How To Reward Your Fans (And Make The Web A Nicer Place)

When someone links to your blog, do you think:

Another link? I’m so awesome. I deserved that link because I’m hotter than Hasselhoff and twice as entertaining. Sometimes I wish I were someone else just so that I could experience the awesome feeling that comes with linking to me. Wait. No, I’d cry if I were someone else. Other people are so lucky that I let them link to me. I’m remarkable, I’m amazing, and it’s no wonder that I’m huge in Scandinavia.

Of course you don’t. For most of us, getting a link is like a getting an unexpected little gift.

If someone in the real world gave you a small token of their appreciation, would you put it in your pocket without saying a word, or would you thank them? Most of us would probably thank them automatically, and maybe even get them something in return. Even though links are the currency of the web, why aren’t people as appreciative when they’re given links?

Reach Out, Reach Out And Thank Someone

Maybe the web’s anonymous nature makes it too easy for us to ignore the fact that there are real people behind other sites. Maybe that same anonymity has made us pessimistic about the intentions of people who link to us. Despite what the marketers feed you, the web is not a series of billboards for target demographics. The web is a loose community of people.

While I won’t deny that some people create links for the sole intention of getting something back, most links are generated by real people for purely altruistic reasons. Generally, people link you because they like you. They’re not only dedicating their own time, energy, and web space to you, but they’re reaching out to you to give you as free token of their appreciation. Shouldn’t you find a way to thank them? If you treat each person who links to you like they have given you something valuable, then thanking them isn’t an extraordinary measure, but a matter of basic manners.

But, is merely well-mannered enough?

Going Beyond Well-Mannered

Maybe I’m naive for still clinging to the idea that the web is more about giving than selling, but I try to give back more than I get. With the amount that I take from the web every day, we all know that this is nothing more than a wishful ideal, but I find that merely heading in that direction guides me toward being a happier and more open netizen.

I’ve made icon sets, I’ve created a WordPress widget, and written countless tutorials on various topics only to give them away because I think that people should get something for nothing once and a while. When someone gives me something for nothing in the form of a link, I try to go beyond sending a simple e-mail to thank them.

Imagine this: You give someone a dollar, and they thank you. Which of the following situations seems like it would potentially lead to the greatest benefit?

  1. You both walk away.
  2. Later, the person unexpectedly gives you a dollar.
  3. Over the next few months, the person gives you several one dollar lottery tickets.

I can almost hear some of you out there pounding out “lot-te-ry, lot-te-ry” on your keyboards, and even though I’m not much of a gambler, I’d have to agree that the lottery tickets are potentially the most beneficial. Sure, not every ticket would win, but each ticket represents a potential win.

If we imagine that the dollars were links, the first scenario is the simple method of thanking someone for a link. Only one person really benefits from the exchange. The second scenario would be what is known as a link exchange. Everyone benefits, but the net gain is zero. Only in the third scenario does the response exceed the value of the original link. This third scenario is what I call “The Lottery Ticket Method” and it’s a remarkably easy and effective way to give back more to people who link to you by leveraging the power of social networks.

The Lottery Ticket Method Of Rewarding Fans

  1. Know who is linking to you
    You can type link: into Google to see who is linking to you, but this can lag behind for smaller sites who may not be indexed very well (or at all). The best way to check who is linking to you is to comb through your referrer stats regularly in whatever stats tracking package you use.
  2. Thank them
    When you find that someone has linked to you, send them an e-mail or leave a comment on their site thanking them for the link. If you don’t, your grandma will be ashamed of you and a cute puppy will grow up with a limp.
  3. Keep an eye on them
    Create a special folder in your RSS reader called “Linkers” and add the RSS feeds of the sites that link to you into it. If you don’t use an RSS reader, I suppose you can bookmark the sites or chip the addresses out on a stone tablet. What’s important is that you find an easy way to track their posts.
  4. Buy them lottery tickets
    Check the Linkers folder once a week and when you see a post you like, add it to one of your social networks such as StumbleUpon or Mixx.

By submitting people’s posts to social sites, you can potentially give them a a bigger rush of traffic than you could provide with a single link on your own site, making it better than a simple “thank you” or link exchange. By leveraging the traffic from social sites, you have offered them the same hopeful potential offered by giving lottery tickets.

The idea here is not to get people to link to you with the promise of a reward. The real idea is to give back to people for being nice on their own. It increases good feelings, makes the internet a better place, and takes no time at all. I’ve being championing people like this for a while, and I’ve found it to be the simplest, most effective way to reward people for taking time out to link to me.

Do you have tips on how to reward people who link to you?

2 thoughts on “How To Reward Your Fans (And Make The Web A Nicer Place)

  1. Nice post. It really makes a lot of sense when you put it the way you do.

    And I’m quite guilty of not submitting sites to social networking sites (I’ve never used StumbleUpon, and have only hit up Mixx a few times). That’s probably something I should work on.

    One way to NOT reward people is to put there link somewhere that WoW gold spammers are gonna flood their comments. I hate having to block nearly the entire country of China from my site. If only the people were as great as their (Americanized) food!

  2. I have been doing a few of these things already – think pay it forward for nothing .
    Great post .
    I came by via Lani Gieson she mentioned you in the Aussie Bloggers forum … just so you can thank her.
    Your site look interesting I will be back for another look around.

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