The Reciprocity Principle

“The reciprocity principle is one of the basic laws of social psychology: It says that in many social situations we pay back what we received from others. In other words, if John does you a favor, you’re likely to return it to him.” – Nielsen Norman Group

The Reciprocity Principle is the heart of Content Marketing. What do blog posts, ebooks, informational videos all have in common? They are intended to HELP people. They are helpful. Well, some are helpful – nonetheless, they are INTENDED to benefit the lives of their targeted audience. By giving, giving, giving; customers will then feel obligated to return the favor somehow.

I was doing some research the other day on real estate when I came across a blog post at Placester. I was impressed. I found the information useful and on the bottom of the post, it said, “Enter your email for a FREE download of our Ultimate Guide to Building a Real Estate Website Book.” 

Placester did me a favor by giving a free valuable resource establishing themselves as the industry expert. I returned the favor by giving them what they asked for – my email, so they could add another person to their email newsletter. Since then they’ve made such a positive influence with their content, I’ve become one of their new customers.

If I was a marketer for a Real Estate Team, I could use the reciprocity principle by creating a vlog series interviewing local business owners. Video interviews will shine the spotlight on local businesses owners and give them the opportunity to attract new clients.

I’d keep them short, three-minute videos once per week. The questions will be carefully crafted to incite intriguing dialogue, uncovering the person behind the business. I’d post this on the website, social media and encourage others to share it and check out our page for more. If I do this consistently and if it appeals to my audience, I have the opportunity to build a brand following, more site traffic and more clientele.

Jim: “Hey Mr. Robertson, we’re looking to buy a new home next Summer. I know you’ve moved around quite a bit. Which real estate company do you recommend me and Sarah work with?”

Mr. Robertson:  “You should check out Weichert. They’ve done a lot for the community and they have their customers best interest in mind.”

Jim: “Oh that’s right, Sarah reblogged the interview they did with your restaurant. Very nice, I’m gonna go check out their website!”

Promoting local businesses demonstrates compassion and goodwill for those in our community. This is a game changer. Not a lot of local real estate agencies have the time, budget or interest to invest in a consistent vlog series. Business owners would reccomend Weichert to their customers. Our videos will attract a lot of local community members. More exposure + consistent, creative, content that benefits audience = positive branding, customer satisfaction and the return of favor – more customers and referrals.


Fiorella, S. (2014, September 24). The Principle of Reciprocity and Influence Marketing. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
Badiu, R. (2014, February 16). Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from




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