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Lots of direct sales companies have Twitter accounts today. The problem is, few companies seem to know what to do with them. Without a clear understanding of WHY the company has the account (besides, everyone else has one so we should too) companies are broadcasting a stream of ads, without anything to show for it.

If your company is trying to figure out the best way to use Twitter, the first thing you have to ask is “Who do we want to talk to?” And in order to answer that question, you need to understand how Twitter fits into your larger marketing plan, of which social media is a part. Are you trying to find new recruits? Increase brand recognition? Increase sales? Each of these marketing goals may have a different audience. So first figure out who you want to talk to, and then you can figure out if that audience is on Twitter.

If your goal is to reach a consumer audience, frequent tweets about the features and benefits of your product line is the wrong way to go. First, no one on Twitter likes a steady stream of ads, and they’ll simply ignore you. But also, a consumer audience is often easier to find on tools such as Facebook.

Does that mean you should abandon Twitter? No. But it does mean you need a different strategy.

Instead of engaging consumers directly on Twitter, you may be better off engaging the folks that INFLUENCE your consumers. This is often popular bloggers. They often do spend time on Twitter. However a steady stream of ads won’t work with them either. Instead, you need to talk to them. Find out what’s important to them. Retweet their content, and share content they’ll find valuable. You have to actually spend time on Twitter talking to people if you want it to work for you. Simply sending out a tweet a day with information about your product or opportunity won’t do a thing for you. It takes community management to be successful.

Twitter, along with other social networks, has particular types of users. Depending on your goals, you have to engage in a certain way. It takes a skilled community manager with the time to invest in building relationships for your brand, if you want your social networking engagement to bring measurable results for your brand.

Does your company use Twitter? How’s it working for you? Who are you trying to reach? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

This week I wrote a post about a bad experience with Domino’s Pizza, and how I felt that they ignored me on Twitter.  My thought is that if you’re going to have a Twitter account, you need to be prepared to service customers there, even if it’s simply to direct people to the appropriate customer service channel.

And I had someone on Twitter question whether I was being fair to Domino’s.  After all, the national brand is represented by independent franchisees.  Shouldn’t we hold the individual franchise responsible for a customer service failure, instead of the whole brand?

And as nice as that would be in a perfect world, I think it’s unrealistic.  Fair or not, consumers do hold national brands accountable for the service they experience from franchisees.  And that affects our direct sales model too.  If a customer or prospect has a bad experience with an individual consultant, they are most likely going to hold your brand responsible for that experience.  They may tell others how terrible your brand is as a result of that experience.  And more and more, they’re going to do that on social networks.

And as a result, social networks hold both the potential for disaster, as well as the potential to identify issues and resolve them before negative word of mouth takes off.  Every company needs to take a long, hard look at their monitoring and customer service functions as they relate to social media.  This is where our customers and prospects will increasingly congregate.  And our response as brands to issues will have a tremendous impact on the public perception of our brand.

Maybe it wasn’t fair for me to expect the corporate Twitter account for Domino’s Pizza to resolve my issue.  (And incidentally, as a result of my post they did open a customer service ticket to resolve my issue.)  It doesn’t change the fact that I DID expect it, and was disappointed when they didn’t come through.  Maybe it’s not fair for a customer to complain about your brand online because of a negative experience with a consultant who was already on the way out.  It doesn’t change the fact that they will complain.

The only thing you can control as a brand is your response.  Begin planning now.  You NEED a monitoring solution in place, you NEED a support path in place to direct issues appropriately, and your customer service department NEEDS to be trained to support web issues.

We can talk about what’s fair until the cows come home.  It doesn’t change what IS.

Are you ready?

image credit: sdminor81

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

Most direct sales companies are creating Facebook Pages these days.  There are a lot of good reasons to:

  • Increased brand exposure
  • More direct communication with consultants
  • The ability to connect directly with the consumer

And so much more!

But have you ever noticed that some direct sales company pages are SUPER active, with lots of comments and fan engagement, while others are just a steady stream of company posts, with no response whatsoever?  What’s the difference?  Why are some people “Like-ing” and engaging, while others “Like” and then never come back?

There are two things going on here, and the solution is the same for both.

