It seems like it happens every year. Some technology vendor or another comes up with this “great new idea” that no one else is doing, and so they think they should. They think they should offer a product that allows direct selling companies to post on social networks on behalf of their salesforce. These vendors approach a few direct selling companies, and find one or two whose lawyers and brand managers think it’s a great idea. But as I seem to have to write about every year, this approach is a mistake, and here’s why.
- Social networks are SOCIAL. That means they are built on the personality of the people that use them. If you’re not going to allow your distributors to post about your company online, why allow them to use social networks at all? If you’re removing your salesforce from the equation, you’re killing the most important part of your business…the trust people have in the person telling them about your business. If you try to post for your salesforce, you’re missing the point of these online tools.
- You look like you don’t have confidence in your salesforce. People will see that ALL of your reps are posting the same set of posts. (People are rarely only connected to just one of your consultants.) We’ve seen it before when companies have tried this approach. It makes your company look like you don’t trust your reps to talk about the brand. If you don’t have confidence in your salesforce, why should customers and prospects?
- Cookie cutter posts are not authentic. Internet users value authenticity from brands above all else. And the quickest way to alienate these users is for them to find out that the person posting is not the person posting. All it takes is one influential internet user to call you out on this publicly, and your brand can be destroyed.
- Welcome to the Internet. Your brand is not your own anymore. The second someone goes online and talks about your brand, you can no longer tightly control the brand messaging, no matter how much you want to. Sorry lawyers and brand managers, but that’s today’s reality. Rather than fight this (and believe me, it’s a losing battle) you’re much better off taking an approach like Scentsy. Orville Thompson, the founder of Scentsy, focused a great deal on the “democratization of the brand.” This means that they developed the brand in collaboration with their salesforce, and trained the salesforce on how to use social tools properly. No one can argue with their success. Other companies would do well to take a page from Scentsy’s book in this regard.
Do you have to train your salesforce to represent your brand well? Absolutely. It takes effort. But the effort pays off in dramatic ways. Trying to take the easy way out and just post for your salesforce saps the life out of a consultant’s online efforts, and will create bigger problems than you think you’re solving.
Train them. Give them a content library that they can draw from. They’re smart and they want to be successful. But don’t post for them. It’s just a bad idea.