The New, Old Rules for Winning Fans and Influencing Followers

By {grow} Community Member John G. Olson

dale carnegie

Dale Carnegie

I heard Guy Kawasaki speak recently about the need to enchant others to bring influence in the digital age. It reminded me of a book I read decades ago, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends and Influence People,  I paged through it again and was reminded of its timeless wisdom for garnering social influence. Written in 1936, its principles are relevant to digital communications today.

Technology has given us enormous potential for reach, immediacy and influence. It provides a permanent online record of information and interactions. With that, marketers have greater responsibility for what they publish online. A poor communication decision can have a lasting impact on personal and brand reputations, with legal, privacy and employment repercussions. A few examples:

These cautionary tales illustrate how digital communications can go wrong and go viral. Social blunders like these are commonly caused by carelessness, false assumptions or unchecked emotions. They can be avoided by following Carnegie’s principles in online conversations.

Notoriety is NOT credibility

Each of these principles could be the topic of a separate blog post, but do you start to see how these truths echo in our social media maxims and best practices today?

Our media rewards the outrageous but does this does this translate to influence? Not necessarily. Digital citizens need to make a distinction between notoriety and credibility. Viral sensations like Rebecca Black and Gangnam Style memes have a short shelf life. They live on borrowed influence that gets attention and traffic, but does not earn a meaningful, long term following. They entertain, but rarely create a relationship-level connection that truly influences.

In contrast, Carnegie’s principles create a higher level of influence. The emphases on engagement essentials that affirm what is good and connect with others’ core desires inspire a following. People will be inspired to follow you:

  • Because of what you’ve done for them
  • Because of who you are

Mastering the essentials of influence

These principles are simple, but not always easy to apply. An entire industry has emerged that teaches emotional intelligence skills in the workplace. Learning to communicate in ways that build up, rather than tears down, takes self-discipline. But it is a skill worth learning. On the social Web, every interaction sows the seed of potential influence. That makes influence skills more than good manners. It makes them good business.

I would be interested to know — as you review these 10 principles, which seem most important on the social web today?

John G. Olson is a B2B marketer, copywriter and strategy consultant. He writes about marketing strategies on his blog Marketers being Awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @John_G_Olson.

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  • Indeed, John! Dale Carnegie nailed social media marketing in 1936. I use this slide every time I speak. It’s powerful. The only strategic difference today is that we can execute and leverage Dale’s vision much more effectively and easily. Thanks for the great post this morning.

  • There are three books change my life – the Bible, Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich and Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People.

  • They are all on my list too, Kent. Timeless wisdom never goes out of style!

  • Glad you enjoyed it, Jack. It’s good to hear others still carry the Carnegie torch today. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

  • Lots of truth in this post, John. I recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak and his message made a big impression on me. He basically said that social media today has brought back the necessity of small-town values. Long ago, the butcher kept his business because everyone in town talked about how great he was. If his service changed, the news would spread like wildfire and the townspeople wouldn’t go to his shop anymore.

    The same is true with social medial right now. Real time reviews, PR fails, crisis management — how companies deal with these negatives can greatly impact how they are perceived for months moving forward. Likewise, being genuine, helpful and friendly can go a long way towards making friends and cementing relationships.

  • Kent, I’m with you on two of ’em! I need to check out Napoleon Hill, since you and I click on the other two. Sounds like a recommendation!

  • Tara, I like the analogy of small-town values. On the Web it’s easy to fall into a false sense of anonymity, when in reality, the community is watching. Recently I saw a tweet that expressed this: “Tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you.” I like that. Thanks for your comment.

  • Yes. Even the title is Think and Grow Rich, but the 17 principles of Napoleon Hill can apply to any areas of our lives. 🙂

  • Yes, that’s why we work with them to publish Dale Carnegie 101, Napoleon Hill 101, Charles F Haanel 101, etc. 🙂 Those are eBooks. 🙂

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  • Great article John – goes to show that while the tools (ie twitter / fb.. etc) may have changed, the subtleties behind influence and community building stay the same.

    I think finding members that genuinely WANT to be a part of ‘your’ community is the most difficult issue for brands – thats why we end up seeing greasy promotional messaging. People are becoming desensitized to broadcasted marketing messaging… they can sniff out the BS from a mile away.

    Intrinsic motivation is the driver of communities. You have to shift the psychology from what you want your prospective community members to do (ie like ur page, follow us, join group… etc) to what the brand can do for them.

    It’s pretty tricky, but if you can make it easy for people to understand the benefit for them, they’ll be seduced into your community.

  • itsjessicaann

    It’s important to go back to the basics despite being a digital society. The rules will always remain prescient. If you can’t practice what you preach in-person, and don’t have the audacity to back up your digital life face-to-face, credibility and
    influence go out the door. Great post, John.

  • Great summary of Carnegie’s first principle: take interest in the interest of others. Thanks Connor.

  • Well said Jessica Ann! I think it’s key to apply these “rules of engagement” consistently, whether in person or online. Being consistent is an important element to building credibility and influence that Mark discusses in his book (Return on Influence). If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it. (And no, I’m not on commission!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Good post John. Behaving in the online world should mirror one’s behaviour in the offline world. I think this was your money quote “On the social Web, every interaction sows the seed of potential influence. That makes influence skills more than good manners. It makes them good business” I would add that behind every online interaction (i.e. conversation on the social web) is potential for a relationship. Having enduring relationships in turn will turn allow for influences on both sides.

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  • I agree, Abdallah. On social media it’s too easy to get caught up in gaining followers and fans, and accumulating Likes and Retweets at the expense of meaningful engagement that builds into relationship. I love hearing stories about people who connect on social media and then become offline friends. Those relationships create mutual influence. Good point! Thanks.

  • Absolutely. You can make friends and even do business with some people you interacted with online. The key is how you interact. You might be interested in giving engagio ( a look. It is a productivity tool for managing and discovering social conversations. It is Free! FYI. I work with engagio

  • kbpignone

    Excellent post! Most times it comes down to common sense and execution.

  • Nicely done. it is pretty hard to steer away from the Carnegie model. The rules are same whether you are connecting IRL or digitally. Sometimes it is hard to get people to understand. This post goes a long way in helping to understand that.

  • So true. Simple, but not easy!

  • Thanks Gerry. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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