Many thanks to all of you that have taken the time to comment, and provide such insightful discussion around this very important topic of social media marketing for the direct sales industry. If you are interested in this topic, and have not read the comments from folks like Mark Bosworth, Damon Gaylor, and Sarah Andrus, I think you’ll find a lot of value in their insights.
I loved Sarah’s comment this weekend about how at Cutco / Vector, they’re constantly learning from their distributors and doing their best to keep up with them and their needs. That, I think, is one of the biggest lessons we can gain as direct selling executives. Very often our distributors are ahead of us in terms of what they need, based on their actual experience on the ground. The wise executive team LISTENS. Our distributors are telling us they NEED these tools to succeed. Like it or not, many distributors are already using these tools to great success, and are showing others how to use them. If we, as companies, do not get involved in the discussion now, it may be too late. It’s important to develop a training strategy to ensure that marketing is being done the way you want it to be done, and that best represents your company. If you want a say in your distributors’ social media marketing strategy, now is the time to get involved.
Proper field training addresses so many of the concerns that have been shared so far in this blog. Mark Bosworth, for example, expressed the concern about spamming. Do your company’s policies and procedures specifically address spamming? If they don’t, they should. I believe it is possible to run an effective online business without spamming. It starts by building a permission-based list, which is often built through previous customers and friends, people who have requested information at a trade show or other event, and through sign-up lists right on the distributor’s website (if you make it available.) Then it’s important to teach distributors HOW to communicate. There are some excellent tools that are already available in the marketplace for this, or you can use a grassroots approach. One great option is by providing a customizable email, written by corporate, that distributors customize and email. The company determines the frequency of these communications. iMakeNews has a great solution for this.
Teach your distributors how to network online, as well. (Actually, teaching live networking skills is useful too.) Highlight the tools, show best practices, provide ongoing content that can be used – ready-made – by your distributors, and recognize success.
I think that every forward-thinking direct sales company needs to have someone on staff who understands social media marketing, as well as the distributor culture that exists within your company, in order to create a social media marketing plan. The 18-24 year old market of distributors will expect to have these tools and this training available. And if you don’t provide it, someone else will. I am looking forward to attending the 2009 Social Media Telesummit: http://tinyurl.com/7alj2d. Do yourself a favor…get educated so you can be part of the discussion.
By creating a social media marketing plan that reflects your company’s rich tradition and history, values, and the needs of your distributors moving forward, you will be part of a vital discussion that is going to happen whether you get involved or not. Make sure your marketing strategy is going in a direction that is best for your company. This, I believe, is the true leadership that is required in this digitally-connected era.