they are)

      With the new CommentLuv, the increase of interaction I think it’d be a win – win for the blog owner and for the reader too 🙂

      Many thanks for your visit and comment!

        Justin Germino

        Anytime, I enjoyed the article very much.


          Thanks Justin! Glad you like it.


    It’s a good point about why you should like other people back. I get told about the two schools of thought that you want to get as many people to like or follow you as possible to get your message out, but if they’re not interested in your message why bother.
    I want to find out about things that interest me, not everyone else.


      Sarah the law of reciprocity is different according to diverse criteria, but mine is like yours just numbers or quality? I prefer quality, and of course if the numbers are more, the merrier. Writing for people or only based in your interest? My answer is a balance between them: there is no point to write if nobody read or write something you don’t like either.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion!


    Sonny, this is true and it happened to me. After days or even hours, this person (bot) unfollow you. If I read this ratio and it seems that point, sometimes I don’t follow directly.

    Thanks for your thoughts!



    I guess we all have a different definition of reciprocity. There are some people who count every vote and every comment and every tweet and make sure that each one is reciprocated. There are others who don’t count, but make a point to ensure that the other guy gives more (just to be on the safe side). And there are others who just give, expecting that most of the giving will be returned – and if some isn’t, nobody ever went to Hell for being too generous.

    Personally, I believe that if I want others to vote and comment and tweet, the best way to say “please” is simply to vote and comment and tweet for them. And when I need something, I am not shy to ask. And I never count the votes or the comments or the tweets. But if I am systematically ignored and get nothing in return, then I am massively predisposed to no longer vote or comment or tweet their stuff (although I still do sometimes if I really like it).

    So I very much do believe in the law of reciprocity, but I don’t believe in being miserly about it.


      Totally with you David. The definition of reciprocity can be very different depending to the personality of each person. I don’t like to be counting also the RTs or votes but I take a mental notice for my reference about her/him.
      As you, if I’m completely ignored for a particular person, is hard to be doing some social share of his posts 😉

      Thanks for coming by!


    In my opinion, everything in life is reciprocal, especially in the blogging world, what you give is what you get, it’s as simple as that and extremely true also. That’s why it’s always good to be nice with everybody so everybody will be nice with you.


    The only time I don’t reciprocate is due to time factors…wish there were more hours in a day! I try to take the time to personally message or email back those who contact me, or retweet or mention me on twitter.


    Blogging or social media, it’s true you get less than you give. But this should only be a step in your improvement process, getting traffic and comments. The next step is filtering them till you end up with only targeted and quality traffic and comments, narrowing that distance between get and give.


    Interesting article on reciprocity. I would say some site will not follow on links because of content. Even in blogging the NO-follow exist and yet I think that is because of just content.
    I really can not thinking of anything else as to why the no follow is their because it nice to be nice to those who are nice.


    Another very interesting article Gera. Would the La of Attraction work within blogging and commenting? hmmm nice idea but I think not. While thinking positive thoughts you would be spammed to pieces 🙂


    Some wise conclusions here on reciprocity. It’s impossible to comment on all of the blogs. I’ve absolutely been a good bit more selective recently and though the number of comments has gone down, the traffic is still identical, maybe more.


    Hey Gera

    A very interesting post on law reciprocity. I agree that you can’t expect someone to be friends with you just after the first comment, but yes if you are comments are relevant and genuine, then you can surely expect a long term real friendship.


    Dipa glad we share the same passion for two completely different things. Commenting in a proper way, depending of the blog and niche helps for SEO purposes, more if there is Commentluv installed. When I can, I try to reply to comments on my own posts, because if somebody takes time to read and post a meaningful comment, deserve at least some feedback.

    Many thanks for your visit!


    Agree with you commenting back for the sake of commenting, without adding something to the conversations has no sense.

    Ryan thanks for your insights and all your comments done on the blog.

    Comments are closed