Issue #1: Your posts aren’t engaging people, so they’re not showing up in people’s news feeds.
The default setting for people on Facebook is “Top News.”  This means that the only posts that show up when people log in to Facebook are the ones that other people have commented on or interacted with in some way, or are from a Page that they have recently interacted with.  Since 99.5% of all the interaction that happens with a Facebook Page occurs from the News Feed, if you’re not showing up there you have a problem.

Issue #2: Your posts are all about you.
You already know that people only care about your brand insofar as it solves a problem or meets a need that they have.  So if all you talk about is your latest special or your next opportunity call, it’s a disconnect.  Even though on the surface you might think that the posts about your products and opportunity are why you have the Facebook Page, it’s not true. If you don’t engage people first, they’ll ignore you. 9 out of every 10 posts on your Page should be specifically designed to provide VALUE and promote ENGAGEMENT.

The Solution
So if you’ve suddenly realized that your company Facebook Page is not even showing up for most of your Fans, what should you do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Begin by creating a list of “Engagement” posts. These are posts that provide tips, ideas, ask questions, or in some other way provide value to your list of “Like-ers.”  You might consider “crowd-sourcing” ideas for your next product (e.g. Would you like a pumpkin or a cranberry-colored one?), run contests where people can win products (just make sure you stay within Facebook’s rules for that, by using a company like WildFire), or share posts that relate to common aggravations or experiences (e.g. Hit “Like” if you’ve ever lit a candle to offset the smell of your kids’ stinky sneakers!  Tell us which scent you used!)
  2. Put all of your posts into a monthly editorial calendar. How do they balance?  Sometimes we need to fifty-foot view to see that we’re way too heavy on the promotional end, and way too light on the value and engagement end.
  3. Engage back. Do you respond to every single comment and post on your Page?  Do you even know if people HAVE commented?  You should!  In this social arena, one of your biggest tools is, well, social.  So respond to every single comment, even if it’s just a “thanks for sharing your ideas” or clicking the “Like” link on a comment.  It helps people to stay engaged when it’s a 2-way conversation.
  4. Show your consultants how to participate. Your ace in the hole, so to speak, is your field of independent consultants.  If you take a look at The Pampered Chef Facebook Page (disclosure: client), and click “The Pampered Chef + Others” at the top, you’ll see a vibrant and engaged community of consultants sharing tips and ideas.  This activity makes Facebook think that the Page is relevant to a lot of people, which means it’s more likely to appear in the Top News feed.  Make sure your consultants know how to use your corporate Facebook Page.  Invite them to share tips they would share at their parties, answer questions, and express their enthusiasm on the posts you put out there.  This will help people checking out your company to see what a great and engaged community that you have, while also helping you engage more of your current fans.

The more that people engage with your posts, the more likely it will be that your posts will show up in the Top News home page of your Fans.  And if you’d like more Engagement ideas, check out this post I wrote over on my Direct Sales and Social Media blog: Building Your Facebook Page Engagement Strategy

How do you engage the people who “Like” your Facebook Page?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

The viral nature of the internet can be a wonderful thing.  Messages about your company can spread far and wide, resulting in new consultants and higher sales.  But that viral effect can be a double-edged sword.  Because if someone has a bad experience with your company, or one of its consultants, that can have a devastating effect on your company’s reputation, and its ability to recruit.

We saw this very thing happen to United Airlines when they broke a musician’s $3,500 Taylor guitar, and then refused to pay for it.  Google “United Breaks Guitars” and you’ll see a remarkable string of posts that have preserved this rocky patch in United’s history forever.  If United had had a strategy in place to deal with such situations before they became viral sensations, they would have been much better off (and you can bet they do now!)

This past year we saw a member of our own industry, Arbonne International, manage this quite well.  When the company went through a debt restructuring, it could have been very easy for negative information to fly, causing many of its distributors to flock to other companies.  But the company took a pro-active approach, creating a company blog as part of a larger communication strategy that kept distributors informed, and helped the company weather the storm.  Now this is but a far-distant memory that the company has been able to put behind them.

