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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

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 Policies & Procedures Outdated.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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crowd by James CridlandThe true value in using social media to find more customers for your direct sales business comes from going where the people are.  It’s a basic rule of sales, based on the law of averages…the more people you have access to, the more likely you are to find people who want to buy from you.  Unfortunately, some direct sellers translate this into thinking they need to join EVERY social media site that’s out there.  People often ask me, “is there a way to update all these sites at the same time? I need to have time to work on my business too!  And do I need to be on EVERY site my prospects are on?”

These are GREAT questions.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know that I recommend that you avoid services such as ping.fm that allow you to update your status on multiple social media sites at the same time. The audiences for each of these social networking sites is different, and the way you should be interacting with them is different.  Plus, relationship building requires your presence.

But then how do you ever get the rest of your work done if you have to visit each site individually?  If you’re in direct sales, you need to be meeting with customers, hostess coaching and doing parties (if you’re in party plan), providing customer service and follow-up in order to generate rebookings/reorders, etc.  There are simply not enough hours in the day to add a multitude of social media sites and build relationships on all of them well.

schedule by jrvetstonYou know what?  You are absolutely right.  There AREN’T enough hours in the day to be on every social media site there is, and still run your business well.  And that’s why you should be choosy.  As the title of this post says, less is more.  Rather than trying to find every single prospect that may possibly exist on every single social networking site that’s out there (and then not be able to do the relationship-building activities required to turn them from prospects into customers), instead focus on just a few sites with the highest population of your targeted niche market.

In my opinion, the best sites for direct sellers to focus on are Facebook (#1…biggest social networking site with the most people who are mostly in our main demographic), Twitter (when you’ve dried up that group of family & friends and are ready to build relationships with new people), and LinkedIn (where you can connect with people that may become business building recruits.)  You may also find niche-specific groups that are specific to your target market, where you’ll be able to build the relationships that lead to success.

Now this is not to say that new sites won’t emerge in the future (and when I know about them you can be SURE I’ll write about there here, so be sure you’re subscribed.)  But for now, if you’re just getting your feet wet in social media, start with Facebook.  Most connections are based on an underlying relationship that’s already established, and it’s a great and comfortable way to get started in social networking.  Plus the viral-sharing capabilities in Facebook make it a great way to share information without spamming anyone.  (And DON’T be one of those direct sellers posting things like “Join my business!” “We’re having a SALE!” “I need 2 more hostesses this month.” People don’t like it and they will ignore you in large measure.  While you may get 1 or 2 customers from this strategy, you will gain a lot more over time if you skip the spam and employ a thoughtful content-marketing strategy.)

So remember, less is more!  Don’t join every social networking site there is and overwhelm yourself.  You also don’t want to get so busy with social networking that you forget your income-producing activities!  By being strategic in the sites that you join, you’ll experience a lot more success in your social media marketing.

Now it’s your turn!  What sites are you a part of?  How do you manage the time and relationships?  How does it relate to your overall business?  Would LOVE to read your comments below!

Jennifer Fong

Photo Credits: James Cridland, jrvetson (Creative Commons license on Flickr)

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CB104391What leads to success in social media marketing?  As a direct sales professional, this is a fair question to ask as you weigh the time commitments involved against the expected return on investment.  Is social media going to provide the results that you hope for?  How long will it take?  Is it worth the effort?

As a social media consultant and trainer, I have the opportunity to work with both companies and individuals as they plan and implement a social media strategy.  And I have noticed a real indicator of success.  In fact, within 24 hours of working with a company or individual, I can pretty much tell you who is going to experience the most immediate success.  Perhaps it’s not so earth shattering or surprising what the key is.  What I have noticed is that those people who will be successful in social media is that they are willing to TAKE ACTION.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  People who are willing to dive in head first, once they understand the benefits of social media for their business, are the ones who will be successful.  They don’t worry or let fear hold them back.  Instead, they start smart: identify objectives and narrowly focus on a specific target market.  They choose the tools that will help them meet their objectives.  And then they dive in with confidence, focused more on connecting with others than they are on what they might do wrong.

I was recently working with a direct sales company on their social media strategy, and before I was out the door they were already assigning action items to staff.  Before a week was up they already had a plan and a presence in social media, and within a week their Facebook fan page already had over 200 fans.

On an individual level, I have a student in one of my social media classes who downloads all the materials BEFORE the class session (I post them 24 hours before each class) and works through the materials before coming to class.  That way he’s already familiar with the application we’re talking about that week, and he’ll get even more from that week’s session.  He also knows the right questions to ask, and is ready to put himself out there so he can be successful.

In both of these scenarios, it’s the TAKE ACTION companies and individuals who will be the most successful.  Are things new?  Absolutely!  But with a plan in place and the instruction to back it up, these people are willing to focus on the goal, and as a result are displaying the confidence necessary to get the job done well.  Social media is all about jumping in and experiencing it, and also projecting the confidence which leads to success.  By avoiding hesitation and getting started in a smart way, people and companies are setting themselves up for success.

