Social Media, invented in 2009 or 1929?

What can a poor Midwestern farmer’s boy, born in 1888, who wrote a well-known book in the 1930′s, teach us about social media in 2012?
Quite a lot actually. We are deluged by endless books, magazines, conferences, websites, blogs, apps, and the dreaded ‘gurus’, all talking at you about the greatest discovery since the combustion engine: Social Media. At first, (way back) in 2006, we were talking about ‘Word of Mouth’ i.e. tapping into what people were saying to one another about products, which has always been influential in dictating purchase consideration (who knew?) Fast forward to 2012 and every marketer has a some kind of social media strategy (give it to the intern), team or in some cases, even a ‘Chief Listening Officer’ (whatever that is). In most cases these folks (only under 25 yr. olds need apply) spend their time adding up how many new ‘like’s there is to an excel sheet, troll for followers on Twitter and spend the rest of the day IM’ing about how awesome Tosh.0 was last night.
These days when we hear the expression ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ , it’s  often in the context of a joke (Perhaps Charlie Sheen is a fan) As you might know, it’s the title of a book written in the 1930’s by a chap called Dale Carnegie, who held courses on public speaking dating back to 1912. Since then his speaking program and additional books he authored (50 million sold to date in 38 languages) have gone on to become a global publishing and communication training corporation.  Given that marketers are all about how to win friends and influence people, we thought it would be interesting to compare Mr. Carnegie’s guiding principles with how we go about the craft of social media. Keep in mind these principles are for personal success; however they work equally well when harnessed by a brand.
10 Ways To Win Friends & Influence’rs For Your Brand
1. Give honest and sincere appreciation: Say thank you when a consumer gifts you their time, attention or endorsement, they are adding equity to your reputation.
2. Become genuinely interested in other people: Who are these strangers speaking up for your brand? Do you ever follow up on a comment or tweet to show your interest in them as a person? This is a potentially priceless brand evangelist money can’t buy. Think about it; All us marketers are customers/end users, right? So what If I told you that we as consumers are in an abusive relationship with our own marketing? Try to picture what I’m about to delineate in terms of a disappointing personal relationship you have had- Did they talk about themselves constantly, teling you how great they are, how lucky you are you have them and how superior they are to everybody else? Did they also expect you to lavish money on them whenever you went out, like a cheapskate would do? And finally,  do they exhort you to compliment them on Facebook, follow them on twitter, upload pictures of them on Pinterest? And if you dare criticise them on said forums, does your comment go unnoticed or even get deleted? Hmm? Sounds like a relationship from hell, no?
Have you heard of WIIFM?  You know, that adult contemporary radio station in KC, new Wi Fi technology, Nintendo game console?
In the context of this discussion it refers to Whats In It For Me, a phrase coined by Mr Carnegie back when he wrote his first book. We all listen to WIIFM because we want to be appreciated, loved, honored, respected, admired and most of all, to be heard. Its human nature and the more we take a sincere, pro active  interest in the people we know and interact with, the most successful these relationships will be for YOU, the most interesting person you can and will ever know (Even more than the Dos Equis guy). One final point, whats your favorite word you love to hear more than anything else? Money? Fame? Power? YTMD? Nope, its your own name. Whenever you hear someone else speak your name, you experience joy beyond any other reference. Once again, something Dale Carnegie figured out back when the automobile was still a novelty
3. Smile: Because when you smile the whole world smiles with you. Find a way to infuse levity and optimism into your messaging, we are in difficult economic circumstances, and not just unemployed people; homeowners, homeowners that lost their home, recent college grads that cant find work sitting on a mountain of debt, Mets fans, families of military personnel, the list goes on and on- its tough for everyone and while Congress and corporate execs may not feel the pain, the people do and they are your constituents and customers.
4. Remember that a person’s name  is the sweetest sounding word to them: If you want your target audience to like the sound of your brand name, find a way to get to know and use their name.
5. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. This is often the biggest challenge for marketers who are used to doing all the talking about their themselves “Hey check us out, over here, over here, aren’t we great, we are so awesome, hey we don’t care who you are as long as you give us your money, you won’t regret it p.s. tell your friends too, you know you want to”
6. Talk in terms of other people’s interests: Question: Who is more interesting to a person, your company or their life? In order to want to listen to your marketing pitch find a way to communicate in a personalized way that they deem important.
7. Make the other person feel important- and do it sincerely. When someone shares an opinion, a suggestion or observation, it’s important;  give them confidence that regardless of its immediate relevance, it’s a worthy and meaningful contribution and encourage them to keep thinking about your brand. You never know a year later this same person might offer up a game changing idea.
8. If you are wrong, admit it immediately and emphatically. We all know about those companies that sat on a crisis instead of being transparent. As a consumer, we know mistakes happen (we make them too) which can be frustrating, but we dislike being lied to much more. Travel delays, product recalls, late delivery it’s all about managing expectations and the best way to do that is to communicate as early and honestly as possible.
9. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking: Whoa, so let consumers talk about us but we don’t get to talk about us? What will they say, what if they all complain, were screwed! This is the biggest fear about social media amongst marketers- ceding control of the conversation to their customers ( like that feeling you get when a fairly inebriated fraternity brother you haven’t seen in 15 yrs. stands up at your wedding to ‘say a few words’ about the groom. What if he tells that story about when…)
10. Let the other person think the idea is his or hers: Well, this is basically talking about crowdsourcing, no? Let your customers do their work for you, win some cash and get their creation made and aired during the super bowl etc.
Final Thoughts
There is much more in the way of insights from Mr Carnegie’s thinking that is relevant to the challenge we all face today in being heard and cutting through BS to get to the unvarnished truthyness (Colbert reference). Sometimes we over complicate simple issues in our noble pursuit of strategic insightfulness, a contribution that carries significant pass along value which is used to determine our relative degree of so called ‘smarts’. Of all the freinds, co-workers, clients and supervisors I have encountered in my 16 years ion the job, the two ppl that embody all the skillz I have outlined above is Ned Williamson and Scott Empringham. We all worked together at Y&R LA back in the early noughties and while Ned sadly is no longer with us, Scott continues to personify the thinking of Dale Carnegie in everything he does.  Feel free to check out the company he’s built off his own back and in his own inspired way:
Shane Crombie

1 Comment

  1. Scott Empringham says:

    Blown away, dude. Thank you for the kind words. Not sure where to start. You’re spot on about the comparison between Dale’s work and the implications today. Honestly, I can’t say I’m in either of their leagues (Ned or Dale’s), but am deeply moved by your blog. I CAN say this: both have had a significant influence on my life and how I attempt (and fail much of the time) to live it. Thank you for the very kind words, Shane.


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