Will Your Company’s Social Media Tools Cause You to Lose Your Facebook Account?

As a social media consultant that works with a lot of direct selling companies, advising them on strategy and tools, I also get approached by a lot of software vendors who want me to recommend their products to my clients.  And to be honest, I’ve been pretty impressed with the quality level of what I’ve seen.  There are mobile apps that allow you to place orders and track your downline right from your mobile device.  There are apps that allow your company to provide you with content that you can use in your Facebook profile with just one click.  Lots of very cool stuff.

But there is a common denominator with many of these tools, and to be honest, it’s something that worries me.  Some vendors have shown me tools that push content into Facebook, and the demo content is CHOCK FULL of spammy, advertising stuff.  We all know that a content marketing strategy is what works in social media.  We don’t want to be hurling spam at our friends…after all, our social networks are not an opt-in list.  If these application vendors are counting on companies knowing how to do this right, right out of the gate, I think we’re going to have another problem on our hands.  Because if a direct sales company provides all its distributors with a tool that knowingly pushes business messages out through profiles, every single person who uses that tool could be shut down.  After all, it’s against Facebook Terms of Service to post direct business messages through a profile.

The problem these tools is supposed to be solving is to provide appropriate status updates to distributors who may not know how to do that themselves.  But if these messages are overtly business-y, these tools cause more problems than they cure.

For all companies that are considering such tools, make sure that the developer of the application has gotten approval from Facebook, that it can be used to push messages to the profile.  Facebook MUST be on board, to avoid problems down the line.  And for distributors/consultants, make sure that the messages you’re being provided, should your company choose to use such tools, are content-driven, and not sales/recruiting-driven.  There is a difference, and the profile is all about providing value, not driving a sale or recruiting directly.  That comes later.  If you feel the messages are too sales-y, tell your company.  The last thing we want to see is every consultant in the company losing their Facebook account due to violations of the Facebook Terms of Service.

In theory, I really like the idea of the company being able to provide content that distributors can pass along to their social networks.  However these messages MUST be crafted by people skilled in social media marketing, who understand the difference between advertising and social networking.  And application vendors have to be on the front lines here, providing appropriate demo content that illustrates how to populate these tools well.  And that means the vendor must understand our business model, or bring on someone who does.  Every step of the process, from vendor to company to consultant, must understand what is appropriate and what is not.  Only then will these tools provide value, and benefit the industry as a whole.

Would love to know what you think about all this.  Is your company using tools like this (they’re pretty new, and don’t have a lot of market adoption yet)?  Would you use it if your company provided it?  Looking forward to reading your comments below.

10 Responses to Will Your Company’s Social Media Tools Cause You to Lose Your Facebook Account?
  1. Rebecca
    November 22, 2010 | 2:38 pm

    Jen, I appreciate your work with The Pampered Chef. I think their FB page is full of the content that you are speaking of. I can press a button to share with my friends a recipe, food tip, etc without blasting for them to “buy my stuff”. I think an app like this would be great…but you are right that the company, consultants, etc would need to understand the whole idea behind social media…relationship building!

    • Jennifer Fong
      November 22, 2010 | 6:17 pm

      Thanks so much Rebecca! You’re absolutely right…relationships is the key to success! I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  2. Mark Bosworth
    March 4, 2010 | 4:32 pm

    I hate to say it, but this may be a sad but inevitable evolution of the technology. Advertising messages invariably are attracted to where the eyeballs are. Companies just can’t help themselves.

    If (or should I say when) this happens it will have a negative impact on Facebook membership. One of the reasons we use facebook is because it gives us updates from our friends without the commercial messages. When it becomes comercial, I for one will opt out. At a minimum, I’ll unfriend people who spam.

    I will not be sponsoring any tools for my Consultants that generate Spam on Facebook. I’ll leave that to others. 🙂

    • Jennifer
      March 4, 2010 | 5:52 pm

      Mark,
      I think the intention behind these tools (at least when used correctly) is to provide the content consultants need in order to AVOID spamming their customers. I could see great uses by companies if they provide, for example, links to articles about how to take care of yourself (free ways, not selling products), info about the philanthropic work of the company, enthusiasm about an upcoming incentive trip…that sort of thing. I get more nervous when these vendors start talking about giving companies to push these messages out on distributor profiles without the distributor him or herself making the choice to publish it. (Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.)

      But at the end of the day, the point of tools like Facebook is to build relationships, not blast business messages. And if we lose sight of that, I think you’re right about where this all may be headed.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Jen

  3. Michaela Pearce
    March 4, 2010 | 1:10 pm

    As always, Jen — really really useful post! Thank you for your insights about the so-called “next best thing” with regard to social media and direct sales. Your blog is so very valuable to me. Cheers!

    • Jennifer
      March 4, 2010 | 5:52 pm

      Awesome!! Thanks Michaela!

  4. Paul Young
    March 4, 2010 | 11:00 am

    Jen, you hit the nail on the head. Companies must understand that social media is not paid advertising. It is a two way conversation, in which they can gently get their message out. If they treat it like a billboard to paste their copy on, they can expect to get burned.

    • Jennifer
      March 4, 2010 | 5:53 pm

      YES! Social media is NOT advertising, it’s relationship building. When we start talking about content marketing, there may be some value in these tools. But it is NOT a billboard and we have to respect that if our marketing in this medium will work. Thanks for commenting Paul!

  5. Lisa Young
    March 4, 2010 | 10:22 am

    Critical comment you made: “Every step of the process, from vendor to company to consultant, must understand what is appropriate and what is not.”

    That’s the biggest issue. While there are many consultants and even a few companies that are coming to embrace the etiquette of social media – and marketing properly because of it – there are so many more folks out there ready to “outsource” this task to the lowest price provider. That provider may not even understand the business model, let alone the rules/regs of facebook! After all, they just create the app!

    Be VERY cautious ANY time you attempt to outsource your voice. And if you bring someone in-house to replicate your voice, consider how it might look if those same app message were being “blasted” on your company website.

    If it’s not something you’d feel comfortable having posted on the home page of your comany site, why would you feel comfortable having your consultants “push” it through their facebook profile?

    The whole concept of “push” is anathema to what we’re trying to do when we build relationships anyway – social media or otherwise.

    Direct Sales Companies take such great pains to protect their branding, and keep their messaging consistent, that it would be a shame to see something like this flood Facebook – or any other site for that matter.

    Use caution for sure, Jen. Another great post to think on!

    • Jennifer
      March 4, 2010 | 5:56 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Lisa. I think there may be some value here if companies focus on providing content, as part of an overall content marketing approach, that prospects can use right now without spending a dime. It could save time for the distributor, for example, if they don’t have to go look up facts about the importance of self-care, but can push a button and share an article. However if it becomes a medium for blasting ads, it defeats the purpose. The point is to build relationships, not blast ads.

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