I read an interesting post on Jackie Ulmer’s blog this week that got me to thinking. (Always dangerous!) 🙂 Jackie comes from the MLM side of the direct sales house. (Technically, we’re all MLM AND direct sales…Multi-Level Marketing actually refers to the compensation plan typically used in direct sales. If you get paid for the sales of your downline, you’re MLM. And direct sales is what we do…direct to consumer sales.) For the sake of this conversation, I’m going to refer to people that run a person to person business as MLM, and a party plan or group selling business as party plan.
So in Jackie’s post, she talked about the different ways each side of the house leads in about their opportunity. MLM typically starts with big fancy houses and cars, and at its worst talks about get rich quick schemes that almost never work like that. Party plan leads with the product, typically, as well as personal development. It’s a bit more touchy-feely, but the problem here is that we sometimes lean TOO far to the other extreme, and struggle to recruit for fear of being pushy.
While there are legalities involved regarding ethical ways to promote the opportunity, etc, what I really want to talk about here is how we present ourselves in social media. The MLM side of the house has been tarnished by aggressive tactics that often cause people to have a negative impression of direct sales in general. This affects the way we can operate within social media, because aggressive tactics don’t work in this medium, and can hurt all direct sellers. The flip side of this is the party plan person who hasn’t learned that “buy my stuff” type posts don’t work in social media either, and is also annoying folks in social media. The combination of the aggressive MLM-er, and the over-enthusiastic Party Plan-er, is giving the industry as a whole a black eye.
Folks, here’s what WORKS in social media: Relationship building, conversation, community building, content sharing (NOT about your product or opportunity). Only after people have opted in to your newsletter or group do you have permission to market to them about your products and opportunity. Otherwise you come off as pushy or annoying. The whole reason I began this blog was to help educate people, because direct sellers that had not been educated were doing it wrong, and giving the industry as a whole a bad name in social media.
It is the responsibility of direct sales companies to educate their sales forces about how to use social media PROPERLY. This isn’t an optional activity. The entire industry’s success depends on our ability to do this right, because social media is only going to get bigger.
It is the responsibility of individual direct sellers, be they MLM or party plan, to get it right. Learn how to use social media properly, be willing to invest the time to build relationships instead of trying to force it quick, which doesn’t work, and be a responsible member of the social media community. Start your education here, with this free recorded call on social media that I provide.
This is our chance to get it right. We may have made mistakes in the past as individuals and companies, but ignorance of social media is not going to cut it much longer. Too many companies in too many industries are figuring how to do this right now. If we shirk our responsibilities here, we are going to look hopelessly ignorant and backwards. And every direct seller in the industry is going to be blocked, hidden, and ignored in social media circles, which, honestly, is where the money is.
Now is the time. What are you going to do today to begin the education process?