Social Influence and the Shift of the Carnegie Principle

Meet the social instigators

When Dale Carnegie wrote the book on influence more than 75 years ago, he probably didn’t realize the impact he was about to make on society. Just ask the 15 million people that have bought the book since 1936.

But, more than just sharing some evergreen ideas on how people and ideas can really connect with each other, Carnegie also pioneered how we – as individuals – are perceived by others.

Swap that to social influence today, and brands are now looking to highlight those they perceive as influential, to market their services and products for them.

Whereas Carnegie looked to show you ways on how you could make friends quickly, get you out of a rut, and make you more effective all round, today’s influence is finding uptake with brands looking to (often) bypass the legwork that Carnegie advocated, and utilizing shortcuts instead.

These shortcuts mean quicker access to the many; identification of who can spread a message; and more cost-effective approaches to outreach programs and brand advocate partnerships.

This has led to the popularity of companies like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex, as well as niche offshoots like Reppify, and Tawkify, to name but three. Each have their benefits, and proponents of these platforms highlight the importance of their place in today’s social media-led marketplace.

However, critics of the services point to today’s influence measurement being nothing more than activity based – the more you are online, the more you’ll be measured as influential, whether you encourage people to act on your activity or not (the dictionary standard of influence).

Perhaps the middle ground offers an insight into where Carnegie’s vision and that of social scoring metrics need to be.


One of the most-discussed areas of influence in the current iteration of social scoring is that of context. As mentioned earlier, proponents of social scoring platforms point to activity being a valid metric – if you’re online a lot, you understand the nuances of the space and how it can be influenced.

Critics point to automated social feeds with little to zero engagement that – while enjoying a high influence score – would be rendered useless when it came to being an influencer to partner with in a social media campaign.

This is where the context argument plays its hand. By definition, context is:

… the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.

By that definition, it’s the very thing that influence looks to do. By connecting the right people with the right brand, and sharing the right message to the right audience, the results should be favourable every time.

If the context of the message is right, and the relationship between the person and the product the message is promoting fits, then there is an immediate “belief” in the message being more than just a sales promotion.

Find the context, and the pieces of the influence bubble begin to come together.

Relevance and Readiness

If context is important, relevance is equally so (if not more so). You may trust the person/influencer sharing a brand’s message with you; you may even be the perfect audience (based on demographics and research) for that message and that product at that given time.

Until you hit the relevance angle.

  • Are you really in the market for this new product right now?
  • Are you financially available to be the customer?
  • Has your situation or taste changed since you last bought a product from this brand?
  • Are there external issues at play here?

The relevance to how ripe you are as customer is something that no influencer can bypass, no matter how much you trust them, or trust the message.

It’s why the social influence market is only just beginning to grow and mature. Activity may be an early barometer of someone’s potential to a brand and its audience – but there are far more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to add.

Context, relevance and readiness are three – but even they’re just the start.

To truly mature the social influence – and, by association, the influencer – market, we need to remember how many aspects there were to Dale Carnegie’s seminal book and how they all had to be aligned to work their magic.

Then we can really start to move the social influence needle.

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  1. attarehman18 says

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  2. says

    @DannyBrown Thanks for your insights! Clearly online influence and authority measurement is at a very early stage, but I’m sure, as it becomes more sophisticated it is going to be very relevant.

  3. says

    Thought provoking post as usual Danny.
    Do you believe that social media concentrates the influence of  the few who can provide brands with:
    These shortcuts mean quicker access to the many; identification of who can spread a message; and more cost-effective approaches to outreach programs and brand advocate partnerships.
    And/or does social media give brands the opportunity to build their influence with more personal interactions directly with customers and potential customers? And in so doing build more influence by having a relationship with someone whose word of mouth recommendation will carry more weight with family, friends and colleagues?
    In effect they would be building a relationship with people whose influence may be more effective and timely because of their personal relationship with the brands target customer.

    • says

      Steven Hourston That’s a great though, Steven.
      From personal research and working on campaigns, I’ve generally found that the brands that truly meet the customers head on impact their influence on their networks (personal, peers, work, etc) much more than an influencer campaign where a certain voice might have more amplification, but not necessarily the context or relevance. Damn, that was a long sentence! 😉
      i do think the platforms mentioned here can help identify activity – that can then lead to the more in-depth legwork of separating who the real gatekeepers are, versus who’s just online a lot.
      Cheers, sir!

      • says

        Danny Brown Damn it is a long sentence :-)
        You gave some great examples of brands getting it right with their social media interactions in this post
        In your experience which brands are the best in building influence?

  4. says

    Haven’t read the book, I only dabble in blogging and social media as a hobby so still consider myself an amateur at all of this after doing it for 4 years.  I will say that I never regard collecting and measuring influence simply by terms of activity or number of followers.  Influence is so fleeting and typically someone is influential only about a handful of things that are known as their specialty, only in rare cases does someone’s stature/fame/notability have such a degree that merely seeing their name or them talk about something will it influence people to make a purchase decision just because they recommend it.
    When it comes to influence, I try to be be recognized for my own strengths, keep my reputation intact and let word of mouth handle the rest.  I don’t have time myself to try and figure out how to increase influence in social media.