Does your direct sales company have a plan for when disaster strikes?  We all know that the information that the salesforce sees and consumes is essential when it comes to managing crisis.  What should you have in place ahead of time to be prepared?  Here are some tips:

  • Create an escalation procedures document. Make a list of “worst that could happen” scenarios, and who is authorized to make a public statement.  This will save you hours of meetings trying to decide who should take care of the situation, while it spirals out of control, and makes it very easy for the person who spots the issue to quickly route it to the correct person, no matter what the hour.
  • Create a “24 hour statement” for each issue you identify. This is a standard response that can be made in response to each of the scenarios you identified, so the company looks responsive while you’re crafting a more specific company response.
  • Have “community ambassadors” within your corporate structure. These are folks who work with influencers in the online communities most important to you.  When a crisis arises, chances are these influencers will reach out to the person they know and trust in your organization, for your side of the story.  This means these influencers are a lot more likely to provide a balanced view of the situation.
  • Create a culture that admits when you’re wrong. Transparency and authenticity are DEMANDED in social media communities, particularly when things go wrong.  Be sure the employees in your organization are able to admit it when you’re wrong, and empowered to fix it.
  • Have a place for your official corporate response. This is typically a corporate blog.  If the issue is big enough and mainstream media picks it up, they’ll have a place they can go that provides the official corporate response.

By planning before crisis hits, you can more effectively manage online crises before they go viral.  And if you handle them well, you might even get some positive feedback from the online community.  It all starts with a plan!

image credit: Jim Linwood

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic planning consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

image credit: jurvetson

Direct selling companies are in an interesting position right now.  Many executives who don’t know much about social media are looking to hire people who do, to guide them.  The challenge is finding people who also understand our industry and its specific nature. Just because a program or site someone saw is cool, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for direct selling.

It all comes down to understanding your business objectives before diving into social media.  By establishing a clear goal up front, every new program and site can be weighed against it, to decide if it’s a fit.  For example, let’s say that a social media advisor is in love with a virtual reality site he thought was cool when he worked at his last tech-savvy company.  This, he says, will be the shining star in the company’s social media strategy.

A quick look at the company’s business objective though, reveals that the goal is to increase consultant productivity.  Even though the site may be cool, it’s neither a) a place the company wants its sales force to be spending time (we want them selling and recruiting!) nor b) a tool that will in itself provide any tools to consultants to increase their productivity.  Sure, the site might help with brand recognition, but that has not been identified as the goal for the company’s social media strategy.

It’s critically important to ensure that companies start with business objectives, and not the “oooh! shiny” tools that try to sway our attention.  Focus is key.  The latest and greatest is not always the best solution for your particular needs.  Your best bet is to focus on tools that have the greatest concentration of your target market.  And then focus on ways to increase productivity by using those tools.  This is what will bring success with social media.

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic planning consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

image credit: jurvetson

Does your direct selling company have a blog?  Does it need one?

There are lots of good reasons to consider having a corporate blog.  It’s a great way to provide your company’s official response to anything, for PR purposes.  You can use it to provide valuable content that your consultants can easily pass on to their social networks.  Your blog content can auto-populate onto your company Facebook Page, providing more value to your Facebook fans.  It can provide real SEO value.  Some direct sales companies are even using it to provide training to the salesforce!

Yes, there are many things a blog can do for your company.  But it does require a commitment.  Starting a blog and then never updating it won’t bring your company any benefits.  If you want a blog to work for your company, here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide how the blog fits into your larger social media strategy. What is the purpose of the blog?  Is it to provide resources for consultants?  Give insight into the inner-workings of the organization?  Provide training?  Whatever it is, be very clear on why you have it, what you want to communicate, and who your audience is.
  2. Assign it to someone. It has to be someone’s job to ensure that the blog is regularly updated.  If you expect that people with other jobs will “remember” when it’s their turn to add a post, it most likely will not happen.  Someone has to have both ownership of the blog, as well as authority to ensure that the posts get turned in on time, so you have consistent fresh content.
  3. Create an editorial calendar. One of the best ways to ensure that the blog is working as part of the overall business is to create an editorial calendar.  Plan at least 3 months out, and decide how the posts can work with the goals of the organization.  Are you launching a new catalog?  Think about posts that will support the theme or new products.  Is there a philanthropic initiative that the company is running one month?  Think about what you can write on the blog to highlight that program.  Your blog should work with the other initiatives the company is working on to be an effective resource.

