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Thanks for visiting my blog!  This blog has moved to http://www.jenfongspeaks.com.  I invite you to join in on all the fun over there, where you’ll find lots of great articles on direct sales and social media, training courses and more.

Cheers!
Jennifer Fong

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I recently wrote a post about how if you have to choose only one social media tool as a direct seller, Facebook is probably a good choice. A large majority of your target market is probably already on Facebook, and it’s a great way to reach people who may be interested in buying, hosting, or joining your direct sales business. It’s primarily a relationship-building tool, however, and not a direct marketing tool. You build relationships on Facebook so that later you have the opportunity to market more directly, once someone has opted in.

megaphoneIf you decide that Facebook is the tool for you, it is important that you don’t become “that girl” or “that guy” on Facebook. You know the one I mean. The one who makes every status update a pitch for her or his business. The one that everyone learns about the “hide” button in Facebook for.

So here’s my list of Annoying Facebook-ers, Direct Sales Style. Don’t be one of these!

  1. The Sales Commercial – This is the direct seller who constantly subjects everyone to a steady barrage of, “My company is having a SALE!” “I’m so excited about the new catalog! Check out my website now for all the latest products.” Or perhaps, “I’m placing my order at 9:00 pm tonight. Be sure to get your orders in now so you can get your products.” Seriously, just don’t do this. People really don’t appreciate it, and will get tired of you quickly.
  2. The Recruiting Commercial - Similar to the Sales Commercial, this is the person who subjects you to a steady stream of why you should join his/her team, the latest recruiting promotion the company is offering, constant invites to his/her opportunity meetings, etc. Folks, recruiting is a one on one activity that is accomplished after LISTENING. Your status update is not the place to broadcast your opportunity to the world. If you really want to recruit people through social media, build relationships and find people that actually need what you have to offer. Then share your opportunity privately, in a way that meets the needs of the prospect.
  3. The Hosting Commercial - This is the one where you just roll your eyes as they say things like, “I’m giving away $500 in free jewelry this month. Want some?” or “I have 5 slots for 5 lucky ladies to host a party with me. Contact me to book your date!” Honestly…this really doesn’t work. Maybe once in a very blue moon someone will take pity on you and book a show. But you’ll be much better off building relationships and TALKING to people. Repeat after me…”Broadcasting doesn’t work in social media!”
  4. The Shameless Self-Promoter - This is the person that constantly tells you how much product they’ve sold at their last party, how many people they’ve just recruited, all the awards they’ve won through their company, etc. While once in a while sharing your excitement about something is fine, doing this all the time gets old really quick.
  5. The Noisy Player - You’ve played Farmtown, Bejeweled Blitz, or whatever the latest and greatest Facebook game or Quiz is, and you’ve released it into the news feeds of every single person connected to you. Folks…people don’t CARE. All this does is clutter up the news feeds of folks that don’t want to see your scores. And annoying people really isn’t great for business.
  6. All Business Broadcaster – These are the folks that never share anything personal through Facebook. You have no idea who they are, but only know what they sell. Folks, this is called SOCIAL media for a reason. If you’re not willing to let people get to know you on a more personal level, then perhaps social media isn’t for you. (That’s not to say you have to share EVERYTHING. Just intersperse the business with some personal, to help people know, like, and trust you.)

If you’re going to use Facebook to help build your business, invest some time to learn how to do it properly. That way, the contacts you build on Facebook may actually benefit your business. Why not sign up for my newsletter? I provide lots of tips on how to use social media to build your business.

What do you think? Have you experienced any of these Facebook-ers? Do you have any to add? Would love to read your thoughts below!

Photo Credit: Roland

Whole FoodsThe article “5 Social Media Lessons Learned from Whole Foods” on Mashable has a number of useful strategies for direct sales companies who are considering a social media strategy. What I find most interesting is the approach Whole Foods takes on both a corporate level, as well as how it empowers its local stores to participate.

Some learnings that apply to direct sales companies:

  • Individuals in the corporate office who use Twitter in their official capacity are empowered to use it however they are comfortable, within a few guidelines. Some choose to share personal details, while others are strictly business. This enables each individual to come across as authentic.
  • The way different social media tools are used by Whole Foods is interesting, and I think the approach is something that would work well for direct selling. Twitter, for example, is mainly used for customer service. Facebook, with its multimedia rich tools, is used for embedding video and providing longer content. They also have a flickr page, corporate blog, videos on healthy cooking, and even a presence on Get Satisfaction, which is a customer feedback site. Their approach is “go where your customers are.” This is a good rule of thumb no matter what business you are in.
  • Whole Foods has a national approach at a corporate level, but is also mindful of the local level. It empowers individual store owners, and even specific depts, to provide info of interest to local customers. As direct sellers, we should consider how we can empower the sales force to work locally, while the company provides info of interest to a national or international audience. We should also train the sales force to use social media tools to tap into each seller’s local market more fully.
  • As a smaller, non-tech company, Whole Foods is achieving success over its competitors by being bold with its approach. While other companies are taking a wait and see approach, Whole Foods is diving in to social media, and seeing real success.
  • Participating in the conversation and allowing it to happen, even when that conversation is negative, provides value in the long run. You must be aware of what is being said about your company online, so you can address issues as needed.

