Now is the Time

42-15618138I 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.

42-16033035Folks, 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?

9 Responses to Now is the Time
  1. Tonya Freeman
    September 19, 2009 | 1:06 am

    Jennifer,
    Your information is so timely and so valuable! Thank you so much for giving the kind of direction I am searching for. I admit, I have made mistakes…I’ve been one of those to blurt out a promotion on Twitter. But I see now that patience is truly a virtue in the world of social media. I am not a pushy person in real life, and in no way do I want to be perceived as such in the social media world, but I can see how that can happen by using social media tools incorrectly. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and I look forward to more!

    Karen…your comment is also spot on…personal development will do worlds more for our businesses than simply pushing for more business. I need to take a step back and return to working on that more…thanks for the reminder!!!

    Tonya Freeman

  2. Karen Clark
    September 16, 2009 | 12:54 am

    I’d add another thought and it is something I’ve found supported through the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance and that is that if we as direct sellers (any part of the house) work more on who we are being than what or how much we are doing, we will not only attract the ideal people but we will also uplift the profession as we do so. Growing personally and professionally to where you are the type of person someone WANTS to do business with is key.

    Our behavior online and offline reflects on every one of us! I’m so glad there are trainers and bloggers out there who ‘get it’ and are helping turn things around. It sometimes seems like an uphill battle and I’ve done my share of unfollowing spammy direct sellers (sadly) but I’m hoping if we stay with it posts like this will help! Thanks Jen and Jackie, you’re terrific!
    Karen

  3. Karen D.
    September 14, 2009 | 12:17 pm

    I appreciate posts by others on social media that are supportive, offer advice, links to great resources & products, and point me to sound business tools and opportunities. The others that repeatedly shout about a last chance to get in on their discounted product are annoying. This attempt to part me from my money makes me unfollow, unfriend, and unsubscribe before I finish reading their message.

    Your blog post is a good reminder for us to pay close attention to the content and tone of our messages.

    Thanks!
    Karen and Tomboy Tools
    Turn the place you live in to the place you LOVE!

  4. Jackie Ulmer
    September 13, 2009 | 12:36 pm

    Jen, thanks for “thinking”, ha! And, I appreciate so many on this blog and others who care about the reputation we leave behind for ourselves, and also all of those who take the “risk” daily to build something for themselves and their families.

    The Internet can be a very exciting place to “do business.” It can be equally (if not more) as dangerous if done wrong because it can haunt you for a long, long time.

    Building relationships is KEY, whether online or offline. As people get to “know you” they will naturally want to know more about you and what you do. Give them that space to ask without force feeding it.

    Before long, your online contacts and success will soar!

    EXPECT Success!

    Jackie Ulmer

  5. Sally Bryan
    September 12, 2009 | 10:07 am

    Jen, Thanks for the clear message about relationship building and personal touch still being the way to build DS businesses. And thanks for being out in front of this important shift we are seeing in the way we communicate- you are saving a lot of time for so many of us. Your take on responsibility being on the shoulders of both the company and the representative to “do it right” is spot on. We all reflect upon one another so we must get it right. Cheers to you!

  6. Jan Moss
    September 12, 2009 | 6:30 am

    I was sent a link to your site and it is perfect timing as I’m just about to start to learn about how to blog but also having just started in a network marketing business, I don’t want to blow it in the social media world so this is a great find and I’m looking forward to following your blog and finding out how to do everything correctly! Thanx!

  7. Larna Pittiglio
    September 12, 2009 | 5:10 am

    Jennifer you just have a ‘real’ way of getting the message across and I appreciate your obvious passion for having this profession represented correctly in social media.
    I am in Australia and likewise passionate about spreading this message that it is up to us to improve our credibility as professional business operators.
    THIS IS SO IMPORTANT for the future of our businesses and companies in this forum and I willingly share this content with all my friends in social media.
    Thanks again

  8. Melissa Laverty
    September 11, 2009 | 9:57 am

    Jen. Thank you so much for keeping this top of mind for us. I think we get excited when we find what might be a potential customer or consultant. We must remember the “social” in social media and work on the relationship first.

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