Lee Odden

The Currency of Social Networks


About 2-3 times a day a pitch comes in via email, Facebook message or other means asking for a mention or a link. Some are cut and paste pitches from PR reps, some are from companies trying to promote their own message and some are from industry associates that feel they have something special to share.

Even when an announcement seems interesting, more often than not a post won’t be created for it since Online Marketing Blog doesn’t really cover industry news. Unless it’s a topic that’s spot on and can help fortify a post that’s already in the works, there’s little if any chance of getting covered. As much as I’d like to give a mention and a link, I normally don’t. However if it’s really good, I do something much better.

Links are important, no doubt, but if you get the attention of an enthusiastic social networker, would you rather have a single mention/link or an endorsement to their network?

To be sure, getting that single link is a certainty that can send traffic and offer a signal to search engines. However, getting your resource introduced to a social network via bookmarking, posting, news submission or other means can mean a boost in credibility by association as well as links from multiple bloggers that see it.

A direct pitch to bloggers via email isn’t the only way to get a blogger’s attention. For example, Monday I noticed visitors to Online Marketing Blog from a recent article posted by Aaron and Giovanna Wall, “The Blogger’s Guide to SEO“. After reading it and liking it, I immediately bookmarked it to Del.icio.ous and posted to my Facebook network of 420+. Aaron and Giovanna certainly didn’t need my help promoting the article, but I can’t imagine it hurt getting exposure to another influential network. Plus, that network was exposed to a really useful resource.

While it may seem I’ve made the case for those pitching stories and link requests to shift efforts to asking for an announcement of their cause to our social networks, it’s not. This is simply an explanation why we don’t take so many of the good story ideas and resource tips we get and make “links” posts with them or news posts. If they’re really useful, they’ll get shared with our networks which is likely worth far more than a mention and a link in a single blog post.

Building networks is an investment in time, energy and when you factor in offline networking costs of going to conferences, a lot of money. From both a personal and a marketing perspective, social networks are only as valuable as the value you bring to the community. Jepordizing that by sharing information and resources that don’t really offer value will only alienate network members. “Poof” goes the social and marketing value if you start to get too “marketey” on your network.

The best insurance towards helping great content travel to social media and networking sites is to build your own network and share relevant content that offers value. Making it easy for strangers that find your content via search to share and save is also helpful. Look for more than just a passing mention or a link by offering truly relevant and unique resources. That content will travel as far as it is useful.

If you’re in the media, blogger or “influencer” relations business, that means including with your pitch, links to resources that include easy to bookmark/share buttons. Let the recipient make their own decision to pass it on, but make it easy for them too.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. The power of networking is immense. For me that’s the best way to build brand, trust and long-term relationships.

  2. While you make a good case for not offering out links, I don’t think you’re making a good argument.

    If — as a trusted expert in your field — you’re not giving a leg up to those hoping to match or better you, what other value do you give to those people?

    Ultimately, it’s all about how you theme and manage your ‘blog.

    But when I read what you’ve said, it could easily be interpreted as you saying you’re not confident enough to endorse directly, so you do so indirectly by other means, in an effort to distance yourself…

  3. Wayne, it has nothing to do with confidence in endorsement. It has to do with the fact that we don’t post industry news ala Marketing Pilgrim, Search Engine Watch, etc.

    When I get emails like, “We launched a new SEO tool, can you mention it to your readers?” or “I just wrote a post about XYZ, will you mention it on your blog?” those things being pitched must fit with content we’re already planning on publishing or it’s not getting covered.

    However, if it’s a great tool or a great post, I may bookmark, submit, post, etc it which may bring far more value anyway.

    If what you got out of the post is that we don’t like to link out – that’s not the point at all. One would be hard pressed to find any post where we don’t link out.

  4. Hi Lee, I did add a disclaimer: ultimately, it’s all about how you theme and manage your ‘blog.

    Or you just become another TechCrunch, which really wouldn’t do!

    But people offering up industry news can’t constitute the sum total of messages you receive.

    And staying within the context of the articles you write, dropping a valued link under some text every now & then won’t harm anyone.

    For me, citations are the new ‘blogroll…

  5. I believe the issue here (for many of us) is the types of people mentioned in your first paragraph don’t understand “The Currency of Social Networks” which creates an unbalanced system of exchange.

    The e-mails, Facebook messages, and PR pitches become little more than requests for a handout, or free ride, and they can oftentimes be more harmful than beneficial. Continual requests become red flags that identify them as people in the industry to avoid, as their pitches show a lack of understanding of the industries currency system. Unfortunately, this behavior is far more common than the behavior of giving or paying forward which is as Lee stated, “only as valuable as the value you bring to the community.”

    It’s simple principle. Those that give value, get value in return. The sweet thing is that this system of currency is set up for you to get more than you give, but as they say in the California lottery, you gotta be in it, to win it.

  6. Social networks are powerful but just check the valuations these guys are getting. Facebook valued at $15 billion !!!

  7. I read this kind of stuff all the time. So I have to ask could you please do a follow-up and explain the ROI for all this SM work? Thanks

  8. It’s as simple as this: You give you get. But what you give better be something of value. You can’t give just for the sake of receiving. MOst people in the blogosphere though, just take.

  9. The article is right and the comments, in turn, highlight the issues that revolve around social tagging and how it can be used. The point of the article is that, in terms of online publicity, you need to have a good reason for not leveraging the power of social networks. The right article an really fly much further than you thought by becoming a true viral piece. In term of the issues, or problems, associated with this approach Boris is right in asking about the ROI and the answer her is that it really depends on the quality of the post. Anyone creating a social tagging campaign must understand that the principles of viral marketing apply. It has to be interesting, sassy, maybe a little quirky, appeal to different people at different levels and contain an implicit rather than explicit marketing message.