What do you think?  How does this relate to your start in social media?  Would love to read your comments below!

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UnitedAirlinesHave you heard about the United Airlines debacle?  Basically they smashed up a band’s high-end guitar that was checked, and then refused to take responsibility.  The band member promised the UA rep that denied his claim that he would produce 3 videos online about the experience, and the first was recently posted, and now comes up 3rd on Google when you search United Airlines.  Within a week, the video had received 3 million views.  Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

You can read more about it here: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/united-airlines-and-consumer-generated-turbulence/

The lesson here for direct sales companies is the importance of monitoring and customer service in a social media age.  As United Airlines learned to its detriment, ignoring a customer service issue does not make it go away these days.  Social media is “the great equalizer” and people can cause a public relations nightmare for a company if the issue is not addressed.

It is CRITICAL that you monitor your brand, so you know what’s being said, and you can address customer service issues when necessary.  At the very least, you should be checking SocialMention.com daily, and you should have alerts set up.  Gone are the days when things could get pushed under the rug.  You need to be proactive so you know what’s being said by those who KNOW how to use social media tools to get the word out.

United Airlines ignored its social media savvy customers and is now going to have months, or even years, of fallout.  Let this be a cautionary tale, and don’t let this happen to you.

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CB060536Recently I shared a statistic on Facebook, that was shared by Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon, at the DSA Annual Meeting.  The statistic was that 80% of women in direct sales use the income that they make to feed, clothe, and educate their children.  While the statistic itself speaks volumes about the impact that direct sales is having on the next generation, I want to talk today about what happened AFTER I shared that statistic.

Facebook allows people to “comment” on things that you post.  Well after I posted that statistic, many of the direct sellers I am connected with on Facebook began to share their personal stories, about how direct sales has made a difference in their lives.  It wasn’t hype.  Rather, it was authentic testimonies of how direct sales is REALISTICALLY making a difference to them.  And I know that people who observed that interaction on Facebook may have walked away with perhaps a different perspective of the power of this industry.

That got me to thinking about how social media can be used to spread the “good news” of direct sales.  All too often direct sales gets a bad name in social media circles, due to over-enthusiastic sellers who feel the need to hype the opportunity, selling “get rich quick” scenarios that don’t work for most.  The result is a mistrust of the industry in general, because people don’t want to be scammed.  But if instead we focused on the genuine facts…that most people make a few extra hundred dollars per month in social media…we might get a much better response.

Amy Robinson

Amy Robinson, DSA VP Communications & Media Relations

I turned to Amy Robinson, Vice President of Communication and Media Relations at the Direct Selling Association, to get her take on all of this.  Amy spends her days talking to reporters about the direct selling industry, maintaining the EXCELLENT DirectSelling411 site, and providing the evidence and facts that people need to make informed decisions about our industry.  Here’s what Amy shared with me.

Amy believes that social media may be a really powerful tool for us as direct sellers to share the FACTS about direct sales, minus the hype.  “Social media is such a powerful medium.  You can be your own publisher, and it’s essentially free, but you must use it in the right way,” she said.  “Our society is such a sound byte society.  Direct sellers must remember that people don’t want to read LONG things in social media.  So when you’re sharing information about your opportunity, get to the point quickly, and help people see THEMSELVES in what you say.  It’s not just about you and your story.  People must be able to see success as they define it for themselves, if they are to believe that direct sales is something that can work for them.”

One resource that the DSA provides to help direct sellers and consumers get the facts about direct sales is the http://www.directselling411.com site.  While I will provide a post soon that goes into this great site in detail, it’s important for you to be aware of this site.  As I’ve said, we need to avoid HYPE when talking about direct sales in social media forums.  People are hyper-aware of hype, and it’s better to provide honest information that can help people make an informed decision.

Direct Selling 411 helps with this.  It’s a forum that lays out the facts about direct sales, lets people ask questions, and helps them find DSA member companies.  DSA members all agree to comply to a code of ethics that protects both consumers and consultants, so DSA membership is a big deal when considering an opportunity.  Amy shared that the feedback they’ve received at the DSA from consultants about the site has been phenomenal.  They absolutely LOVE having a 3rd party site that provides the FACTS.  It’s a great way to share the validity of direct sales with people that have questions.  And it’s a tool to help people be more comfortable with direct sales in general.

When we use social media tools to share the FACTS about direct sales, it helps you promote your own opportunity in a realistic way, while also promoting the industry in a positive light.  And when that happens, everyone wins.  So the next time you talk about your opportunity online, remember that the key is HONESTY and AUTHENTICITY.  By avoiding the hype, you will be a lot more convincing, and people will be able to see how direct sales will work for THEM, so they can achieve THEIR definition of success.

