There has been a lot of hullabaloo lately about the awfulness of direct sales consultants methods of pushing their products on social media, and basically alienating their friends and families who are sick of seeing “buy my stuff” and “join my team” constantly. And you know what? They’re right! Yes, I’m saying that even though 1 – I’m a direct sales consultant, 2 - I run a social media training company, and 3 – I do most of my business on social media. There are simply correct and incorrect ways to market small business online – including direct sales businesses. People come to Facebook for two primary reasons: to connect socially, and to be entertained. If you are not serving one of those purposes with your personal posts, then you need to rethink your strategy.
If you wouldn’t do something in person, don’t do it online. Would you walk into a crowded room and yell “who wants a catalog?!” to a bunch of strangers? No. If you haven’t seen someone in awhile, is “want to host a party?” the first thing that will come out of your mouth? No. It’s like we’ve forgotten about basic social etiquette.
So let’s get started.
- Post constant business content on your personal Facebook profile. It’s against Facebook policy, and frankly, just tacky to push your business content into the newsfeed of people who you are supposed to be friends with socially. Do this constantly, and expect some unfriending.
- Add people to private Facebook groups without their consent. People want control over their own news feeds, and suddenly you’ve put the burden on them to leave the group they never opted-in to in the first place. I’m now the horrible awful friend that doesn’t support your business because I left a group I never asked to join.
- Tag your friends on business posts on your personal page. It forces the content into the newsfeed of your friend’s friends, and is a sneaky underhanded way to expand your reach. Taking advantage of your friends in this way (especially those with large friend counts) is so underhanded, it’s almost brilliant. But if they are equally brilliant, they’ll tell you to chill out on the “Oh my gosh, this amazingly awesome thing I sell made me think of you!!” [while tagging 15 of your best friends].
- Invite 1500 of your closest friends (or those you haven’t spoken to since 8th grade) to your Facebook parties. Cattle call for jewelry, or makeup, or skin care, or nail wraps, or home decor – fun! No. Expect very low responses and engagement.
- Friend someone you haven’t talked to in forever, and immediately hit them with your fan page link. Really? You only want me for my “like”? I feel so cheap.
All this stuff is just offputting and unprofessional, makes you look desperate, and is what gives direct sales and small business people a bad rap. It’s creating relationships that are now only based on avoidance, and is what will burn out your warm networking within a few months and leave you no one left to sell to. If I like a picture of your cute kids on Facebook and you immediately hit me with a business message, you’re basically training me to not ever like pictures of your kids. Totally NOT the goal of Facebook and social networking, am I right? So what should you doing instead, you may ask? Read on!
- Setup a Facebook business page if your brand allows it. Post your business content there. Invite your connections to come over and like your page. Send them personal messages inviting them. But by all means, do NOT send an invite to your fan page to someone you haven’t ever had an in-real-life conversation with, or someone you haven’t talked to since 8th grade. Or warm contacts under the coy veil of “we haven’t chatted in so long! Come see what I’m doing now!” It’s kinda transparent. Trust me – no one is going to buy from someone with whom they have zero social relationship.
- Genuinely engage with your friends, and build personal reciprocity. Your true friends and family want to support your business. They really do. They just don’t want to be pressured, feel guilty, or constantly exposed to it. Trust me, they know what you sell. You don’t need to remind them every other minute.
- Create original content that reflects your online personality and voice. Your content should follow an 80/20 rule. 20% business stuff, 80% everything else. Find your voice, cultivate your style, and use it. People will engage because they like you.
- Follow the three P’s in your 80/20 content strategy: Purposeful (useful information, tips), Personality (your own interests, humor), Promotion (your products and business).
- Create community and personal engagement on your fan page or VIP group. Give your fans a reason to come back – and guess what, it probably won’t be because of your product. They are coming back because of YOU. What do you have to offer? Your humor? Your amazing tips? Your stunning sense of fashion? Your brilliant blog posts (ahem)? That’s your community. (In fact, come on over and join my community! The Socialite Suite is a free and spam-free group of direct sellers and solopreneurs, and our whole focus is social media tips and strategies.)
- Invite only a small group to your Facebook parties or sales events (or coach your hostesses to do so), and follow-up each with a personal message about the exclusive event for your VIP guests. Would you invite 1500 people to your house? No. You’d invite your closest friends who you know are interested in the topic or product. And you’d make it personal for them. Carry that over to your online parties too.
So what’s the issue here? Are direct sales brands teaching consultants the wrong ways to market their business online? Or are consultants simply uneducated about social media marketing, or modeling bad behaviors from others? Come on, friends… there are far better ways. Take the controls and brush up on your social media skills. Learn about using Facebook for business, develop a good Instagram hashtag strategy, learn how to create your own original graphics, and read up on attraction marketing strategy. Your brand sells your product. You sell your personality. You CAN have a successful online business, without your friends unfriending, unfollowing, unsubscribing, and unliking you.
Brenda Ster is a former technology executive, college professor, and direct seller, and now runs her own consulting and training agency teaching social strategies to direct sellers and solopreneurs. You can find her online and Periscoping daily @SuiteBrenda, and in her free social media tips community on Facebook, The Socialite Suite.