I am delighted to bring you the first in a series of guest columns this year by thought leaders on social media within the direct selling industry. Tuesdays will be guest post days, and I know you’ll enjoy reading these perspectives on social media as much as I will! Today’s post comes from Tim Haran over at USANA Health Sciences. I had the privilege of meeting Tim at the DSA Social Media event in Las Vegas last December (although we knew each other through Twitter prior to that…isn’t social media cool?), and was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to be a guest columnist here. Tim is one of the brilliant minds behind the award winning What’s Up USANA? blog, and he provides some excellent insight today on how USANA is using social media.
At USANA Health Sciences we like to say that social media is tailor-made for direct sellers and the network marketing industry. As you know, direct selling first and foremost is about connecting, networking, and developing relationships with potential customers. Selling is secondary. It’s virtually impossible to build a successful business without first fostering relationships.
Social media facilitates these interactions and helps you expand your network to reach people you wouldn’t likely encounter otherwise. Since you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re already well versed on the power of social media in our industry (Jennifer Fong is, after all, the best when it comes to merging direct selling and social media).
I’m honored to have the opportunity to connect with Jen’s readers and explain why USANA is excited about social media, as well as talk about how we are using it to interact with our associates.
When USANA launched its social media efforts in 2008, one of our first tasks involved identifying social media platforms on which to focus. With dozens of social media sites out there we knew we couldn’t devote the time and resources necessary to create and maintain worthwhile communities on all of them.
We surveyed our field and learned two things: First, nearly 88% of respondents wanted USANA to create a social media training program. And second, the vast majority favored three platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. So we got rolling on a training system and we concentrated our efforts in those three areas, aiming to build a strong following on each of them.
It’s worked beautifully. We surpassed the 10,000-fan mark on our corporate Facebook page this past month, and we have another 5,000 or so interacting on our two specialty pages — USANA Athletes and Rev3 Energy. Our page-view counts are also growing, signifying that they’re not fan-and-forget type pages.
Our blog, What’s Up, USANA?, is a popular spot to read the latest USANA news, and it acts as a hub for distributor-driven information, which is then re-broadcast via Facebook and Twitter. It received more than 150,000 page views in its first year.
And Twitter, of course, is a huge network filled with bit.ly links leading to a treasure chest of resources just waiting to be shared with followers (we love our “Health” search column on Tweetdeck).
But how do we use these tools to help our associates? After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Our goals as a direct selling company may be a bit different than those of individual direct sellers, but I think many of the key points are the same:
1. Education: Through features such as our online video tutorial, Social Media 101, and our twice-monthly blog-based Social Media Tips, we try to offer examples showing how social media can work for our associates. For instance, we recently explained how to join and engage in Twitter conversations and how to utilize social media to generate and maintain excitement for business-building events. We believe that teaching our field to interact properly on social media — i.e. avoiding the sell-first mentality — not only helps their business succeed, but it also benefits our entire industry.
2. Community: USANA distributors enjoy interacting with their peers, learning from leaders, and connecting with the corporate office. We’ve found Facebook to be the perfect platform for this. We manage three pages where distributors post comments or questions that are then acknowledged or answered by fellow associates or our social media team. It’s a great place to share knowledge, offer encouragement, and recognize successes.
3. Resources: What’s Up, USANA? is updated several times a week with USANA-centric posts designed to educate the field, create talking points, and publicize the great things our company and its distributors are doing. It’s just over a year old, but we’re at the point where readers are submitting ideas for future posts. We notice our associates re-posting the content, as well as tweeting and sharing the information on Facebook. It’s truly becoming an interactive community, which is exactly what we wanted to have happen.
We understand social media is constantly evolving, but we believe that the basic principles of connecting and building relationships won’t change. By creating a solid foundation for utilizing these tools properly, we expect social media will help our company and our industry continue to grow.
Tim Haran is the Senior Social Media Specialist at USANA Health Sciences, a manufacturer of high-quality nutritional supplements in Salt Lake City, Utah. A former journalist, Tim started as an all-purpose writer at USANA in 2007 before moving to the newly created social media/public relations department in late 2008. Since then, he’s overseen the company’s day-to-day social media initiatives and is the primary contributor to the award-winning What’s Up, USANA? blog.