Things Dale Carnegie Got Right About Social Engagement

from Social Media Today

July 19, 2012


In 1936 Dale Carnegie wrote the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” analyzing and giving advice about how to manage human communications in an effective, impactful way.  Many books and reports have been written since, and all reinforce that we love to connect, engage, belong to a community and follow what everybody else is doing.

It’s the basics of human psychology that we all want to be “liked.”

The tools and techniques have changed, but the need to connect and create conversations and a sense of community was always there. In the past, we used to gather around local stores in our community (physical one, not virtual), and talk to our neighbors about our likes and preferences. Today it can be done online, in the digital space. If we could only travel back in time to those store front conversations, maybe our rules of engagement online would be more impactful, authentic and real? For now, we can go back to Dale’s book and apply some of his lessons to today’s social media landscape:

1. “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”

Personally, I love this one. So appropriate for the social community world which I often refer to as a “Beehive”. The number one rule in social communities – offline or online – is to behave while in the beehive and don’t aggravate, criticize, judge, or be grumpy.

Ironic to say, but negativity is a hated trait. Nobody likes to hear you moan and complain. People are there to be motivated, inspired and emotionally triggered – make them laugh, make them cry, make them feel, but don’t make them upset. 

1.5 “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment”.  

The Big Secret of Dealing with People 

2. “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion…”

People need to be emotionally triggered. When you look at the most viral videos online you will find a common theme: an emotional or psychological factor.  The sneezing panda video that captured over 138 million views on YouTube psychologically takes the viewers through the emotions of surprise, release (post sneezing sensation) and then laughter.  Laughing babies videos on YouTube average between half a million to over 50 million views for each video. Babies trigger us emotionally with their purity and laughter leads to a mental “release”.

In the social media space, everybody is looking for the one secret that’s going to push their videos to the top and make them go ‘viral’. Well, as Dale revealed back in 1936: get their emotions going.

3. The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want. What do you want?

Another social engagement rule which many have covered is listening – Listening to your customers’ conversations online.

Salad Creations, the international restaurant chain, have launched a social media campaign for national salad month, giving away a FREE salad every day in return to their fans answering a poll and selecting their favorite salad. One of the featured salads in the contest was the “Summer Berry” salad, which was promoted although it was no longer available. After running the contest for a month with over 10 featured salads and an increased viral rate of 15%, the winning salad was the “Summer Berry”. Listening to their customers, Salad Creations owners put back the salad on the menu.

Comcast, as well as Domino’s Pizza, have both experienced some of the most brutal social media consumer campaigns against their service featuring videos and pages full of criticism. Both have turned their brand around by listening to the complaints and addressing them. Listening goes way beyond commenting back and responding to what your fans say on your social pages – listening in the social media space entails going outside your community and identifying what it is that your customers want…so, what do they want?

4. “Everything you and I do springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to be great.” Sigmund Freud 

In the 2012 social media revolution video, the video notes that social media surpassed pornography as the number one activity on the web. With pornography now in second place and ‘sex urge’ being the motivator, does it mean that social media, as the #1 activity on the web, needs to be motivated by the ‘desire to be great’? – and if so, what does ‘being great’ means?

5. “1. Health and the preservation of life. 2. Food. 3. Sleep. 4. Money and the things money will buy. 5. Life in the hereafter. 6. Sexual gratification. 7. The well-being of our children. 8. A feeling of importance….Almost all these wants are usually gratified-all except one. But there is one longing – almost as deep, almost as imperious, as the desire for food or sleep – which is seldom gratified. It is what Freud calls “the desire to be great.” It is what Dewey calls the “desire to be important.” 

If someone “Likes” or follow your post, page or comment it makes you feel important – hence social media interactions satisfy your desire to be great.

6. “The desire for a feeling of importance is one of the chief distinguishing differences between mankind and the animals. This desire makes you want to wear the latest styles, drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children”. 

Both companies and people crave the feeling of importance. We call it engagement, ROI, conversations…but at the end of the day what makes us act is an emotional/psychological trigger that will make us feel important. It was true for us humans in 1936 and it’s true for us today on the web. Social acceptance and the feeling of being important is the driver behind our actions. Understanding that can help both brands and people engage in the social space. 

7. Lincoln once began a letter saying: “Everybody likes a compliment.” William James said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” He didn’t speak, mind you, of the “wish” or the “desire” or the “longing” to be appreciated. He said the “craving” to be appreciated.

Rewarding your customers and fan base is the number one stimulant for growing your social community. Special promotions, giveaways and incentives are the best way to show appreciation to your community. If there is a “magic pill” to an instant increase in your engagement with your customers this is it: give them something for free – reward them.

And lastly:

8. “There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything…And that is by making the other person want to do it”.

You can’t force engagement – it has to be real and authentic. Just like in the dating world, if you are needy or desperate for attention it is transparent, and people don’t like needy. They need to know what’s in it for them, how you can help them and how joining your community can help them better their lives.


So go ahead and better their lives. Make them feel important. Compliment them and reward them.