If you looked at direct selling 30 years ago, and direct selling today, chances are you’d notice some differences. Chief among these, of course, are individual websites for distributors, placing orders through a portal rather than on the phone, and other technological advancements that have enabled us to carry on business more efficiently. And each time one of these major changes is introduced, the traditionalists within our industry instantly proclaim that adoption will certainly mean the death of the party plan as we know it.
Of course this hasn’t happened. The party plan model is alive and well. But we are an industry of tradition, and change is hard.
Is it any wonder, then, why it’s taken us so long to adopt a social media model? Indeed, some companies STILL refuse to participate, even though it is overwhelmingly evident that social media has created a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. I often say at conferences, when I speak on the topic, that telling a Gen Y that they can’t use social media to communicate about their business is like telling someone 20 years ago that they can’t use the telephone. Inconceivable.
As an industry, we need to get better at change, without fearing the death of the model as we know it. Indeed, newer companies are at an advantage here when they launch with these technologies, as the cumbersome decision-making processes and traditions at larger, more established corporations prevent the nimbleness that social media demands. It could be said that these younger companies have a competitive advantage when it comes to appealing to Generation Y, which is a demographic that every direct selling company should be focused on, if they want to be around in 20 years.
Social media does, indeed, represent a fundamental shift in the way we communicate about our business. Not that it detracts from the fundamentals…after all, we are a relationship business at heart…but rather, we need to get better at how we support our distributors in using this technology to develop those relationships that lead to success. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and imagine that business as usual will continue to carry us forward. We must keep up with the times in order to be considered a viable business model.
Social media is, once again, a game changer, and I do not imagine that it will be the last. Are you ready?