The Positives and Negatives of Sharing Everything You Know About a Subject

This post was sparked by this tweet from my buddy and amazing social media marketer - Brian Chappell (pronounced chapel).

So it got me thinking, why was he so surprised I was sharing such detailed insights into how we do linkbuilding? To me it is pretty natural to let it all hang out and hold nothing back. I think many others in multiple disciplines operate the same way, so I figured I would follow that mantra and share with you all the pluses and minuses of literally sharing everything you know on a subject matter.

Positives (in order)

1 – It forces me to innovate, get better, and be on top of my game. When anyone who has deep knowledge in an area shares that information he/she immediately has given their “competitors” insights into how they do things, meaning the person sharing that information must go back to the lab ASAP and work on the next new thing or they'll be behind.

It makes you hustle more when you share everything you know, you are constantly giving up what many would consider to be a competitive advantage, so you gotta go find a new one.

2 – When you give out GOOD stuff you get links, leads, interview requests, traffic and rapport, I don't promote my own stuff very much, you won't see me asking for RT's (re-tweets), I let it roll, post it to my twitter and internally link stuff like any good SEO would, but asking for sphinns and RT's of my stuff is not my style. I have probably asked for fewer than 5 ever. If I write something good with a little promotion it'll catch, if its not great it won't get so much traction and I gotta get back to the lab.

3 – It creates karma. I often refer to building up my “karma bank” which is a core belief of mine. If I share everything I know with you and try my best to help you out with no motive, I think that there will be times when I am in the trenches and need help and I think others will come to help me out as well. This is precisely why I have NEVER taken a DIME to refer someone, our company is built on referrals mostly by people who never wanted a cut, it would pollute the system if I started asking for a cut. We just want to see our clients and colleagues get connected with great individuals and companies to help them succeed. Not to mention, many people with a conscience who don't share everything will feel guilty when they get so much from you, and at times will share one or two of their secrets that they don't make public. After a recent presentation with Rae Hoffman where I shared an idea or two, she came back and improved on it with some really smart queries. This is an example, you give stuff out people will come back to help you or improve on your idea.

4 – Video has created a crazy and very unexpected byproduct. When I speak and share slides on slideshare, like this linkbuilding tutorial one from the Affiliate Summit (where I will be speaking in August in NYC) or SEO videos on YouTube, it has helped break down the “sales guy” approach of selling our service.

Because my style in presentations is to give it all out, and be helpful I will spend as much time as I can helping people - when people who have used the tactics I share on YouTube get frustrated or just decide they don't want to do this themselves, who are they going to call? Very often they are going to call the guy who gave them tons of advice and answered their e-mails with no motive 6 or 12 months ago.

On that initial call people feel like they already know me, and that helps break down barriers in the sales process where so often prospects are “on guard” because they expect you to be “salesy”.

Negatives in order 1 – Time – As my buddy Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ said earlier this week, the issue is that sometimes, the desire to give freely and help everyone who comes across your path can kill your time, or result in some people feeling like they got the brush off. Sometimes you want to just veg at a hotel bar and put on some Lily Allen and someone comes up and asks you a question, and its my style to put the music on pause and try to help that person. It's a time killer for me to spend 30 minutes with someone on the phone who has a 1,000/month budget that is lower than our minimum, but I take the time and try to educate them on how to find an SEO and then I'll go one step further and try to find a TRUSTED referral source. While this builds the "karma" bank it kills my “me time” bank. I'm 100% ok with that, but the more you share the more you should expect to have me time killed at conferences, shows, and the like.

2 – Abusers – Its not in my nature to be rude, but at times you have someone who just won't believe you and wants to argue after asking you for YOUR advice to THEIR problem. These are the people who you just walk away from, if you don't like my advice that's fine, or if you have substantive counterpoints that it great b/c I learn form you as you do me, but sometimes people will ask you a question or two and then continue to ask you one more question for months and months. Respect is a two way street.

3 - You can't answer everyone, I try my butt off to say thank you to anyone who takes the time to listen to me, subscribe to my youtube channel, etc. (Not on twitter b/c I don't follow everyone back there, check out Matt Leonards post on twitter following to get my perspective, but that approach just doesn't scale, so I don't get to respond to 100%, but I think I respond to about 85% of subscribers, commenters, @'s on twitter etc. I have a rule that I try to follow which says, you can ask me anything, and I'll answer it but just might take me 4,6,8 weeks to get back, but I will get back, again sometimes this rule gets broken, but I try, and I let people know to expect an answer in 2-3 weeks so they aren't left hanging, if you need a quicker answer get a consultant. You should set expectations so people don't go around thinking you are a jerk b/c you didn't respond to their request in 24 hours.

4 – Lateness – This may happen to you regularly where you get so into what you are discussing that you forget other important things you told people you'd get to. Very often I run late to just about everything once I start talking SEO it kinda consumes me (sorry to my mom and Nora for the times when I run an hour later than expected).

5 – Expectations that you'll always have the answers – once in a while people think you know it all, and when they ask you a question, like “hey do you have a favorite SEO plugin for drupal” and you say something like “actually I don't” – they think you are holding out on them and catch attitude.

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President