Doin' Work: Looking Beyond Social Influence

There are something along the lines of one trillion articles about the social influence measuring tool known as Klout. There are also a bunch of pieces about trying to understand influence in our own little niche in the HR and recruiting space. There are lists and criteria and posts dissecting how influence is measured. Or maybe some tips on increasing influence (which, why would an influencer want to tell you how to unseat them?) or how to use influencers and Klout to sell bullshit and B2B software.

This isn’t one of those posts.

Oh sure, I’ve been on those lists (well, the good ones, heh). And I know that whenever I go to a conference and tweet a lot, I become a LOT more influential than I was the day before according to services like Klout. It seems like a system that can be pretty easily gamed, right? Right.

I want to look beyond that, though.

There was a documentary by Spike Lee a few years back called Kobe Doin’ Work. I don’t think it was Lee’s best work but it did an admirable job capturing a game day for NBA star Kobe Bryant.

There was something fascinating to me that, as a full-out Kobe hater™, I couldn’t shake. He’s a basketball geek and he loves playing and competing. I don’t think he has a social life outside of basketball. You get the impression that he spends his off time watching game tape, working out, and thinking about basketball. The literal eat, sleep, breathe character.

Bryant’s rewards have been incredible, of course. Five championships, an Olympic gold medal and various individual honors as well as the league’s most recognizable and best paid star (by more than $4 million per year, before endorsements).

He’s had some missteps, obviously. He isn’t the most likable guy in the world. He doesn’t ooze charisma like another Lakers legend (Magic Johnson).

Bryant is influential because he is good at the game. And if you’re thinking that should be a no-brainer, it should be.

In real life, we don’t reward people because of activity on social media. To be sure, Bryant has a fairly significant presence on Facebook but I doubt he actually does much with it himself. But do I believe for a second that Ricky Rubio is more influential, even though he has 8 times as many followers on Twitter than Bryant?

Not influential in anything that matters. Winning games, selling sports products, whatever…

Of course, what you do in social media matters somewhat. How much? I don’t know. My grandma knows who Kobe Bryant is and it’s not because of his sparkling personality or his social media presence though.

Do the work. I won’t pretend that social media is a meritocracy but doing real work of value is better than being named influential every day of the week. If you are great at what you do and you have a decent social media presence, more power to you. But don’t ever forget which is the most important.


  1. I LOVE this post Lance. The more social influence ranking tools that come along, the more people you see become instantly influential because they know how to game the system and in a lot of cases, aren’t busy with their day job.

    If you want to have real influence, then you do it through your work. Your boss, your co-workers, your team. You do it in a way that is not self-serving. You do it because its what you take pride in.

    • Lance Haun

      June 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Agreed. I think I generally want to believe that cream (the best work, the right work( rises to the top when it comes to real world influence. It doesn’t always manifest itself online though. I think I’ve come to a place where I’m okay with that, even if I have benefited some from that as well.

  2. Do the work. I won’t pretend that social media is a meritocracy but doing real work of value is better than being named influential every day of the week.

    Dude, what else can I say but hell-frickin-yea? I couldn’t agree with that statement more!

  3. Great post, Lance. I’ve been trying (albeit not very hard) to figure out this whole Klout thing and whether it really matters at all. After reading your post, I’m just one step closer to just deleting the Klout app from my iPhone and moving on.

    Just another good reminder that quality trumps quantity any day of the week. Thanks for keepin’ it real.

    • Lance Haun

      June 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      I don’t think there are shortcuts there, either. There are ways to optimize–or to perhaps speed the process up slightly–but most of it is doing your job well and slowly building social media presence over time.

      Or you can buy followers, use schemes and inflate the social media side of your profile too. I just don’t think that, in the end, you end up with that much more real influence anyway.

  4. This is great Lance. I think the core issue that we’re all struggling with is the abstraction between capacity / influence, and the trappings of it.

    That is, a very loud (large number of twitter followers / high profile) recruiter may not be as talented / competent as a quieter, but more prolific one. But availability bias leads us to key on the former, and not latter.

    We obviously think about this a lot: how can you sniff out and reward the implicit work product, such that the actual influnetial / competent are tagged as such…and not just the loud ones.

  5. Great post. You talked about two of my favorite things, the Lakers and Social Media!

    As someone who has a fairly high Klout Score (68) I don’t put much stock in Klout. I think too many people confuse cause and effect here. They think they will be seen as an expert in their field if they have high Klout rather than realize then let their expertise speak for itself.

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