Are Direct Selling Companies Getting Shut Out of Social Media?

j0438691Last week I wrote about the fact that WordPress.com is now banning MLM blogs on its service.  I think this decision is wrong and discriminatory, and I sincerely hope that the companies reading this will have their legal departments contact WordPress about this issue.  We all need to get involved if we’re to stop what could be the beginning of a disturbing trend.

I’ve been shouting for a while that direct selling companies need to get involved in training their sales forces on the proper use of social media.  There are way too many people out there doing it poorly, spamming the world.  And what we’ve now seen from WordPress could be the beginning of a backlash because of the industry’s hands-off approach up until now.

What will happen if, when the industry finally does decide to get involved and insist their sales forces do it right, we find that all the social networks are closed to us?  As WordPress has clearly demonstrated, this is a very real possibility.  Will the “bad apples” ruin it for the rest of us?  Will this incredible business building tool shut out direct sellers forever?  It’s not that unrealistic to conceive of.

There is a reason that Charlene Li’s engagement report found that the top 100 Global brands were up 18% in revenues when they actively engaged in social media, and companies that chose not to engage were down 6%.  Do we want to be that casualty, because we’re not allowed to participate?

It is imperative that companies get involved RIGHT NOW.  They must get educated about social media, create social media strategies at both a corporate, as well as a sales force level, and then insist on training the sales force to get social media right.  We must also rise up as an industry and fight when unfair exclusions such as the WordPress exclusion occur.  If we allow this to stand as is, it’s going to have far-reaching implications that will negatively impact the bottom line.

EVERY direct selling company should be attending the DSA’s Communication and Internet Marketing seminar this week in Las Vegas. (And I hope you’ll come to the session I’m presenting on creating a Social Media Strategy for your company.)  The time is NOW.  We can’t put this off any longer or it will be too late.

What do you think?

6 Responses to Are Direct Selling Companies Getting Shut Out of Social Media?
  1. Skip McNutt
    December 24, 2009 | 1:47 pm

    Well written and though provoking article. I was not aware of this ban. Thank you for starting the discussion.

  2. Yvonne A Jones
    December 1, 2009 | 9:53 pm

    It does appear to be discriminatory; however, it is understandable that standards are set and maintained. Those who use the services have a responsibility to understand the rules or principles. I have been in Direct Sales for over 10 years and am not as active in Social Media as many of my peers, but in my opinion there is just too much spamming being done by perhaps a relatively small segment of the business. Unfortunately, their bad practices can impact a much larger group. They need to be trained.

    It’s unlikely that most Direct Selling companies will get involved with training their sales force in social media unless they have a social media presence themselves (Fortunately I am associated with a company that does). One can only hope that individuals see the need to brand themselves personally and get training from experts in Direct Sales and Social Media like you, Jennifer, and other amazing coaches.

    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2009 | 8:55 am

      Yvonne,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I hope that a LOT of direct selling companies will get involved with training the sales force. This week’s DSA conference on social media is their best attended in years! Hopefully that means that a lot more companies are planning on getting involved.

      Cheers!
      Jennifer

  3. Lisa Young
    November 30, 2009 | 3:11 pm

    WordPress isn’t the only company giving network marketers a hard time.

    Autoresponders have also been “cracking down” on MLM spam.

    *sigh* It pays to do things correctly, folks. One bad apple seems to quickly spoil it for the whole bunch when the topic is related to MLM.

    And it’s understandable for many of these online companies, that want to continue to have a positive reuptation for the services they provide, to dump the whole bunch, rather than weed out the bad apples.

    But like Jen said, it’s discriminatory. It may ultimately hurt WordPress if sites like Blogger continue to embrace Direct Sellers, but in the short term, it’s a pain in the neck for folks trying to honestly grow their business using social media in legitimate ways.

    It’s also one more vote for not putting your eggs all in one basket.

    One of the problems with the big, lumbering direct sales behemoths – the ones that have been around for ages, is that they’re slow to change, and everything is decided by committee. There are legal hoops and brand maneuvering that has to occur in order to protect the big box tehy’ve been marketing from for so long.

    Okay, this may be a bit of a rant, but hear me out.

    This is a GREAT opportunity for the smaller companies to take advantage of their agility, partner with experts like Jen, myself and others to provide substantial, effective training to their teams – to get a jump on their competition.

    And in this marketplace, with competition being a serious consideation for so many, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity to beat out the behemoths in your industry?

    Whether you believe it or not, the Internet is the deciding factor between companies that are thriving and companies that are floundering. Direct sales companies with ecommerce solutions are outpacing their partners. And how long did it take for the industry to embrace this technology? Are we going to wait an equivalent amount of time to embrace the new technologies of social media?

    If you do, you may find yourself falling by the wayside sooner than you expect.

    And the numbers don’t lie.

    Great post, Jen – as usual!
    -Lisa

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