I think the Whole Foods model definitely has elements that will work for direct sales companies, and is something that should be closely observed as direct selling companies put their social media marketing plans into place.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these strategies with your company? Has something else worked? Would love to read your comments below!

Photo Credit: adam*b

Note to Readers: This blog is moving! I am in the process of moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com. While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over and I will no longer be updating this site. If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog. If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

Once you get beyond 100 or so friends on Twitter, it can be a little overwhelming. I remember the day I finally gave myself permission to miss stuff on Twitter. It was so liberating! :) You simply aren’t going to be able to keep up with everything going on all the time. Now this post is not going to be about why Twitter rocks, and why I enjoy (greatly) the relationships I’ve built there over time, but instead how I manage those relationships.

At this writing, I have 3,884 followers on Twitter, and I’m following 3,847 people. I tell you this not to show off numbers (which by themselves are actually pretty meaningless) but to give you context. If I had 25K followers, I would most likely use a different strategy than this (or at least different tools.)

So here’s what I do to manage my Twitter conversations.

  1. I use TweetDeck. (Great for a few to a few thousand followers…I hear it gets less stable with tens of thousands. I’ll deal with that when I get there.) I’ve got columns set up within TweetDeck to track specific keywords, as well as groups of people.
    tweetdeck
  2. In the search columns, I track keywords important to the industry I service. One of my biggest keywords is “direct sales.” Anytime anyone mentions direct sales, I am notified in real time. That way I can check that person out and see if they’re someone I might want to engage with.

The groups columns are set up this way:

  1. All friends – This column contains the conversations of everyone I follow. If I have a few extra minutes, I’ll scan this column for interesting tweets.
  2. Pay Attention To – People “graduate” from All friends to Pay Attention To through engagement, or through recommendation. If someone is really interesting, engages with me in a meaningful way, or if someone is recommended by a person I respect, I add them to this column. I read most of the tweets in this column.
  3. Rock Stars – I know the name is silly, but whatever. These are the people who I learn from in Twitter. So you’ll find people like @chrisbrogan, @unmarketing, @leesabarnes, and @SarahRobinson in this column. They do social media really well, and I learn a lot from their tweets. I read just about everything here.
  4. Personal Friends – Just like the name says, these are people I know in real life. It’s a way to keep up with people I know and like. :) Incidentally, I’ve added myself to this group. If someone references a tweet I’ve made earlier, it’s easier to find it in this column than trying to find it among the tweets of everyone I’m following.
  5. Direct Sales – This column is for people I’ve identified as direct sellers who may be interested in the services I offer. I check this one regularly as well.

So that gives you a little bit of insight into how I manage Twitter. I think it’s important to have a strategy in place, because you need to be able to focus on the conversations that matter in order to build relationships that will benefit your business. By using a tool such as TweetDeck, you can segment the larger conversation into more meaningful streams, which enable you to be more effective as you network.

What do you think? How do you manage your Twitter relationships? Looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below!

And if you’re not yet following me on Twitter, please do! My handle is @liajen, and you can follow me by clicking here.

Note to Readers: This blog is moving!  I am in the process of moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com.  While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over and I will no longer be updating this site.  If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog.  If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

j0438691Do you have a newsletter for your direct sales business? Perhaps your company provides you with one (hopefully it’s one that you can add content to yourself), or maybe you create and send one yourself. Regardless of the source, an e-newsletter is an important part of your overall social media strategy. Why? Because content marketing is essentially about lead generation. Once people opt-in through your blog or Facebook Page, then you have permission to market to them. And the best way to market is a content-driven approach through the vehicle of your newsletter.

So what makes a great e-newsletter? First of all, there still needs to be content. Remember, people opt-in for content. They don’t opt-in for ads. If you’re just going to be a commercial, don’t even bother. There’s a reason most e-newsletters have a 5-10% open rate. There needs to be a compelling reason for people to open your newsletter…there must be something in it for them. So be sure you’ve got GREAT content that is very relevant to the target market you’re trying to reach. Just like with your blog content, the content in your newsletter should be free and actionable steps that your target market can use right now without spending a dime.

Once you’ve created some great content, then you can include a special offer or product/opportunity highlight that may be of interest to your target market. I like to refer to this as the “content sandwich.” Make sure you surround your advertising with great content that will draw people in. That will lead to more success than just flinging ads at people. And be sure you’re including visuals. People will more easily consume your content if you give them a visual break. So learn how to add pictures through whichever program you’re using, and use them often to highlight the content and offers you’re making.

If you’re a direct sales company, consider providing your sales force with a newsletter service that allows them to add a content-driven article, based on the needs of the target market they’ve defined. However be sure that you as a company are also providing content that will go even if the salesperson doesn’t have time to add an article. That way all prospects are gaining value from your company, and will be receiving the all-important follow-up that leads to sales and reorders.

