How to win traffic and influence markets

people walking across a bridge

How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the bestselling self-help books ever published. Written by Dale Carnegie in 1937, it has sold 15 million copies.

“[Dale Carnegie] changed my life”
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest people and most generous philanthropist of all time.

The book isn’t about how to be popular like a prom king/queen, how to cajole people to do things against their will or about how to play the office game of trampling on certain people to get to the top.

It is more about looking at life from the perspective of other people. But what can a book like this, written over 70 years ago, tell us about internet marketing? The answer is a great deal.

The book has 30 core principles. Here are a few of them and their possible application in the world of web…

Don’t criticize or condemn

If you see someone has made a mistake in a blog or a forum, don’t wade in and lambast the person with annoying words like “fail” and “idiot”. If you really feel they would benefit from the correct information, why not PM them or email them. They don’t want to appear stupid in front of their peers and it won’t benefit you if they do either.

Don’t complain

Don’t complain to clients, don’t complain to co-workers – don’t even complain to yourself under your breath or even in your thoughts! Complaining is negative energy which breeds negativity.

Give honest and sincere appreciation

Isn’t that what I’m always saying about social media and blog commenting? If a blog post you have read is helpful don’t just say “Nice post”. If you sincerely congratulate the blogger for their hard work and explain how it helped you honestly, your appreciation will be gratefully accepted.

Arouse in the other person an eager want

Carnegie talks a lot about seeing things from the other person’s point of view. And allied to this is internet marketing’s holy grail: make people see value in what you have. How do you do that? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What could arouse desire to make you click that link?

Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

I love to talk about myself. It’s the only subject I’m expert on. This is a great advice for people wanting to get responses from the leaders/heroes/rock stars in their niche. Do you want to get an internet celebrity to write for you? Send them an email with 5 questions about them. It’ll take them 5 minutes to write, they won’t have to do any research and I bet 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a favorable response.

The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

Dale Carnegie used to love an argument. In fact, he had wanted to write a book about how to argue successfully until one day he realized that you can’t.

He realized that he had changed his mind. So have I. I can remember holding convictions in the past that I now believe not to be true. So what makes us change our minds? We do. No one in the history of the world has ever changed their mind as a result of an argument. Period. And, if anyone disagrees with me, I’ll argue with them!

Seriously, arguing is a waste of time. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you lose. The other person will still believe they’re right and will resent you forever.

Read pages and pages of flame wars on a forum. Do they teach you anything? Sure a healthy disagreement within a discussion is natural. But an argument online descends into people accusing each other of saying things they didn’t really say and reaching for dictionary definitions and Wikipedia entries to justify themselves.

Arguing wastes time, saps energy and diverts you from your goals.

Show respect for other people’s opinions, never say, “you’re wrong”

Remember, if two partners agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. Of course, there are going to be differences of opinion and it’s good that there are. But be diplomatic with other people’s opinions. Show them you understand why they hold that differing opinion and then move on.

If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

We all make mistakes. But sometimes our biggest mistakes are not being brave enough to admit them in time. Someone who admits their mistakes garners respect.

carnegie hall

Photo by ShelleyS

Little known fact

Author Dale Carnegie changed the spelling of his last name from “Carnagey” to Carnegie in 1922, at a time when Andrew Carnegie (the hugely wealthy industrialist and philanthropist) was a widely revered and recognized name. Dale Carnegie was able to fill out New York’s iconic Carnegie Hall for lectures. So he lectured in the hall that bears his own name – marketing genius!

What about you?

Have you ever read this hugely influential book? What other advice have you gathered from self-help literature that has helped you in business?


  1. says

    Thanks for the post and reminder. Another thing that I took away from Dale’s book was the fact that we all have the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others.

  2. Mark Narusson says

    Hi Rob. Fantastic blog with some thought provoking ideas. I have heard about this book already, so maybe it’s time to order a copy. Will Retweet.

  3. Jon Butler says

    Great, topical advice for me, this. Just in the middle of a business reorganisation and all the above is essential advice for dealing with people in a time of change. Thanks.

  4. says

    Good post, with strong analogies.

    I first read the book over 30 years ago, and still return to it every now and again to reinforce the values I have come to admire.

    I guess you could say that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Hmm, I think I can see a new post coming myself!

  5. says

    Thanks for taking the time to apply the principles of that book to the Internet and then write this. It was helpful and contained good gems such as “no one ever wins an argument.” Quite true.
    In fact I think I will have to reconsider some blog posts I’ve written and the tone of future ones bc of your piece. Thanks!

  6. says

    Hello Audley, thank you, and good point: we all have the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others.

    Hello Mark, thanks for the RTs. Hope you get round to buying the book!

    Hello Jon, business reorganization is always a trying time. I hope this helps!

    Hello Alexandra, I always hate to see flame wars!

    Hello Jeff, haha! Yes, it’s surprising how you can find great wisdom in some old truths.

    Hello Nichole, thank you. I hope the piece helped you. It seems you were even applying some of the principles in your comment!