Chapter 3 (part 2) Gifts vs. Money

By Jonathan Goodman | Follow Him on Twitter

Gifts Vs. Money

Go back to Ariely’s example from the previous section where he showcased a scene at thanksgiving. While it’s unacceptable to bring your host an envelope full of money it’s perfectly acceptable to bring them a gift costing the same or even less.

The gifting economy is an extension of what Ariely describes as a social norm. While the gift has a value associated with it, that value isn’t monetary and therefore doesn’t skew the system.

A gift is given without an immediate call for retribution. It’s usually obvious why the gift was given. The receiver maintains the warm and fuzzy feeling they get when they invite a friend over for dinner and the gift giver starts the chain events.

I’ve given gifts more times than I can count and in more ways than I can remember. Some of the gifts I’ve given are:

  1. A copy of my book(s). This is my favorite gift to give because it represents my hard work and passion. I can’t give anything more valuable. With this gift I always include a personally written letter stating why the receiver is getting the gift, or how they helped me / influenced me, and I sign each copy.
  2. An introduction. As my network grows I give this gift more and more. An expert’s power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find.  Whenever I speak with somebody I always try to think of somebody else that I can introduce him or her to.
  3. Technical help. Somewhere along the way I built up a good technological skillset. I’ve no idea where it came from but I consider myself adept in WordPress website design, troubleshooting, and html coding. I’m also a Google ninja. Often I’m the first person somebody calls when they are having a problem, I’m more than happy to help if I can free of charge of course.
  4. A recommendation. Similar to introducing two people to each, I often recommend people I know to others for work. Being the center of information is important in any business where you want to build influence.
  5. A letter. Yeah, they still exist. Snail mail is becoming a powerful relationship-building tool once again because people receive so few letters. I’ll often opt to send a letter over email when it’s somebody who I want to make a connection with.
  6. Anything. Sorry for the ambiguity but I really mean anything. I’ve sent flowers, gift baskets, and even baseball tickets as gifts. What’s important is that the gift is meaningful and has value for the receiver. Knowing what is important to them helps and going out of your way with a gift says a lot.

Don’t expect anything in return for your gift. Often you will get a thank you message to acknowledge receipt. The gift is a tool to build a relationship.

When I released my first book Ignite the Fire I sent copies to 60+ people. Some of them included magazine editors that I hardly knew. The accompanying letter was personal and stated how their work and the magazine influenced me. I also highlighted a section in the book to bring their attention to.

5 months after the book was released I got a tweet from an editor at Muscle & Fitness. It was succinct. “Not sure if any of the other editors contacted you, but we chose your book as our book of the month for our next issue. It’ll be profiled in the magazine.”

The magazine is printed internationally and has massive distribution. It was also a big step in establishing legitimacy for a self-published book. There was no amount of money I could have paid to get my book featured. I’m convinced that just sending the book to the editor would not have had the same effect. It was the gift of the letter that made the difference.

Being Part of Something Greater, a Movement

Nobody cares about you. Sorry but it’s true. People have their own businesses, struggles, and stresses and you aren’t their priority. That is unless you can offer them to be a part of something bigger than them – a movement.

To build a movement you need to first identify a need in your industry. I found my need through interviewing hundreds of personal trainers. Think about a gap in knowledge that exists in your industry.

Instead of building or branding your website about yourself, make it about the gap in knowledge. Others who are passionate about the industry will want to join your movement. Having established authorities as a part of your network or website is a huge step when nobody knows who you are.

For thePTDC I called these people coaches. A coach didn’t have to do anything. Some of them contribute articles and advice and some of them have been mostly silent partners simply lending their name to the cause. Having them involved early on meant that I could approach more people and include them in my network.

Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than they are. Already established industry experts enjoy being involved in a variety of causes as long as it doesn’t involve much of a time commitment. As long as your work is good and your cause is genuine you will be surprised at the response you get if you just ask.

Positioning is everything. Being a part of a movement alongside influential people in your industry will create the illusion that you are influential yourself. Perception becomes reality quickly online if you play the game right.


Links are currency online. Many people don’t understand the true value of links and what they do. It’s common knowledge that links go a long way to help you rank in search engines. That being said a link from a small blog won’t do much. It’s a grain of sand compared to a boulder of a link from a high domain authoritative site.

Links are gifts. Use them any other way and you will be labeled a spammer. When I get an email asking me if somebody wants to participate in a “link exchange” I erase the email and make a note not to speak with that person again. For one thing, every Google update works to punish linking networks. For another it’s not the way I want to do business.

What did work for me early on was to compile a list of my favorite reads from the previous week. Recall that I had a massive list of fitness blogs. After identifying which blogs I deemed to be good I picked a couple good posts from each week and listed them on the review post. I then sent the writer an email, tweet, or Facebook message.

This message thanked them for the great work and told them that I placed them on my list. I didn’t ask anything in return.

What I learned quickly was two-fold:

  1. The list had to be small. A list of 50 reads each week is not selective and nobody feels all that special to be on it.
  2. Adding a picture of the blogger who wrote the post works well. People really like to see their picture and there’s a better chance they will share your list.

Over time the writers might message you back and thank you for the inclusion. The link-gift is a way to break the ice and get the person into your inner circle. Network is everything in this game. If you build it your spark will switch on the lights. If you don’t it will fizzle out and die.

Interesting Aside – The Blogroll

Since the early days of the web links were a hot commodity. Michael Sippey in 1997 became the first well-known collector of links on his website

The collection of links started as a way for him to organize his thoughts under the heading “filter”. Before long other bloggers, or WebLoggers at the time, were asking to be on his list. Before the days of SEO links were a source of public recognition for ones work.

Blogroll’s started soon after, in 1998 by Cameron Barret, for his website CamWorld. Backlinking took the center stage as this was the first major public list of interesting pages. According to Scott Rosenberg:

Once there was a public list, people wanted to be on it – both for the recognition that inclusion would confer and for the actual click-though traffic is might direct”. 3*8*

The Networks Algorithm

Unfortunately I don’t know the specifics of Google’s search algorithm. If I did I would be a very very rich man. What I do know is that they have a room filled of the smartest people on the planet figuring out complex mathematical formulas to do one thing: They want to gear the search towards what and who you want to listen to. They are doing everything in their power to take down spammers, black hat techniques, and link exchanges. If a black hat method works now, it probably won’t soon. Gaming the system could lead to some temporary success but will hurt in the long term.

Facebook is similar in vein although they have made their algorithm a bit more know. While the specifics change they are trying to turn the feed into your own personal news source by selecting what and who it thins you want to listen to. It does this using a system called EdgeRank or GraphRank.

EdgeRank or Graph Rank is based off of 4 things:

  1. Time. Newer posts are chosen for over older posts.
  2. Affinity. This is a measure of how much of a relationship you seem to have with the person posting the content. Everything from clicking on their links, sharing their statuses, and even viewing their profile is monitored and taken into account.
  3. Weight. How much interaction that post has already garnered. If a lot of people have “liked” or commented on it then it will show up in more peoples feeds, like a snowball effect.
  4. Type of Content. Different types of content may or may not be chosen for. This changes. In general: Videos > pictures > links > status updates > posts from outside applications.

What it boils down to is how much engagement you get. Generally pictures get a lot of engagement so even if they aren’t chosen for in the algorithm for types of content they will have a lot of weight.


3*8*Rosenberg, S. (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. New York : Crown.