And if you’re a salesperson with a company that does not provide you with an e-newsletter (and understand that it’s an investment that not all companies are able to make right now), you can still create your own. Services such as Constant Contact and AWeber (my personal favorite) provide attractive templates that you can use to follow up regularly with your prospects and customers (as well as provide regularly-scheduled training to your team if there’s a robust auto-responder like the one AWeber offers.) You’ll pay a monthly fee for these services, but often just one sale as a result of this follow-up will pay for the month’s service.

Finally, be very sure that you don’t use your e-newsletter to spam anyone. Remember, people MUST opt-in for your newsletter, or else it’s considered spam. So don’t sign up your friends, your mother, and your dog for your newsletter without being sure you have permission. A simple strategy is simply to ask every contact, “Would you like to receive a free copy of my newsletter, which has great articles about…?” If they say yes, then you have permission to send it.

By making your e-newsletter a strategic part of your overall content marketing strategy, you will be able to provide the follow-up necessary to convert social networking contacts into customers and recruits for your business.

What do you think? Do you provide a newsletter for your prospects? What do you include? How does it work for you? Would love to read your comments below!

Note to Readers: This blog is moving!  I am in the process of moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com.  While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over and I will no longer be updating this site.  If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog.  If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

There are about thirty gazillion books out there on the topic of social media these days. It can be a little bit overwhelming trying to select the books that will best help you and your direct sales business.

I decided today to share with you what’s on my bookshelf. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these are some of the books I have read and enjoy on the subject. Would love to read some of your favorites in the comments!

One of the tricky parts of any book on social media is how quickly things evolve and become out of date. It’s one of the reasons I don’t often recommend books about specific applications. For example, any book in print you pick up these days on Facebook is likely to reflect the old user interface, not the current one. I have to update my training on blogs and social networking platforms every single time I teach a class, because things are constantly changing.

But there are essential guiding principles that are relevant to social media marketing, no matter how the tools change. The books above discuss those principles, and are certainly a good read.

So what do you think? Love these? Hate them? Can’t wait to hear in the comments below what you are reading!

NOTE: This blog is moving to a new home at http://jenfongspeaks.com. In order to guarantee uninterrupted delivery of these posts to your inbox, please click here so you’ll be subscribed to the posts in their new location.  I will only be maintaining posts at my old blog site for a short time before everything is switched over.  So please click here today so you don’t miss a thing!

handshakeMany of the direct sellers that I work with tell me that they wish their direct sales companies would do more with social media. They want their companies to provide training and tools to use social media more effectively, and are surprised when their company’s policies and procedures more or less prohibit contact with prospects through social media at all.

What I often say to these direct sellers is that now is the time for you to help your companies.  They’re still figuring this all out themselves, and your experience can be helpful.  While your companies may not take every suggestion you have (after all, they can see the big picture of the entire company, while you can only see your part of it) your input can be useful as social media policy is drafted.

Here are some of the issues going on as your company considers social media.

  1. Policies & Procedures Outdated.  The policies and procedures of your company may have been written before social media was invented, and that’s why it’s so unclear what you can and cannot do.  As a direct seller, there are 2 things you can do.  1) When in doubt, ASK!  If you’re not sure what you’re allowed to do, ask your company; and 2) Ask your company for specific policies & procedures related to social media.  It may be time for an updated version of this document.
  2. Inappropriate Postings by Your Peers. One of the big concerns that direct selling companies have about social media is when consultants blur the lines between personal and professional, and begin posting things for their friends that don’t reflect well on the company.  The best thing you can do is make a decision…how will you use social media?  If you’re going to use it for business or include a link to/mention your company at all, then clean up your profile, and be sure EVERY single thing you post is appropriate for your company, your customer, your kids, and your momma to see.  One of the big hang-ups companies face when deciding whether or not to allow social media usage is the stuff that’s already out there that is NOT appropriate.  So if social media is important to you for your business (and it should be), you need to say something to your fellow consultants when they post inappropriate things.  Only when we all work together will we bring this industry forward.
  3. Ask for Training and Resources. Companies are still trying to figure out how best to support their sales force in social media.  If you believe that you need specific types of training, and it would be beneficial to you to have certain company resources (such as a Facebook fan page, recruiting videos, etc.) available, let your company know!  Social media is new to many direct sales companies, so it will often be helpful for them to know what it is you need.  One of the first questions I ask of a company when they bring me in to help them craft a social media strategy is, “What have your consultants been asking for?”

The direct sales industry is moving forward into social media, and it will truly be a collaboration between consultants and companies that has the greatest, and most successful, impact.  If it is important to you as a direct seller to have the tools and training you need to succeed at social media, communicate with your company.  And as a direct sales company, be sure you’re tapping into your socially-connected sales force, so you know the kind of support that your sales force is looking for.  A collaborative effort will bring forth the best results.

What’s your take on this issue?  Would love to read your comments below!

Photo Credit: Andyrob

Note to Readers: Within the next few days, I will be moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com.  While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over.  If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog.  If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

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