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August 17th, 2009

Do Relationships Influence the Link?

A journalist I know and respect moved from one publication to another recently and I’d like to support her new home in the best way I know how, by linking to her stuff.

Now I already do this for the articles/posts she writes for her current home publication. So it’s not like this is new behavior.

But it has me thinking: What determines who you link to? I try to link to the original source that I see for a story but, to be honest, sometimes make a different decision based on the relationship I have with a particular writer. It’s one thing to decide that one publication/site has a better take on a story and make that call, but is it something else to actually say “I like that person better and want them to succeed at the expense of someone else?”

There’s long been this notion that links are currency, which I think is a faulty metaphor. Links aren’t currency in that they’re not traded for other goods. You don’t trade currency for currency. You trade currency for items that are worth, in your mind, the value of that currency. Links are, essentially, just what they are: Directions.

Someone comes to you asking where they should go for pizza and you give them recommendations and directions to one you enjoy. If they wind up feeling likewise they respect you and they find a cool new pizza place. If they don’t they’ll probably box you repeatedly about the ears. So be prepared.

But the point is that links are pointers. They’re not currency, they’re directions. The roadmap we provide to people who ask us for our opinions. So a mix of acknowledging the original source (cause that’s the right thing to do) and recommending those people or publications we feel are worth recommending is probably the right balance to strike. Personally I plan to do what I can to help this writer succeed in her new venture by making that recommendation as often as I can.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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