What do you think?  Have you promoted your opportunity online?  What were the results?  Would love to read your comments!

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dsa-meeting-jen_talk_show_small

Jennifer speaking at the 2008 DSA Annual Meeting

In 2008, I spoke on the main stage of the Direct Selling Association’s (DSA) Annual Meeting in front of 1,000 or so direct sales executives, and stated that I believe that social media is the future of direct sales.  There are so many parallels between what we do as direct sellers, and how social media operates.  What are some of the activities of a successful direct seller?  Networking, Providing valuable information, Developing relationships which lead to people buying our products and joining our teams.  And these are all activities that lead to successful social media marketing as well.

On a call I did yesterday with the beautiful Sarah Robinson of Direct Selling Leaders, I shared that most people don’t walk around with a sign around their necks that says “I’m looking for an opportunity.”  They also don’t walk around with a sign that says they are looking for products like ours to solve their problems.  However, in social media forums, people DO talk about their problems and needs, and when we do targeted searches and build relationships with people, this makes it very easy for us as direct sellers to specifically reach out to those people that ARE interested.  And that greatly improves our success rate.

So here are some specific things that I believe social media can do for a direct sales business:

  • FIND PROSPECTS who are looking for your products and opportunity right now
  • Provide BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE than you ever thought possible
  • Position yourself as an EXPERT that people go to for product recommendations
  • BUILD COMMUNITIES of people that want what you have to offer, and who will refer their friends to you
  • SUPPORT YOUR GROWING TEAM members, and help them learn from one another
  • Grow professionally as you LEARN from the best of the best

All of this will result in additional income for your business.

Now it’s important to note, this does not REPLACE your core business activities: booking parties, selling products, recruiting new distributors.  Rather, it enhances these, because social media gives you access to MORE PEOPLE.  It also enables you to specifically target your niche market through keyword searches, so your efforts are more efficient and productive.

So what do you think?  Are you using social media marketing for your direct sales business?  What results have you seen?  I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!  And if you’d like to receive more articles about how social media marketing can help your business, why not sign up for my newsletter?

Cheers!
Jennifer

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Guest Post by Julie Anne Jones

I’m going to be brutally honest with you…when I first began working with Jennifer Fong, I was certain that the whole “social media thing” was going to drain my time and stress my already packed schedule beyond it’s limits. Since we were putting together a course to offer to my client list called “Social Media Made Simple for Direct Sales Professionals,” and since I was the moderator, I had no choice but to at least be somewhat educated around the topic of using social media as a business tool. But I’ll honestly tell you, I probably wasn’t the most willing student Jennifer’s ever worked with.

We started with the one area where I already had a prescence – Facebook. I had a fairly active profile and a group called Direct Sales Success Made Easy with Julie Anne Jones that was filling up fairly quicky. I really didn’t know exactly what to do with all these people who were friending me and joining my group, but I was open to learning. Jen helped me tweak my profile and shared some simple tips for connecting with and supporting the members of my group.

Next we moved to blogging, LinkedIn, and Twitter. What I loved about what Jen was teaching me was the fact that her strategy for building relationships online so closely mirrors what I teach direct sellers to do in their businesses and at their parties; give people value, be authentic and build the relationship without trying to sell them anything up front.

Throughout the course of learning how to use these tools and this philosophy, I noticed a few things started to happen:

  • I was getting increased traffice (as in DOUBLE THE HITS) to my website
  • I was adding followers on Facebook and Twitter like crazy
  • My blog was getting a ton of hits and people were seeking me out after having read it

In short, my business was exploding! And all with, really and truly, I swear, only about a 30 – 45 minute investment each day. So, while I know I’m still in the beginning stages of learning about how to use the power of social media to grow my business and support my followers, I’m a converted believer. I don’t know exactly what my marketing strategy for my company will be in the coming years, but I do know that social media will always be a strong part of that plan.

So, the bottom line is, I’m an absolute believer now. Before I found Jennifer and her social media training, I’d been saying “I need to find a way to reach my niche audience on line” but could never figure out where they were “hanging out.” These social media tools have lead me to my niche and expanded my reach to new consultants and companies.
Julie Anne Jones is a direct sales coach and trainer and the CEO of Julie Anne Jones, Inc. She is known for her authentic and easy-to-use scripting and specializes in specific language and tools for success in direct sales.
As a former direct sales professional, Julie worked a party plan business for several years, consistently holding three parties per week and winning national awards yearly. She also built a National multi level marketing team through internet networking. For the past 6 years, she has focused entirely on coaching and training other leaders within the direct sales industry through live training as well as extensive webinar and tele-course training.

To learn more about Julie Anne and her products and services, visit her at www.julieannejones.com or check out her blog at http://julieannejones.com/blog.

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