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Social Media: Klout vs. Karma

Social “scoring” tools like Klout make me crazy. Philosophically, I detest the idea of ranking people in any way – whether it’s through standardized testing or analysis of social media activity and “influence.” It is impossible to accurately measure a person’s true nature, personality, potential, or impact by pushing a random set of data points through a digital sieve. Even if it were marginally possible, the accuracy of the results would vary tremendously depending upon an individual person’s perspective. For instance, though Klout may tell me that Justin Bieber (Klout score of 100) is more influential than Bill Gates (Klout score of 75), in my world that is not true. The verity of these measurements depends upon the lens through which they are viewed.

People often ask me, “How can I get more followers on Facebook and Twitter?” They expect me to reveal a secret process involving plug-ins, widgets, and automated whose-its. There are, of course, all kinds of technological “tricks” that you can employ to grow your numbers, but there’s one low-tech, universally compatible tool that beats them all: Karma.

No, I’m not talking about some new start-up. I’m talking about Karma – “bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad.” ( iPhone app) In other words – getting what you give.

My advice to people who want to build their social following is to focus less on the quantity of people in their network and more on the quality and relevance of those people. It is a misconception that social media success depends on volume. It is not a lottery. Nor is it a “game” of percentages. Those approaches are based on traditional marketing tactics like print ads, TV commercials, and direct mail. With those types of media, the goal is “eyeballs” – get your message in front of as many people as possible and some percentage will respond. For traditional tactics, a response rate of 1 – 2% is considered a win.

1 – 2%?!? You can do better than that.

Social turns the traditional model on its head. In social, the goal is not about getting people to just see your message, it’s about getting people to connect with it … and with you. These connections step you up to a whole new game – one that isn’t about numbers, but about karma. Give your audience the content and connection they want (and deserve), and you will start to reap ROK – return on karma.

If you want people to be generous with their social love, be generous with yours. If you want them to support you, support them. If you want them to take the time to interact with you, take the time to interact with them. If you want them to care about you, care about them. It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take huge effort. What may seem like a small gesture, can have a huge ripple effect – for good or bad.

The edge karma has over Klout is the depth and strength of the connection between you and your audience. When you focus on generating good karma you inspire loyalty. That loyalty – lovely to behold for its own sake – ultimately translates into bottom line benefits like a larger audience, increased engagement, and higher conversion rates. Best of all, all that juicy goodness comes from a very authentic and heartfelt place, not a manipulative one.

Sounds good, right?

There are many ways to cultivate good karma, but I’ll save those for a future post. For now, I hope you’ll marinate a little in the idea of “social karma.” Have some fun with it. Think about:

What you can give that will help you reap that karmic return? How have you seen social karma play out – for better or worse? What’s your favorite kind of social karma?

Until next time – here’s to your good karma!

Image Credit: Just Warr


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  1. Hi Jamie,

    I love your post today! It is so true and so natural to think that when you are good to others “socially” others are good to you. When you share the work of others, others will share your work too. I think that sometimes people feel that the online world has a different set of rules without realizing that behind the monitors and keyboards there are real people reading, interacting and sharing stuff.

    Take for example twitter, there are tons of people with tens of thousands of followers and 0 engagement, that to me is a complete waste of time and space and although the reach might seem to be large, people with much smaller (yet engaged) followings might be able to REALLY reach more people.

    It’s not really just a numbers game as you mention but a continuum of being real, honest and kind, just like you would (or wouldn’t) be in the real world.

    Thanks for another great post!!


    • Jamie Lee

      Exactly, Bernardo! :)
      I just read a very interesting article on the lack of engagement around typical social media:

      I think a lot of people assume that numbers translates into influence, but nothing could be farther from the truth. A person’s influence is directly proportional to the depth of their relationship with the person they are trying to influence. For example, if a Facebook acquaintance asked me to make a donation to a particular cause, I may or may not consider it; but if a personal friend or even a “Facebook friend” with whom I have shared some conversation made the same request, the chances of me making that donation just increased exponentially.

      As you say, it’s not unlike Real Life that way.

      TKS for the thoughtful comment. Appreciate your insights.

  2. Excellent!

    This is one of your very best articles, Jamie – and that’s saying something!

    How we humans get obsessed with numbers! I am just as guilty as the next Jack or Jill, which is why it is great to read a post like this one as a reminder – a splash of cold water in the face, really – that, on some level, numbers are meaningless. They are just numbers, and do not necessarily reflect a dream scenario, as so many of us wish they would. (As in, “Oh, fabulous! I have 20,000 followers, I’m set!”)

    I have been thinking about this point a lot lately, which makes your post all the more timely in my book! Now that I have attained a certain number of followers or friends, my focus has increasingly been on meaningful, thought-provoking, and fun relationships with the high quality people (like you!) I already have made contact with, and seeking out new contacts who share similar values and goals.

