One of my favorite parts about our Guest Columnist series is the fact that you get to hear WHY certain companies are doing what they do. In fact, some direct sales companies are coming to me and asking if they can share their perspective as part of this series. And that’s fantastic. When the people doing this day to day share, we all win.
Today’s guest columnist is Beth Dornan is the Social Media/Digital Public Relations lead for Amway. Now most of you have heard of Amway, I’m sure. But your impression of the company probably has a lot to do with how old you are. Amway went through a very rocky period where they got a lot of bad publicity. However that had mostly passed before I was old enough to be aware of it, so I just thought of it as a really big company (that seriously sells every type of product you could possibly think of…including motor oil! Their Artistry Time Defiance night cream is my favorite product, though!) 🙂 This rocky patch, however, was part of what birthed the Amway social media strategy. Amway has been playing in this “playground” longer than most companies in our industry out of sheer necessity. And in many ways they’ve been setting the standard for transparency, providing a place for their detractors to speak, while providing their side of the story.
So today, Beth shares some of the thinking behind that strategy. I think you’ll find it fascinating. I know I do! Enjoy!
The Online Playground
by Beth Dornan
In a lot of ways, social networking is like being back on the elementary school playground again.
You’ve got your friends and playmates, the ones who will give you a push on the swings so you can soar higher.
And then there are the kids who just want to push you around – the bullies.
Your mother might tell you to ignore the bullies and they’ll go away. Mom may have been right back then, but ignoring online critics doesn’t make them disappear – it may just make them stronger.
Amway initially ignored some of the online criticism of its business, but realized that a small number of critics were quickly acquiring a great deal of credibility.
To be understood, Amway needed to be heard. The initial effort was a handful of blogs that brought us into the online conversation. Today Amway’s social media effort includes corporate, regional, and brand blogs, and Facebook, Twitter, and other microblogging sites, plus a renewed effort to participate in the conversations about our business wherever they occur.
Our efforts today are focused on listening, responding, educating, and anticipating.
We listen to understand the conversation about our industry and business. By monitoring the conversation, we determine what people are saying, what interests them, what concerns them, and how we fit in.
But we’re not just sitting on the sidelines. We’re ready to get in on the conversation and respond. That response may be a blog post reaching thousands, or a personal message to one individual. It might be a post on one of our managed social media sites, or a thread on a forum or chatroom where the conversation is already taking place. Depending on the situation, it might be all of the above. And our response might be to affirm, to clarify, to correct, or in some cases, to dispel. But it will always be open, honest, and transparent.
Educating is a big part of our strategy. As a global company operating in more than 80 countries and territories, we literally have a lot of on and offline world to cover. Some of our affiliates in other markets are already blogging and have Twitter feeds or Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Mixi, or other accounts. Others are just about to dip their toes in online. We’ve created an internal Social Media Business Council to help educate and align our efforts internally. It’s one small but powerful step toward creating a more cohesive internal social media effort that crosses brands, borders, and languages.
Finally, we, like everyone else, are looking to anticipate what’s next. Blogging may be obsolete in a few years. Facebook is ubiquitous now but may be a footnote in social media history by the end of the decade.
We will be where our current and prospective distributors and customers are today, and wherever they’ll be online in the future.
If it’s a big online playground, we’ll be there to push the swings so our distributors and customers can soar. We’ll even spot them on the monkey bars!
Beth Dornan, Social Media/Digital Public Relations Lead for Amway Corp., was one of Amway’s first bloggers. She also led the strategy and team that created the company’s blogging portal, the Opportunity Zone, and other ground-breaking social media efforts. Today Beth manages Amway’s Media Blog, which shares news from the world of Amway with news media and the company’s distributors and consumers. Beth has more than 25 years’ experience in journalism, public relations, and social media. She blogs at http://mediablog.amway.com and http://amwayglobalinsider.opportunityzone.com/ and can be found on Twitter as @BethDornan.