This post is fifth in a series of my Social Media Principles. The base post is 10 Social Media Principles.
#6: Karma is real – You give more, you get more.
I was much amused to find that Doug Haslam’s mention of An Bui’s remix of the 10 Principles focused specifically on this principle. He says:
Not that this was An Bui’s intent for the blog, but I have trouble imagining saying “Karma is Real” when trying to ask the Big Boss for more social media budget.
Well, it certainly was our intent and I welcome the conversation. I personally have found most upper management (Big Bosses) prefer arguments that are both in and out of the box. Concepts like this rupture the box from the inside.
Reap What You Sow
If Doug is worried about non-western religion, he can use Reap what you Sow
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.- Galatians 6:7
or perhaps B.B. King
I do everything you tell me to
You won't do anything baby but try to make me blue
Baby, you ought to treat me right
Oh baby, you're gonna reap just what you sow
-- B.B. King, Treat Me Right
"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Trust me, the invocations are inexhaustible. Karma is not a concept owned by any culture or religion.
As a word, Karma simply means “action”. As a concept, it is tied to the laws of cause and effect. If we give more, we get more. If we act well, we are treated well. If we are snarky, we get some snark back.
Court of Public Opinion
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffet
What other people think matters. And it should.
In business, people are judging your brand, your product quality, and your actions. People are taking their money, their energy, and investing it in your product. Your reputation is important.
Prior to now, business reputation could often be made through advertising and public relations slight-of-hand. But the world is becoming more and more transparent and, simultaneously, elephant-like. It sees more and forgets less.
Once trust is destroyed it is very hard to build back. No one is rushing to give Bernard Madhoff more money.
An Bui’s post focused on this concept.
Internal to a business, Karma is a major driving force as well. For example, who is hired, promoted, and ultimately successful for your company is entirely a product of karma.
But whose Karma and what Karma?
Ideally, it would be bottom-up karma – a meritocracy of the best and brightest working their way up through the system and creating the best and healthiest company imaginable.
Why are you laughing?
You are laughing because we all know it doesn’t work this way. Promotions are all-too-often the result of backstabbing, Peter Principling, incompetence reshuffling, ulterior motivating, politicking, etc. Sometimes it’s due to corporate or union momentum – that inexorable force that promotes people simply due to longevity.
You are laughing because it’s inconceivable that we could create a business that would be healthy enough to actually reward and promote appropriately.
(This is why Buckingham’s first book is called First Break All The Rules. The current rule set doesn’t allow for bottom-up Karma).
An organization most often derives its culture from management. As we discussed with the mythical company Amalgamated Suckup (Jim’s version, An’s version), as companies become less introspective, they rely more on policy to govern the business.
Policies become a crutch.
Policies generally require stuff and most often that stuff comes in the form of information rigidity. The right form at the right time – no exceptions.
As the form trumps function, people lose enthusiasm and stop working for the success of the company and more for the success of the policies. “How the game is played".
Karma being satisfied here is not from the bottom – or from the individual. The karma being satisfied here is from the institution.
Now, follow the dots.
If a bottom-up meritocratic approach gives you the best and the brightest – what does a top-down bureaucratic approach give you? It gives you people skilled at satisfying your bureaucracy and navigating your politics.
Karma in Social Media
"Realize that everything connects to everything else."
- Leonardo DaVinci
Now, unless my history is inaccurate, DaVinci didn’t have a Powerbook. (though he probably sketched one)
Karma is certainly not an invention of social media. But social media highlights how people react when healthy social reinforcement is in place.
Karma in social media is everywhere. Whether explicitly stated, as in this screenshot from Plurk, or more implicit, understanding the notion of Karma is what makes a good social network.
But, as used in social media, friends are people you have contact with. The term friend is … friendly. Networks form.
People in these networks do things.
To the left here we have my Yelp statistics. I’ve given this company 140 reviews, gone to a bunch of their events, and I’ve amassed about 100 friends.
Why? Why would I spend my time adding to the intellectual property of this company?
The reason is entirely Karma based.
I gave them 140 reviews, these reviews were good enough to get them to make me an “elite” member. This means I rose through the meritocracy to get special perks. (Hosted dinners, etc.)
You will also see that people vote on each review. It can be useful, funny and / or cool. This is done by readers. Any reader.
Compliments are from fellow Yelpers who can leave a compliment under any of 9 categories.
Good behavior on Yelp can be noted by anyone at any time and in many different ways.
Social media has shown us repeatedly that sites that provide ample rewards for good behavior see more good behavior. Those that penalize bad behavior see people leave and go to other sites.
What Goes Around Comes Around
The principle here is a principle: Karma is real. As businesses plan projects, cultural changes, and their relationships internal & external, the fact that in a networked world people can quickly judge and mete rewards or punishments must be a guiding force.
The community will judge your company based on your actions. It’s that simple and it’s that complicated.
Or Perhaps Bob Dylan says it better:
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
-- Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody
UPDATE: Here is a good, concise application of this principle by Hutch Carpenter correlating tweets to followers.
Image and Captions for the Image of the “bloke from Poland” courtesy of Donald H. Taylor.
Written at my vacation house, in Ocean Shores, WA.