Most of us only pay attention to what we're trying to get from our social networks instead of what we're giving.
How many of us count how many times we're liking, thanking, commenting and sharing other people's content? Not many, in my experience.
Adopting a proactive giving strategy – paying it forward – is the key to social engagement and building social capital in the influence economy.
In social media, we promote ourselves by promoting others.
If you're disappointed with your social media ROI, try this: Set a "giving budget" for your social-media activities and set goals. How many "likes" do you want to give each week? How many times do you want to comment? If you connected to clients on social media, set a separate giving budget for interactions with them.
Here are a few practical ways to give more to your social networks:
1. Use lists and share content. Track influencers and clients using Twitter lists and Google+ circles then share interesting information from those people every day.
2. Pay attention. Invest a certain amount of time and mental energy each week to review the links and words shared on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn by your key influencers and clients. Look for intelligent opportunities to engage. People often reciprocate if you are consistently giving them attention.
3. Give credit where it's due. When you share anything, mention the source. If you discover a great article shared by a contact on LinkedIn and then tweet it, give a HT (hat tip) to the first person.
4. Endorse people on LinkedIn. It's an easy and effective way to be top of mind. Endorse them for skills relevant to your relationship, not just the one LinkedIn suggests.
5. Like and comment thoughtfully. It's easy to click 'like' on articles shared to LinkedIn and Facebook, but take time to read the link and add a meaningful comment for greater engagement.