    Your sentences and mode of expression are really flying high in this post, Jamie. Brava!

    Best wishes,


    • Jamie Lee

      Thank you so much – for stopping by, for such high praise, and for your contributions. Your point about focusing on more deeply meaningful relationships is the perfect segue into a follow-up post I’m working on. The truth is that the social media “conversations” are not where things happen. It’s when people go beyond 140-characters and status updates that the magic starts to happen. Social media is a wonderful connector, but true creation happens on a more intimate scale.

      … and that’s something I’ll be exploring more myself as well!

  3. From my first foray into the wacky world of social media I’ve put relationship building first. For me, this is what’s made it worthwhile. It is easy though to be seduced by the numbers. When I look at my Klout score I consider how I’m doing in the big picture vs. how I’m doing compared to others. Then, I can see it as a measure that’s worth tracking!

    • Jamie Lee

      Hi, Sandi!
      I love that you call the social media world “wacky.” It’s an apt descriptor. 😉

      As you say – looking at the Big Picture is much more important than comparing yourself to others. I’d take that a step further and suggest that you measure your progress by your own standards instead of by those of a 3rd party like Klout. The social media goals of any brand or individual will vary from each other. The only truly relevant way to measure your progress is to have a very clear sense of your specific goals. Are you trying to increase awareness abour your brand? Engage people more deeply on your blog? Encourage subscriptions, registrations, referrals? What’s your benchmark? When you know this, you can reverse engineer your social strategy so that it’s a perfect fit for your needs. And then you don’t have to worry about Klout or any other ranking – you can just focus on the things you know will be best for you, your customers, and your business. And to hell with the rest of the wackiness!
      TKS for sharing!

  4. Jamie, we must have been on a similar wavelength today. Your latest is a longer, more lucid argument than my own – but we both reach the same conclusion about social influence tools.

    Here’s the post if you’re interested:

    What’s your Klout score anyway? :)

    • Jamie Lee

      John – As a child of the 80’s, I LOVE that you used dialog from “Caddyshack” to make your point. :)

      I think many people are starting to realize that all the shiny tools and widgets are not what they were originally cracked up to be. Although those technologies have some value, when used properly, I hope that more people will come to see social media for what it really is – in terms of building relationships: a way to make initial contact.

      Here’s to learning to live more like Ty. (But, because human nature is human nature, I will admit your question made me curious and I checked my Klout score via Twitter: 45. Meh – didn’t change my life.)

      TKS for sharing!

  5. Greg Johnson


    Great Post! While quantity can be good, I think many people tend to forget about the quality of their message, and who their target audience is. I think Karma, how you treat others both within and outside of social media, will impact how your message is received. While there is nothing wrong in “measuring” our progress, if we are driven by our Klout score, our message and impact will be diluted. If we are driven by developing true connections with mutual positive benefit, not only will we have a positive impact, but our “score” will also improve naturally., I may not have the “Klout” of a rock star, but I will have “clout” with my community.

    • Jamie Lee


      Hello! So glad you came by. :)
      “I may not have the “Klout” of a rock star, but I will have “clout” with my community.”

      I LOVE that.
      When you think about it, who else can you have clout with? Someone else’s community? I think not. People to whom you are not connected? Definitely not. Influence is a by product of community. No community, no one to influence.

      Thanks for adding some clarity. Excellent!

  6. Dear Jamie,

    Haha, I didn’t even know what a Klout score was before today! Hopefully that’s an indicator that I’m doing something right. 😉 I think you’ve definitely touched on something very important here. If you’re really looking to grow your influence, it has to come from a genuine desire to connect with and help others.

    Thanks for sharing…and it’s been a pleasure connecting via our “tribe!” I haven’t really been able to connect as much as I would like to lately since most of my time is going towards finishing up my master’s degree. I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know the gal behind that beautiful avatar picture soon! 😉

    • Jamie Lee

      Evening, Adrienne!
      Thanks for making time to swing by. Glad to see you here. :)

      I agree that true growth comes only from an authentic desire to connect and serve. To some folks, that might sound a little too “woo-woo,” but I believe it’s the truth whether you’re an individual wellness coach or a B2B enterprise.

      Happy to be part of the tribe and enjoying your work as well. Don’t work (or study!) too hard!

  7. Thank you – such an insightful article that directly addresses my qualms about the obsession and value of social media.

    While working in web development I was frequently asked how to best utilize Facebook. I would give them some ideas and tips and direct them to better resources, mostly Facebook. Find and follow other companies and individuals that keep you coming back and learn from them.

    I would encourage them not to blast for followers before being confident with their content and ability to continue providing fresh material. Rarely, if ever, did anyone ever listen to me.

    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave a comment. Your last line “… confident with their content adn ability to continue providing fresh material” is just what I’m going to write about next week. Social media is just the beginning – not the end all/be all.

      They should have listened to you.

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