What You Absolutely MUST Do to Make Social Media Work for Your Direct Sales Business

I’ve recently seen a lot of folks popping up who teach direct sellers how to use social media.  And on the whole I’m really happy about that.  There are a lot of direct sellers out there who need some additional hand-holding as they become familiar with social media, beyond what their companies can realistically provide.  (The one thing I’ll advise if you’re choosing someone to help you individually in social media is to MAKE SURE they have worked in direct sales before.  Otherwise you’ll be getting generic knowledge, and the way we do things is a bit different.)

And of course, as new folks enter the space, they bring their own opinions related to how social media should be used effectively. Much of this, of course, is based on their own experience as a direct seller, and what worked for them.  And this is as it should be.  Obviously they shouldn’t just be spouting theory…they have to have used the techniques themselves, and experienced success. (Ask them what results they and their clients have experienced before spending a dime.)

There’s one thing I find troubling, however, and I know why it’s happening because I did it myself.  People who learn social media, and then begin to pass on that teaching, typically learn the whole package.  How you put a blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, together, and how that works in concert.  And it’s certainly not wrong.  If you invest the time and do it well, putting all those elements together can certainly bring results.  The first course I ever taught on social media was an 8 week class that taught all these elements, and it was a great class.

But it’s not the only way, and it may not be the best use of your time.  I see other “social media experts” who talk in absolutes about how you absolutely must have a blog, or a Facebook Page, or what have you.  That this is the key to success.

But the thing is, it’s only the key to success if it works for you, and brings results.

Social media is not a cookie cutter solution.  Yes, a blog can be great.  But only if you are a decent writer and can commit the time. Yes, a Facebook Page can bring results.  But only if you have the time to add a Page onto your already busy schedule.

And it’s more than just being good at using one social media tool or another.  It also has to bring you results.  If you blog for 3 months and it doesn’t bring you a single lead, then maybe that’s not the best solution for you.  If you’re getting similar amounts of leads from your Facebook Page as you got from your Facebook Profile by itself, is it really worth the time investment?  If you’re spending time on Twitter, and yet everyone in your target market is on Facebook, are you wasting your time?

It’s so important for those advising direct sellers in social media to look beyond their own favorite tools, and instead focus on the unique skill sets of each individual, and what will bring that individual results.  There are not hard and firm absolutes.  Some people do fantastic with a blog.  Others do exceptionally well without one. (Here are 5 ways to market your business without a blog.)

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from using social media marketing.  Obviously I think it’s important.  But as you choose the social media expert that will help you make the most of this technology, make sure you are asking the right questions.  If they’re pushing you into the same solution they’ve given to every other one of their clients, perhaps that isn’t the expert for you.

When I sit down with direct selling companies, and help them create a social media strategy for the organization, I don’t walk in with a list of tools they should use.  Instead, we focus on trends in the industry, what a company’s individual goals are, the time that can be invested, who will be in charge, what they want the sales force to do, and whether or not the company website will support the social media goals of the organization.  Only after ALL of that, can we begin to look at the tools that make sense.

There is no cookie cutter solution.  It’s about what works for an individual, based upon his or her needs or goals.  Don’t get pulled into a path that doesn’t work for you.  If you’re not comfortable with a solution, or feel confident it works with your skills, goals, and time, let your advisor know.  And if they aren’t flexible, find someone else.

Social media only works when it works for you, and brings you results.

Your thoughts?

Photo Credit: G&A Sattler

7 Responses to What You Absolutely MUST Do to Make Social Media Work for Your Direct Sales Business
  1. Bridgett
    August 31, 2010 | 2:04 pm

    I think what is often missing with individuals wanting to engage in any kind of online presence, is the fact that the Internet doesn’t replace what we should already be doing.
    The things that I find goofy and unattractive is when I see those in the direct selling/MLM industry engage in social media, without having a firm grasp on basic people skills and relationship building skills.
    The Internet only magnifies such deficiencies.
    The Internet is one big party. And just as there are things you wouldn’t do at a party like running around like your hair is on fire, wearing a sandwich board with your products and/or business opportunity emblazoned across it–why would you do that online?
    Being attractive is, IMO, is the number one priority. If you haven’t gotten that down, no amount of fancy schmancy social media strategy is gonna help. In fact, it will only reflect poorly on the entire industry, and all individuals involved in it.

  2. Deb The Sales Trainer
    August 30, 2010 | 2:17 pm

    Absolutely it takes commitment to the process. The piece that really makes your efforts effective in the search engines is the blog. Although, not necessary it is the connection that is often times missed. At the same time, many do start blogs and never keep up on it and that does not work either. The commitment to internet networking is similar to starting your business. You must keep up on it to achieve your success.

  3. Allison Mesa
    August 30, 2010 | 1:52 pm

    So you work WITH direct sales companies, Jennifer, but what direct companies did you work FOR and were you successful? What made you go into the marketing aspect instead?

    • Jennifer Fong
      August 30, 2010 | 2:35 pm

      Great question Allison! I’ve worked with a couple direct sales companies, but the bulk of my initial experience came from building my own direct selling company. I built and trained the entire national sales force. That was when I discovered the power of social media and its impact on direct selling. I’ve since had the privilege of working with Luce and Associates, direct sales consultants, in helping direct sales companies on many aspects of their operations, including starting from scratch, field training, and, of course, social media. Since the bulk of my experience is at the corporate level, that’s why I do most of my work there.

  4. Kara Vita
    August 30, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    Interesting insight. Can you detail what you mean when you stated if one is to select someone to help with social media they should have experience in direct sales? Do you find variance in results of one person using social media strategies incorporated into their business versus someone in direct sales jumping into social media?

    • Jennifer Fong
      August 30, 2010 | 1:02 pm

      Without a doubt. We have unique things to consider as a model…parent company’s role, policies and procedures, techniques that don’t detract from core business activities. There is much to think about that the average social media person has no experience with. Someone with direct sales experience is critical, in my opinion. It’s the same reason direct selling companies choose to hire me versus someone else. I built a direct sales company from the ground up, built the field, and managed the operations. It gives me a more thorough perspective than someone coming into the industry cold. I can give a company better guidance. The same holds true as a direct seller chooses a social media partner. It needs to be someone who thoroughly understands the model, so they can count on receiving good advice.

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