How To Pay For Friends And Not Influence Anybody

The finest book I’ve ever read on how to behave on social media was first published in 1936. It covers everything: customer relationships, brand management, engagement, outreach, and more. Of course, it wasn’t meant to address these topics. It simply couldn’t help itself.

The book is “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Despite the title, it reads more like an etiquette manual than a guide for manipulation -- and Carnegie is clear on the distinction. For example: “The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”

Carnegie talks about being genuinely interested in others, about how you make people feel when you are happy to see them, about how being a friend is the surest way to get a friend.



Although it was written 57 years before the birth of the World Wide Web, Carnegie’s work could easily be distributed to social media interns today as a standard of behavior. Don’t talk only about yourself. Be sincere and empathetic. Consider what motivates the other person, not what motivates you.

It is a book full of common sense and insights that seem incredibly obvious the moment they are articulated. It is the kind of book that deserves to be revisited every few years, just as a reminder.

And it is also a book that the government of Israel has clearly neglected to read. Last week, the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying that students would be paid to say nice things about Israel online, without having to identify themselves as having any affiliation with the government.

This unbelievably shortsighted move is almost comical in its irony. The net result is that the government has put any nice comment made about Israel under a cloud of suspicion, thereby doing themselves out of the benefit of having sincere supporters speak up on their behalf.

Paying people to say nice things about you doesn’t make you seem nice. It makes you seem desperate. It’s the reverse of that old joke: once we’ve established you need to buy friends, the rest is just haggling over price.

So, with respect, here are my recommendations to the Israeli prime minister’s office:

  1. Immediately disband the pay-students-to-say-nice-things program. Put the $778,000 allocated for it towards schools or hospitals or peace talks or something.
  2. Immediately require any person affiliated with the government in any way to declare this affiliation on social media, especially when engaging in any conversation at all related to politics.
  3. Let the whole thing die down for a bit.
  4. Issue an open invitation to supporters of Israel, domestically and internationally, to discuss the country on social media.
  5. Resist from jumping into the fray with an “official” line.
  6. Listen.
  7. Listen.
  8. Listen.

And a final word of advice from the great Carnegie himself: “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, for your character is what you are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

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