Dale Carnegie in the Digital Age: “There is No Such Thing as a Neutral Exchange.”
Social media has been a recurring topic on our blog. We’ve recently focused on the ideas of Reggie Bradford and Joe Pine and their exhortations that businesses should go boldly into that new frontier: the virtual world of friends, comments, and likes. What are the keys to making the most of social media marketing, according to these luminaries? Make your content socially relevant to consumers. Give your consumers an experience in “augmented reality” that will benefit their lives in this reality.
Is this the same social media world of Facebook, Twitter, and viral YouTube videos that is so frequently characterized as self-promotion run rampant?
Into this two-sided 21st century world of hyper-connections and hype comes one of the 20th century’s seminal works on communication by Dale Carnegie. In October 2011, Dale Carnegie & Associates published a version of How to Win Friends and Influence People updated for this digital age.
The core of Carnegie’s message from 1936 is preserved in the new publication. In “Why Carnegie’s Advice Still Matters,” the prologue to the updated version, Brent Cole reminds readers that, although the frequency and varieties of communication have increased in today’s world, Carnegie’s principles are still relevant. “There is no such thing as a neutral exchange.” Every communication is a chance to affect someone’s life positively, and the best way to do that and create lasting and genuine relationships in your personal and business life is by showing interest in what others have to say. That exercise in generosity of spirit will also help make you a more compassionate person who will earn trust and influence.
Because we live in an age when celebrity influence can be borrowed like credit lines and media coverage can be won by squeaky wheels, it is all the more critical that every communication opportunity matter—that every medium you use be filled with messages that build trust, convey gratitude, and add value to the recipients. The one thing that has not changed since Carnegie’s time is that there is still a clear distinction between influence that is borrowed (and is difficult to sustain) and influence that is earned (and is as steady as earth’s axis). Carnegie was the master of influence that is earned.
What about the updates and revisions? The focus on face-to-face communication in Carnegie’s original work has been shifted towards communications like email, texting, blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking. New media perils and pitfalls are addressed. So how does the new material fare?
The problem with “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” is that its verbal DNA has been not merely tweaked but scrambled. Carnegie’s great virtue, beyond the simplicity of his core ideas, was his unadorned prose. … That homespun virtue has been obliterated here. This new adaptation seems to have been composed using refrigerator magnets stamped with corporate lingo: “transactional proficiency,” “tangible interface,” “relational longevity,” “continuum of opportunities,” “interpersonal futility,” and “our faith persuasion.” The devastation, in terms of Carnegie’s original charm, is nearly complete. Were Carnegie alive to read this grievous book, he would clutch his chest like Redd Foxx in “Sanford and Son,” smile wanly for a few minutes (he didn’t like to make others feel bad), then keel over into his cornflakes.
But aside from that, how can you carry Carnegie’s vision into the intersecting worlds of social media and business?
Online communities are conversations, asynchronous and maybe faceless, but interactions nonetheless between at least two and sometimes many more people. If you address the needs of your customers in your social web content in an upbeat and respectful manner, you give them a reason to come back. If you give them a space to have their say, they may invite others to the conversation, and your influence and maybe your “likes,” followers, and customers (if not your friends) will grow.
Do you have any stories to share about connections made and trust achieved with customers through social media? Pitfalls averted? Transactional proficiencies? Please share your experiences with us.