When they used to solicit at airports, Hare Krishnas would hand a tiny flower to prospects before asking for a donation. They hoped their targets would welcome the small gift and return the favor with a donation. Many of the Krishnas’ targets simply tossed the flower in the trash and refused to donate.

So the Krishnas changed their tactics and replaced the flowers with small American flags. More of the targets kept the flags, and donations increased significantly.

This story demonstrates the reciprocation rule in marketing. When someone gives you something valuable, you want to reciprocate. It’s easy to toss a tiny flower in the trash. The flower has little or no value to you so you do not wish to reciprocate. You move on without donating.

You may be reluctant, though, to trash an American flag. It’s a small token, but it’s a token, nonetheless. You have received it and kept it. You’re more likely to reciprocate.

This story and the reciprocation rule offer important lessons for 21st century marketers.

I often suggest that you include tips and other valuable content in your emails, social media posts, and blogs. If you give readers something they value, they will return the favor – by reading more, reposting your content, buying and referring your business. The more you give, the more you get.

This idea is more important than ever on Facebook. The social media giant now limits the number of people who see businesses’ posts. If you have a business page on Facebook, you may assume that all people who like your page will see your posts. But that’s not so. Facebook will show your posts only to a fraction of the people who like your page. Facebook wants you to pay to “boost” your posts so others will see them.

Who sees the unpaid posts? Facebook does not reveal its secret formula, but this much is obvious: People are more likely to see your posts if they have engaged recently – liked something you recently posted, commented on a previous posts or connected with you in some other way.

How do you encourage people to engage with your page? By giving. When you like someone else’s post, that person may reciprocate by visiting your page and liking one of your posts. When you add a constructive comment to someone’s post, the poster may return the favor with a comment on your next post. Those people who engage with your page are then leading others your way because references to their likes and comments appear before their friends who may discover you through those references.

All of this activity broadens the pool of people engaged with your page and, thus, lengthens the list of people who may see your next posts.

So if you have a Facebook page, don’t just post and run. Post on your page, but also visit others’ pages and interact with them.

Visit the pages of those who like you and engage with their posts. Share relevant posts back to your page.

Like their posts. Add comments. Each time you do that, you drive more traffic back to your site.

Tag people and businesses in your posts. When you reference others in your posts, they will share your posts, visit your page and engage more with you.

Facebook will infer that people want to see your posts if those people who spent time interacting with you and your page.

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