Recently, a direct sales company (that I am not going to name…one I have not worked with on their social media strategy) issued a rather sweeping set of new policies and procedures for their consultants, related to social media, that has upset the field a great deal. While I would have advised against some of the mandates set forth in this particular set of policies, there are a couple of issues I would like to discuss here.
- For Independent Consultants: Direct sales companies are still trying to figure out this whole social media thing, and sometimes they make mistakes. For the future health of your business, and the company as a whole, it is recommended that you address your concerns to the company FIRST, before taking it online. I’ve noticed that this company has already made changes in response to consultant concerns, yet there is still a great deal of “trashing” going on. Remember that stuff goes far online, and can be read by the prospects whose business you’re trying to win. Even if you don’t care for yourself and plan to leave the company, what you say will affect every single consultant in the company. There are ways to address and escalate issues, and taking it public first is not the right way to handle things if you really want to effect change.
- For Direct Sales Companies: Do you have a monitoring and escalation procedures strategy in place? I have seen a GREAT deal of trashing of this particular company going on in online forums, and have not seen any corporate response. (If I’m wrong, please enlighten me. I may just not have seen it.) But this begs the question…does the company know what’s being said? Do they have a strategy in place to deal with it? In this social media age, companies MUST be prepared to respond quickly to a flurry of negative publicity. You may not be able to stop people from saying bad things about you, but the only way your side of the story will be heard is if you share it. Make sure you know who within your company is authorized to respond, and get those issues to those people quickly, so that you don’t find situations escalating for days without an official response. At least look like you’re paying attention.
- For Independent Consultants: I find this issue very interesting. Part of the problem consultants have been facing is the lack of specific policies and procedures related to social media. And without these clear guidelines, people have done whatever they want, often with poor results that reflect badly on the entire industry. I think it is important to have specific guidelines in place, and I think consultants need to be prepared for the fact that they may need to make some changes for the good of everyone. Yet at the same time, there is a fine line between guidelines and control. Companies need to be sure they are still allowing their consultants to be independent.I’m very interested to read below what you feel are FAIR policies and procedures related to social media, keeping in mind that the company needs to be able to very clearly be the corporate voice, the consultants need to clearly present themselves as independent, there are certain ways that logos and trademarks must be used to protect brand integrity for everyone, honesty and integrity are important, etc. I VERY much hope you’ll be willing to share your thoughts around what you think are FAIR policies for independent consultants.
- For Direct Sales Companies: How do you deal with the fact that social media and an independent sales force imply a certain lack of control? Ironically, we as direct sellers should be among the BEST at realizing we don’t control the message, as we’ve had independent sellers sharing our message forever. Yet policies that seek to control every single thing that’s said and done online seem to imply that we somehow don’t get it. That we don’t realize that our folks can be our best evangelists, yet they’re still independent. Where is the line?
I am very much looking forward to reading your thoughts on this issue below. I do ask that you refrain from naming the company involved in this issue. They have enough to deal with right now without us adding to it. Instead, let’s talk about how this issue affects the entire industry. What would you say are FAIR ways to deal with policies and procedures related to social media? Let’s have a conversation.
Photo Credit: ifindkarma