Brand Definition and Communication in a Social Media Era

As I highlighted in Tuesday’s post about Scentsy, a company’s culture of trust in the sales force’s ability to communicate its message about its brand plays a large role in the success of social media marketing for a direct sales company.  The more a company trusts its sales force as the chief evangelists of its product line, the better equipped they are to communicate the brand’s message effectively.

by Dave Q

by Dave Q

Since the interview, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this point.  All the technology in the world won’t help you if you aren’t willing to release the message.  Dave Sattler at Scentsy refers to this as “democratization” of the brand.  In order to experience success in social media marketing, there are a couple of essential steps:

  1. Companies must be willing to listen and understand what the current perception of their brand is.  The social networking arena is like one big free-for-all focus group.  If you really want to know what people think of your brand, the answer is only a search away.  Especially if you are a large brand, people ARE talking about you right now on social networking platforms.  The question is, are you paying attention?  Too many companies have illustrated far too clearly the perils of sticking their proverbial heads in the sand and pretending the conversation isn’t happening.  It is.  And successful companies are engaging in the conversation as real people, without clearing every comment through legal first.
  2. Allow your consultants to engage where they are.  Your consultants are your most passionate supporters.  They love your company and your products, or they wouldn’t have joined.  They WANT to spread a positive message about your brand, because it benefits them as well as you.  As Scentsy clearly illustrates, by providing your consultants with tools (such as videos) that are easy to share, your message spreads virally, and your consultants can share the needed information when it’s required.
  3. The perception of your brand is what people say it is.  You don’t get the final say on what that is anymore.  However, when you have company representatives that engage as real people in the social networking platforms that matter to your customers, contributing on a wide range of topics as true members of the community, they gain credibility.  So when damage control is necessary, they’re already there and people are more willing to listen.  People are also more likely to defend you themselves if they know, like, and trust your company representatives online.  So be present, and engage!
”]”by Lawyer Mama [Steph]It is absolutely critical that companies re-examine their policies as they relate to the dissemination of information by their consultants and employees.  We have entered an era where more and more people are sharing a massive amount of information online about companies and brands.  By providing our sales forces with the tools they need to participate in that conversation effectively, while at the same time having corporate representatives online that become true members of the online communities that matter to our customers, we are more prepared to respond to this new era of communication and brand definition effectively.

What do you think?  How is your company monitoring and communicating in this social media era?  Would love to read your comments below!

And if you haven’t yet subscribed to my direct sales and social media newsletter, you can do that here. It’s free, and there are lots of great resources to help you learn even more about social media as it relates to direct sales.

8 Responses to Brand Definition and Communication in a Social Media Era
  1. Lisa Robbin Young
    May 29, 2009 | 8:07 am

    Kate Newlin’snew book, “Passion Brands”, talks about the power of democratizing the brand – and the fear so many larger companies have over “giving over” to the masses the presumed power of the identity of the brand.

    In reality, the brand belogs to the people anyway. Why not try to encourage and persuade use that’s in line with the company’s objctives, rather than throwing down a blanket of fear, and essentially stifling the growth of a company?

    With over 12 years in the industry, I’ve seen all KINDS of restrictions, as well as a very lassiez faire approach to online promotion. I think there needs to be a middle ground.

    Rather than a no-holds-barred approach to online promotion, companies need to set ground rules and guidelines that enhance the marketing and top of mind awareness for the brand, and balance that with the needs of thetens (or hundreds) of thousands of consultants on the payroll. Many companies provide “approved” ad copy for local publications – there’s really no difference here.

    On the other side of that coin, consultants need to remember that they are the owners of “You, Inc”, not their Direct Sales business, and as we’ve seen all to often in the last few years, company can go ‘belly up’ and consultants are left holding the bag of a now defunct consultant web site – having to startall over again to rebuild with new company.

    I teach consultants that if they start embracing the idea of running a real business, then they will see that they are just using their direct sales company as the vehicle to build their own “you inc” PERSONAL brand. A company can’t prohibit you from marketing yourself – just from using their company marks, products, names, etc. Real business owners promote themeselves FIRST and the rest comes secondary.

    When we democratize a brand, we naturally give some control over to the people that embrace that brand. It’s important to remember that brands are ultimately nothing more than a perception.

    What kind of perception do you (company owners) want to have in the arena? How are you conveying that to your sales force?

    What kind of perception do you (direct sellers) want to hav in the marketplace? How are you conveying that to your customers?

    Just my two cents. Great post, Jen.

  2. Larna
    May 28, 2009 | 5:55 pm

    The beauty of social media is it compliments the direct sales traditional relationship building model. I believe alot of companies have a ‘fear’ that enabling their consultants to work online in their business will result in them not doing the traditional business of building relationships in the party plan environment. Content like your blog Jennifer goes a long way to educating both consultants and companies that this does not have to be the case.

    I use social networking to build my relationships with customers and hosts and through that interaction online have received interest in the business all over Australia and New Zealand… people I would not have met at all without it.

    I 100% cannot agree enough with the comments on companies trusting their reps…. Direct Sales has been so successful because the companies empower their field to run their own business. They provide the tools and then allow the freedom for people to take ownership and create their own success. The same formula can apply to the social media forum if companies let go of the fear, educate their field on how to use social networking and trust we all have only one objective….. to build our businesses and our brand so we are more successful.

    If they don’t, direct sales may be left behind and it’s era may well be over…..

  3. Scentsy
    May 28, 2009 | 5:18 pm

    @Lorian Rivers

    I agree 100%. I run my Scentsy business 99% online and have had HUGE Growth in only 6 months! I love Scentsy and the fact they give you freedom and trust to run your Business.

  4. Lorian Rivers
    May 28, 2009 | 11:47 am

    I have been with several DS companies in my lifetime..and know of some today, that actually FORBID online advertising of any type. Some you can’t even use the NAME!

    I’ve never understood that. They INSIST you have parties…but no one wants to host or attend parties now days.

    Everything is done online. The companies that don’t realize this are destined for failure. The companies that do, like Scentsy are going no where but up!

  5. digideena
    May 28, 2009 | 11:24 am

    Great article on branding from the perspective of the company, and it appears Scentsy’s management team really gets it. I’d be interesting in seeing more on branding from the perspective of the independent consultants who are trying to establish their own brand as an expert, separate from the brand identity they already hold as a rep with their company.

  6. Julie Anne Jones
    May 28, 2009 | 11:17 am

    These last two posts have been awesome, Jen! As you know, we’ve struggled along with many participants in our Social Media Made Simple for Direct Sales Professionals course with the unwillingness of their direct sales companies to give them the freedoms you outline so beautifully.

    I think it comes down to taking a leap of faith in our industry. Direct sales companies would be wise to follow Scentsy’s lead and put some faith in their representatives. As we’ve seen, those making good decisions and learning how to do social media “right” are the rule, not the exception. There are not many examples of representatives doing harm with their social media strategies, and we’ve also seen through the course that the few who have made mistakes have done so out of ignorance. Once they’re taught what’s appropriate and what isn’t, they are more than willing to change what they’re doing.

    Thanks so much for your passion about educating all of us about the value of this medium. I see a big change coming and you, my friend, are a part of the transformation

  7. Eryn Cadoff
    May 28, 2009 | 11:01 am

    As always Jennifer – you are insightful and eloquent! Every direct sales professional needs to be reading your blog regularly!

    Eryn Cadoff
    The Traveling Vineyard
    Gainesville, VA

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