Social Influence and the Shift of the Carnegie Principle


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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.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown is partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service agency offering integrated, social media and mobile marketing solutions. He is also founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a social media-led charity initiative connecting globally and helping locally.


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