By taking some time to plan before setting up a company blog, you can ensure fresh, consistent content that will provide your company with SEO benefits, your consultants with resources that are easy to share, and the public with information that helps them come to know, like, and trust your company.

Does your company have a blog?  What do you do to make sure it is relevant and consistent?  What benefits does it bring to your organization?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com.

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong

I love analytics.  I really do.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I’m an analytics junkie.  Why?  Because analytics are validation.  They show how your social media efforts are paying off, and what you should be spending your time on.  It’s the hard data that you can use to find out if what you’ve done is bringing you the traffic that can make you money, or if it’s a complete waste of time.  As a company executive, it’s your measurement of ROI that helps you make good decisions moving forward.

Analytics help you answer these questions: Which posts are people reading?  Which pages are they visiting on your website?  Where are they coming from?  Where are they going next?  Are they clicking on your links?  By using simple tools, you can easily measure the return on your social media investment.

So what should you be looking at on a daily basis?

  1. Blog/site visitor counts – You should have site analytics built into your blog and website.  If you’re using a wordpress.com blog like this one, the site visits are built right in.  If you’ve got a website, you should be registered for Google Analytics, and put the code on each page of your site.  Then watch the numbers over time.  When are people coming to your site, and how much time are they spending there?  Are you getting more visitors over time?  Then your strategy is probably working.  If you’re not, then you know where you need to focus your efforts.
  2. What people are looking at - Does specific content draw a crowd?  What type of content does your niche market value?  For my Direct Sales & Social Media blog, one of my most popular posts ever was when I told people what NOT to do in social media. So I learned that people are looking for ways to improve upon what they’re already doing.  Good data.  And it helps me formulate what to write next.  It also helps me figure out what content to include in my newsletter.
  3. What people are clicking on - Where do people go next?  On your website, use Google Analytics to follow their path through your content.  Do people go where you want them to go on your site?  If not, what can you change so you get the conversion objectives you’re looking for?  Maybe you need to reconsider your site’s organization to take into account certain buyer personas.  How can they best use your site?  What matters most to them?  Make sure there’s a clear path for them.If you’re a blogger, do people care about the links you post?  Are they subscribing to your newsletter or considering the product you’re highlighting?  By taking a look at the percentage of visitors that click, you can determine how engaging your leadup is, and if you need to make changes.
  4. Where people are coming from – What is driving traffic to your site?  Which search engine are most visitors using, and what keywords are they using that finds you?  Are other bloggers referring to your work?  Are your social networking efforts resulting in traffic to your blog or website?  By keeping track, you can thank people that mention you, keep doing the things that are providing you with results, and focus your efforts on the areas where you need to improve.CB107196For example, when I was CEO of a direct sales company, we taught our sales force how to use Facebook to market their businesses.  Facebook became one of the top 5 referrers to our corporate website, with 3-5 times the average visit length of any other referrer.  What did this tell us?  That our training efforts were paying off, and our efforts in social media were effective.

    Another story…when I started my Direct Sales & Social Media blog, I posted occasional articles to LinkedIn groups I was a part of.  I didn’t see many comments there, and it was tempting to think that this effort was a waste of my time.  However, I discovered through analytics that most of my weekend traffic comes through LinkedIn, and so it’s a valuable activity for me to continue.  Without analytics, I never would have known.

  5. Link analytics are also important.  By using http://cli.gs or the equivalent (there are plenty out there) you can see how many people are clicking on the links you use in your emails and throughout social networking sites.  Does the following you’ve built care about what you’ve posted?  Does anybody click in Facebook and Twitter when you recommend something?  By using a link analytics tool, you can find out.

There are many components to an effective analytics strategy.  But by keeping on top of your analytics, you can measure growth, and adjust your efforts accordingly.  And that helps you to continually improve your overall social media marketing plan and strategy.

How are you using analytics?  How have they helped you with your overall social media strategy?  Would love to read your comments below!

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.

by Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong's Facebook Profile

Jennifer Fong’s Facebook Profile

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently where software companies claim to solve all of a direct sales company’s social media requirements with their latest and greatest software tool.  Companies can control the message their sales force sends, they claim!  You can build a whole community within your own little bubble, within your control!  While I am not knocking any particular software application, I think it’s important to realize that you don’t need to pay for a software platform in order to use social media effectively.

