#SMTLive today!

8 Things Dale Carnegie Got Right About Social Engagement

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. 

Join The Conversation

  • yoavburger's picture
    Jul 23 Posted 5 years ago joelburger

    I read Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People" and even went to a series of seminars years ago.  What he teaches is how to be positive, treat people nicely and fairly and when you create good will - they will usually reciprocate.  I agree with you that best practices in social media are the same fundamental rules Dale Carnegie teaches, but now we can reach many people at once, and everything happens almost instantaneously.

    Thank you for this great blog.  I have included it in Best of the Web so I can share with my audience. 

  • ritanagh's picture
    Jul 23 Posted 5 years ago ritanagh

    8 wonderful things to live by in social media and everyday life!

  • Jul 23 Posted 5 years ago simonjryan

    My Dad was born when Dale Carnegie printed his first edition of 'How to win friends and influence people.' He worked most of his life in sales and was at his most successful when he followed the book's guidance to the letter.  My Dad first gave it to me to read at 14, and I have revisited 2 more times since then.

    Your helpful blog Limor has saved ny going back for a 4th time to review it for the digital age. What you have proven is that the principles for successful social interaction that Dale Carnegie observed are as true today as they were when my Dad was born nearly 80 years ago. Thank you.

  • sims's picture
    Jul 20 Posted 5 years ago sims

    I think simply put social media is a journey identicle in a way to your life journey. Much the same as you learn life skills you learn social media skills. What I mean by that is as we grow up and interact with different people and cultures and are put in various situtaions we learn and adapt with new skills. Much the same as your experiences in social media.

  • seanasheppard's picture
    Jul 19 Posted 5 years ago seanasheppard

    Amen on this post Limon!  The mediums may change, but the rules of human interaction remain the same.  I am particularly attached to #3

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

    At my company, TalentCircles, we have built our entire engagement platfrom around this philosophy.   If you want value, you must first provide value.  

  • Limor Windt's picture
    Jul 16 Posted 5 years ago Limor Windt


  • Limor Windt's picture
    Jul 16 Posted 5 years ago Limor Windt

    Hi Kent, yes, I agree that- removing the log-in proccess would entice more feedback :)


  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jul 16 Posted 5 years ago Kent Ong

    Hi Limor, you got your point as well. I think it depends on on readers. Some of them think to register or login is very troublesome to do it (since human is getting impatient), some of them might think register to comment is part of community.

    So far, what is the response? Good or bad?

  • Jul 16 Posted 5 years ago omusibay

    Great job. Everything you wrote makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

  • Limor Windt's picture
    Jul 16 Posted 5 years ago Limor Windt

    Hi Kent, yes indeed Dale's book could be applied to many aspects of our lives.

    I understand your point about needing to log-in to leave a comment on this forum, though in social media terms once you are "loged-in" you are now a part of a community, a hive, vs. just being a visitor, so your engagement level is higher and you are more involved.

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jul 15 Posted 5 years ago Kent Ong

    Hi Limor, Dale Carnigie's book - How to win friends and influence people is not only for social engagement, but it is for one's life - communication in between husband and wife, in corporate, in sales and marketing. For those who would really like to know how to communicate, one book is enough.

    By the way, just curious. Since social media is about openess, engagement, why Social Media Today needs readers to login to comment, don't you think that it will reduce the interaction between bloggers and readers?

Webinars On Demand

  • May 09, 2017
    With all of the technologies available to marketers today, have we lost that personal touch? Join VP of Content Marketing for ON24, Mark Bornste...
  • April 05, 2017
    In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, operational efficiency, quick turn-around times, testing and adapting to change are crucial to...