Musings of a PR Professional

Chapter 5: Listening, Engaging, and Building Relationships

One of the focuses of this chapter is on how to build strong relationships on the Internet. The book lists five rules of thumb one should look to when he or she is trying to build these relationships. They are:

  • Losing control is more important than trying to gain it
  • Authenticity is crucial
  • Karma banking
  • People are good and helpful
  • There is no one-size-fits all friendship

For this blog post, I would like to focus on the concept of karma banking, because I think it is indicative of a new trend going on in our society today. Karma banking is the process of doing things with and for others online in order to establish a trustworthy, mutually beneficial relationship between your organization and others on the web. The idea is that you won’t get immediate return on your benevolent efforts online, but you are slowly building up a reserve of good deeds from others that you can call upon when needed.

Karma banking is reminiscent of the concept of social capital that we learned about in my mass communication class yesterday. Social capital is the term used to refer to connections between a person’s social networks that influences him or her and leads him or her to action.

So, while a large amount of communication scholars today argue that social capital no longer exists (i.e. Putnam’s “Bowling Alone”), I think it has just changed forms. Karma banking, social capital: Two words, same meaning and both are necessary for facilitating civic engagement in things such as politics and nonprofit causes. Rather than saying “Hi” to your neighbor while out in your yard, you shoot one of your Twitter followers a DM to see what they’re up to. Social interaction is just as important today as it was 40 years ago, it’s just adapting to the times like everyone and everything else.

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