What is the New ‘Information Gift Economy’ and How Can Your Business Embrace It?

by Marcus Sheridan

Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘Gift Economy’? If you haven’t , then it’s time you started embracing this new paradigm tailor-made for the information and social media age, as well as everything that comes with it. But before we delve into this article, let’ see what our lovely friends over at Wiki are saying about gift economies:

gift economy“In the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards….. Information is particularly suited to gift economies, as information is a nonrival good and can be gifted at practically no cost. Traditional scientific research can be thought of as an information gift economy. Scientists produce research papers and give them away through journals and conferences. Other scientists freely refer to such papers. All scientists can therefore benefit from the increased pool of knowledge. The original scientists receive no direct benefit from others building on their work, except an increase in their reputation. Failure to cite and give credit to original authors (thus depriving them of reputational effects) is considered improper behavior….. Jordan Hubbard, writing in Queue magazine on the open source community (although referring to it as a barter economy), essentially describes a gift culture, where reciprocity is a broad community custom, rather than an explicit quid pro quo: “The volunteer software engineers in the open source software community are far more likely to help those who have demonstrated their commitment to the success of the overall open source software development process.”

Ok, so I know that was quite a mouthful but hopefully you have a good feel for how the new age of gift economies work, as well as how information based gift economies have a major role for the success of business owners and entrepreneurs in 2010 and beyond.

The great Hugh MacLeod, an incredibly popular blogger and cartoonist known for his killer creativity, recently explained 3 keys to effective ‘gift’ giving in such an economy:

1. Figure out what your gift is, and give it to them on a regular basis.

2. Make sure it’s received as a real gift, not as an advertising message.

3. Then figure out exactly what it is that your trail of breadcrumbs leads back to.

Upon reading these profound thoughts by Hugh, what caught my eye the most is that whatever it is, it must be received as a real gift. Obviously, the more we give to others as people, the more we’ll earn their trust and gain their respect. Although this does not always mean such ‘giving’ will lead directly to financial reward, the giver will always be positively impacted in diverse ways.

So I ask you my fellow readers, what gifts are you giving to your clients? What are you doing that makes your friends, acquaintances, customers, etc say: ‘Wow, this is great. Thank you so much for this.’

I’ve talked about this very subject a few times here on The Lion when referring to ‘truth hoarders’ and the need that we have to freely share the things we do that make us successful to others, in-turn helping those persons reach their potential. Many people shy away from such ‘sharing’ as they embrace a hoarder’s mentality, not wanting anyone else to experience what has made them successful. Such a state of mind runs rampant in our society, but I do feel the internet has, in many ways, broken down this unfortunate cultural state.

As pretty much all of you know, I own a swimming pool company. Over the past 12 months, we have attempted more ‘gift giving’ than we had our previous 8 years in business. For example, despite the fact that we have the #1 Swimming Pool Owner blog on the internet, it is also easily the #1 Swimming Pool Builder blog on the web. What I mean by this is that we have 3 main types of articles we produce.

The first consists of topics helping a swimming pool shopper to make the best decision as to what type of swimming pool and options they should choose for their purchase. The second type of articles we write entail industry news. Because our blog is read by so many pool consumers and business owners alike, I receive a constant flow in my inbox of noteworthy events that are occurring within the industry. This information enables our blog to act as an online newspaper for the happenings within the industry and has allowed us to break many stories before normal industry magazines pick them up. And finally, the third type of article we write is designed specifically for those persons attempting to build a pool, i.e. pool builders. For example, we have produced YouTube videos dealing with everything from unloading a fiberglass pool to applying waterline tile to a fiberglass pool.

Why We Choose to Give

Often times, we get asked by other persons why we put so much information on our site. Our answer to this is simple—We want our industry to be better. We want to elevate it. And we certainly don’t want other companies to make some of the mistakes we have made in the past.

Oddly, certain people in our field feel like we give too much. They don’t like the fact that we are honest when it comes to the good, the bad, and the ugly in the swimming pool industry. They also don’t like that we teach modern building technology to consumers when there is still a ‘good old boy’ mentality held by many companies, leading to antiquated pool construction methodologies and frustrated homeowners in the long-run. But simply stated, neither I, nor my business partners care about the fact that we receive flack from others because we know what we are doing is right. And we also have been able to see the results—Incredible sales numbers, an extremely loyal following of consumers and builders on the blog, and improvements within the industry.

That’s my point here. The more information we give the world as a business, the more Karma, as well as the Law of Attraction,will intercede and bless us tenfold. I’ve seen this over and over again with River Pools and I’ve been blown away by this principle during these four months of writing The Sales Lion.

As many readers know, I offer a free small business website analysis on this site. While there are literally thousands of such offers in the online community, mine is the only one I’ve seen that’s free. Most people don’t even believe I do it until we talk on the phone and then it hits them—“Yes, this guy if for real. Holy @#@#.” Since I started this service, I’ve forged some great relationships with awesome people who have in-turn helped me as much as I’ve helped them. Between this service, as well as my general postings, this blog will soon reach 1000 subscribers and I know that this is just the beginning. In reality, a quality blog might just be the best example of giving in an ‘information gift economy’ in the  21st century.

And one other unique point to this blog—I’ve explained on here EVERY marketing and sales technique we use at River Pools. In other words, I’ve shown competitors why we are selling more pools than they are. This has again lead to numerous emails from swimming pool companies across the country, all of which I’ve happily answered,  understanding that there is truly room for everyone to be on top. Yes, in the world of small business, we can all place 1st, and I’d personally like to help as many others as possible reach such a goal.

So to close, I challenge those that are not yet  gifting information to their customers to consider ways to do such. As you embrace this new form of economy, I can assure you through my own experience that you will be blessed abundantly while enriching the lives of others.

Thoughts on the new ‘gift’ economy? What gifts are you/your business giving? As always, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 20, 2010 at

Those are great thoughts to ponder. Thanks for the phone call last week. I appreciate the time you spent with me.

John Nault
.-= John´s last blog ..7 great tips for parents with teen drivers =-.

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Marcus Sheridan March 20, 2010 at

You’re very welcome Nault, keep kickin butt up their in the Northern Country;-)

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