Social Media: Giving Without Expecting Anything in Return

I had a painful sore throat that lingered for weeks. I was exhausted. My children had one illness after another—croup, bronchitis, the stomach flu, high fevers, sinus infection. They only had to be in the same room with each other and the germs would jump with glee off one child and run over the next. All of this within six weeks.

I was on the phone cancelling yet another activity when my friend said, “I’m bringing you a meal and I won’t take no for an answer.”

I stammered, “Oh, I think we’ll be okay—“

“I’ll be over this afternoon. ”

Later she delivered a huge pan of Mexican lasagna, homemade applesauce, and freshly baked blueberry muffins and cookies. And to top it off, she’d stopped by Dairy Queen and picked up small blizzards for each of us.

As I spread out the meal on the table, my daughters looked at everything in amazement and said, “That was really nice of her to give us a meal like this. We’ll need to give her a meal sometime in return.”

“Yes, we can do that,” I started. But then I realized I had a teachable moment not just for my daughters but for myself too. “Actually, Mrs. M. gave us this wonderful meal without expecting anything in return. She wanted to do it because her gift is showing mercy to those in need.”

“Just like your gift is writing?”

“Yes. And when we’re using our talents to serve others, we enjoy doing it without thought of reward or payback from others.”

My friend used her gift sacrificially in a way that said, “I want to give to you, not from what I can gain, but because I truly care about you.”

Her example made me pause and evaluate if I’m using my gift of writing to serve others without thought of reward. In a day and age when sales numbers matter and statistics make or break future book deals, is it even possible for writers to give without secretly hoping it will profit us?

Of course when we write with passion and pour our souls into our books, we give a piece of ourselves. Whether it’s inspiration, hope, or just plain entertainment, we’re giving something through the tales we spin.

But can our giving go beyond that? Are there other ways we can give to our readers—without expecting increased book sales or accolades or anything else in return?

In a recent Marketing Webinar I attended, writers were encouraged to think about how we can incorporate giving into our marketing and publicity. In the internet age we may be able to initially attract readers to our blogs or websites. But what do we have that will keep them there and then foster them coming back? Here are a few ideas:

*Make a fundamental shift in our attitudes. We can start to look at our marketing more in terms of connecting with our readers and giving them something of value without thought of how it benefits us. In other words, we can’t make our social media sites all about us and our books, but should work at shifting the focus to our readers and what they want or need.

*Look for opportunities to give without expecting anything in return. Most of us can smell out the scent of selfish giving—especially those sites that offer us something in an effort to promote themselves. I’m usually hesitant to participate in book drawings or other giveaways that are clearly self-serving, but I'm much more likely to join in when I sense a "no-strings-attached" attitude.

*Find unique and practical ways to give to others. Actual book giveaways are the most popular. But there are other possibilities: resource lists, links to helpful sites, encouraging advice, inspiration. Some websites offer reader pages that include games, quizzes, extra information, etc. The point is to begin to be on the lookout for how we can serve and minister to the needs of our readers.

My friend’s example of selfless-giving is one I’d like to imitate in my writing. It’s one we’d all do well to imitate in any situation. I’d like to get to a place where I can honestly say, “I want to give not from what I can gain, but because I truly care.”

How about you? How hard or easy is it to give without expecting anything in return? Have you ever considered the concept of giving in your marketing efforts? What other ways do you give or have you seen others give on social media sites?

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