    • says

      Dragon Blogger Hi there mate,
      I think this part of your comment sums it up perfectly:
      “Influence is so fleeting and typically someone is influential only about a handful of things that are known as their specialty…”
      It kind of ties back into Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame ideal, where we may have a passing moment to enjoy a larger audience, but that doesn’t guarantee that we’ll always have it.
      Peoples’ perceptions change all the time, and unless you’re a Gandhi or a Luther King, for example, it’s going to be damn near impossible to maintain attention.
      Cheers, sir!

  5. millerj81 says

    @DannyBrown good stuff. Being useful to the consumer through social can be so powerful. Like Geek Squad’s You Tube channel. Thanks for share

    • DannyBrown says

      @millerj81 Great example with the GeekSquad, mate. Always hoped the Blue Shirt Nation community would go public, too.

        • DannyBrown says

          @millerj81 It’s their internal forum for employees on how best to help customers. Would be great interactive site for community sharing

        • millerj81 says

          @DannyBrown I have heard of that. Where sales can post questions or solutions to common problems etc. Didn’t know what that was called.

        • DannyBrown says

          @millerj81 Yep. It was actually created by a couple of guys from the Best Buy ad team. Wish more companies would follow suit.

        • millerj81 says

          @DannyBrown I think it’s powerful if you can get front line staff motivated enough to participate. Suppose it would depend on the culture.

  6. jureklepic says

    This book is amazing… I read it several times over the last years. You are so right Danny… Context is the key. I would add something else to this discussion. Today is important to understand the object that message is received. Message has different value and different effect based on objects that people receive the message. 
    You nail it with this post!

    • says

      jureklepic Agreed, mate – which is why social scoring (and influence) as it stands today is still very nascent in its approach. The good thing is, it can only get better and mature.

  7. says

    As you know from my Klout post the other day, I love Dale Carnegie, and was trained in that school for sales. I loved it. I also blog a lot about Dale Carnegie as it applies to influence, there a lot of good tips in that book for folks, but they have to keep in mind words have changed a lot.  Here’s a post from 2009 I wrote with all of the principles mapped to socnets:

    • KittermanMG says

      @dannybrown you bet! coincidentally we just emailed Jugnoo re partner prgm and the info@ email did not go thru, plz flw so we can DM #kismit

  8. says

    Love you reminder about the essential nature of context, relevance and readiness. I find the growth in the scope and ability of the tools that able to measure not only online influence and sentiment fascinating. The way we are beginning to be able to map the connections between people and conversations and to see their networks is also tremendously exciting. Alarming ( from a personal perspective, it’s hard to accept how much is knowable about us today) but exciting.However, I am equally fascinated by the tact required to effectively build relationships with total strangers who just happened to mention your brand or one of your keywords. Some people understand this and have an innate ability to reach out, meet people and make connections. For some it isn’t that easy and the web is littered with the ham fisted efforts of people trying to use social media to sell products and services. For those, the concept of context, relevance and readiness and unknown.This will be fun to watch develop.Nice post, Mr. Brown.

  9. says

    I was just thinking how my score on klout has dropped because  am on twitter less for myself these days. So my tweet volume is down and there goes the score. My network is the same as when it was higher. 
    I just the premise is a bunch of hogwash. It is basically a bet. The fact is in aggregate there is a crap load of sharing going on. On a per person basis it is technically zero rounded down. If I was to add up everything I saw online, TV, twitter, facebook,. real life, etc today if I shared 5 or 10 things of content which I would think is probably 2-3x more than the average person, and divide by 3500 you get zero. Even a heavy user like Danny Brown who posts a lot of content work and personal it still is what maybe 1%?
    So the bet is basically what is the chance 1] Danny will share something 2] have this content retweeted, read, reshared, clicked on, acted upon. They aren’t connecting offline. So that is it. They aren’t including blog influence. Just social network. And that gets a 0-100 scoring?
    And this ‘outcome’ percentage is really low. I bet someone with a high score has a low single digit percentage for action and someone with a low score in the 001. – 0.1% ranges.
    And this is valuable to someone?

    • says

      HowieG You raise a great point in the “what is the chance” angle, mate. I was speaking with SamFiorella about this and there are so many factors involved that could derail the goal of getting the “what’s the chance” that it almost negates the process completely. Something to keep in mind for sure.

  10. Rodney Goldston says

    Hi Danny…thought provoking post. I recently got a copy of How To Win Friends and Influence People at a Dale Carnegie training. I have not read it yet, but if an when I do I’ll read it and keep in mind the ideas you mention above.

  11. Rodney Goldston says

    Hi Danny…thought provoking post. I recently got a copy of How To Win Friends and Influence People at a Dale Carnegie training. I have not read it yet, but if an when I do I’ll read it and keep in mind the ideas you mention above.