Part of the beauty of social media is the fact that the tools where the most people currently are, are free.  If you build your own social community on your own website, you’re going to have to complete the additional step of driving traffic there.  What’s the compelling reason for your prospects to come to your community?  Why not operate in environments such as Facebook, where your prospects already hang out?  Why would they go to your homegrown community for fun?  To be sold?  I don’t think so.

You also need to realize that the conversation is going to go on within Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms whether you participate or not.  You will not be able to tightly control the message.  This is why monitoring is an essential component of your overall social media strategy.  When you know what people are saying about your brand, and participate when necessary to solve problems, you gain respect in the social media world, which brings increased respect for your brand.

Now I’m not saying that direct sales companies shouldn’t consider software solutions.  But it’s important to take a step back and consider the overall goals of your social media and total marketing program first.  What do you want to accomplish?  Who are you trying to reach?  Where do you want to drive traffic, and what are the conversion objectives? How will participation with your brand shape brand perception?  How will you measure success?  Without answering these critical questions first, investing in an expensive software platform is a mistake.  And if you’re a small to mid-size company, a software solution may not even be necessary.  After all, the popular social media platforms are free.  Your biggest investment will be the man-hour resources needed to implement your social media strategy properly.

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong

Basic sales strategy says you go where the people are.  It’s not “If you build it they will come.”  People are already using free social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and that’s where they’re connecting with others.  Some are already complaining that they’re overwhelmed with these tools.  Why on earth would you want to add another?  You don’t want to make doing business with you a social media chore.  Instead, blend into the communities that already exist, bring value, and drive traffic that relates to your conversion objectives.  That’s how you’ll experience success with your overall social media strategy.

Your thoughts?  Would love to read them in the comments!

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.

Videos are among the most virally-shared content on the internet

Videos are among the most virally-shared content on the internet

Social media is an excellent tool for finding people that have an interest in your company’s product or service.  Once a company has defined its social media strategy, along with its targeted niche market, then it’s time to use content marketing to provide value to that niche, and engage them in ways that lead to the behaviors the company seeking.

For example, if your goal is to find additional customers for your business, then you would provide content that provides solutions to problems that your targeted niche has.  This could be done through blog posts on the topic,  “how-to” videos, live events, etc.  If you sell skincare, the content might discuss how to keep your skin looking young.  If you sell kitchenware, your targeted niche may be looking for quick and simple ways to prepare family meals.  Whatever it is, you need to find your prospects’ common problems, and then give them solutions they can use RIGHT NOW without having to buy a thing.  This might mean changing up the way you’ve been used to presenting your product line.  If you’ve been used to just selling the features and benefits of your products, you are going to have to go further and become a true expert in your field.  Read what others are writing about.  Find the solutions your prospects are seeking.  By doing so, you will provide much greater value to your niche.

Once you have the content, use it on your blog, your YouTube channel, or your Ustream live events.  Provide content that offers solutions to your targeted niche.  Invite and encourage comments in order to engage your prospects.  And always give them a place to sign up so they can get more info from you, as well as virally share your content with their social networks.  After all, you’re positioning your company as the expert that gives them solutions they can use.  Why wouldn’t they want more?  Why wouldn’t they share with and refer their friends?

As you build a group of targeted followers on social networking sites, send them to your content that offers solutions, and then invite them to join your list, you help people work their way down your sales funnel.  You can then engage these highly-targeted content consumers on a level impossible through social networking (just conversing on tools such as Facebook and Twitter) alone.  They can join groups, receive targeted offers, participate in online events you offer, etc.  And the people who remain engaged become some of your very best customers.

Jennifer Fong, Social Media Associate

Jennifer Fong, Social Media Associate

So as you craft your social media strategy, be sure to keep content marketing in mind.  It is the strategy that works best in a social media arena that doesn’t want to be “sold,” but that consumes information passionately.  Be a part of their solutions, and new customers and recruits will follow.

Learn more about how we can help you with your direct sales company’s social media strategy at http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html

What do you think?  Would love to hear how you are using a content marketing strategy below!