Sitting at my desk yesterday, I checked my tweetdeck and found a message from one of my tweeps saying that social networking is the future of direct sales. I tweeted back saying that, in fact, social networking is the now of direct sales. We had a great conversation discussing the various issues that consultants face trying to make a name for themselves in a wired world.
If you’re not familiar with social media sites like myspace, facebook and twitter, chances are good you didn’t understand half of that last paragraph.
That’s no excuse to stick your head in the sand. Social media is here to stay, and it’s a powerful tool to add to your direct sales arsenal. Professional marketers are reaping the rewards of online connections on a daily basis. They’ve taken the art of networking and building relationships from the offline world to the online marketplace, and cashed in on the revolution in the process.
But before you jump headlong into social networking, there are a few concepts you need to understand. These caveats can turn your social networking into a lead generating machine – filling your inbox with leads and building your business in unprecedented ways.
1. Social Networks are not a PITCH fest. You can’t just join a social network and start telling everyone how great your company or product is. That’s the online equivalent of shoving your business card into the hand of everyone you meet without saying ‘hello’ first. Depending on the social networking site, you can share about yourself, your company and your products to varying degrees – but only AFTER you’ve established a relationship with your audience. Who is your audience? Anyone that’s following your page, signing up for your updates or trying to become your ‘friend’. The term is different for each service, but the idea is the same: people want to get to know who you are before they want to learn about what you have to offer.
Just like in the offline world, you need to show people you can provide value to them before you start talking about your company. Social networks essentially force you to share a bit of yourself with your audience before they’re going to respond to any offers you try to make. If you don’t, you’ll come off as pushy and people will stop following you – or worse yet, block you all together.
2. Brand YOURSELF First. It bears repeating, so I’ll say it again. YOU are the most important product your company has to offer. Successful consultants make a name for themselves even while they’re promoting their company’s products and services. It is up to YOU to promote yourself. No direct selling company is going to do that for you.
People have to know, like and trust you before they’re going to do business with you. It is your responsibility to provide the information your audience needs in order to build a lasting relationship with you.
Let your company handle the marketing and promotions for your products and services. You need to worry about making a name for yourself. Your company can’t stop you from creating your own website that is about your interests and your life. They CAN (and usually will) prevent you from using their product names, descriptions, images and trademarks. They have every right to do so. It dillutes their brand. It’s also a sign of a weak marketer to tie your marketing back to your company.
Some companies will let you use their content – but what happens if you leave that company? You have to start all over again. If instead, you promote yourself, then no matter what company you’re with, you’ve got a consistent social networking strategy that’s built around your reputation, rather than your company.
3. Don’t Do It All In One Day. Social networking sites are designed to be “sticky”. That means once you visit, they entice you with lots of content to suck up your time and get you to stick around for a while. You need to view social networking as a piece of your marketing puzzle – not the whole enchilada. Start with ONE site that appeals to you. Strictly limit your time, and be sure you’re using it for networking activities, not for mindlessly playing games or adding “apps” to enhance your page. Your time is best spent building and creating relationships with others on the site – not playing games with the computer!
Once you’ve “gotten the hang of it”, then consider other social networks, but realize that each site requires a bit of time to navigate and participate. Don’t commit to more groups than yuo can handle. Only YOU know your time availability and building marketing relationships takes time.
4. Social Networking Is Like Offline Networking. Just like offline networking groups, they are NOT the backbone of your direct sales business. Booking, selling and recruitng are the staples of a successful home party business, and nothing will ever replace that. Social Networking is a marketing tool that you can use to move beyond yuor family and friends and reach out to a global audience. The global audience can help establish yourself as an expert, but it doesn’t always help you get a show on your calendar for next week. Like all networking functions, building relationships takes time.
Social Networking should be considered as a way to enhance your traditional book, sell, recruit activities – not as a replacement for them. Just like you wouldn’t rely only on live networking events to build your business, neither should you rely completely on online social media to build your business. The Internet can speed the relationship building process along, but it still takes time.
5. Don’t Expect Miracles. You get what you give in social media. The more you interact, the more people will interact with you. The better content you provide, the more people will want to hear from you. Unless you’re already a celebrity, don’t expect that you’ll have overnight success with any social networking site. Miracles do happen, but to expect them would be social networking suicide. Often times, you can connect with other direct sellers, coaches, and trainers, and find yourself hob-knobbing with the rich and famous – people you might not otherwise have ever met – through social media. But this should not be your expectation or purpose for social networking. Connect and share with “regular Joes” like you and watch your network grow.
Twitter is a great place to start. With only 140 characters, there are no lengthy pages to read, and it’s easy to start. Plus it can work with some other social media sites as well. If you sign up, follow me and I’ll follow you!
6. Stories Sell. The best way to connect and build an online network is to share yourself – via stories and videos – and let your audience know more about you. A word of caution, though: don’t share anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable having the whole world know. This is the internet, after all, and anyone could see those pictures, that video or hear those stories. Transparency is one of the great qualities of the internet – it’s also one of the curses. It only takes a second for everyone in your social network (friends, family and business associates) to see those compromising details. Be sure you’re sharing quality information that builds your reputation.
It can be challenging for direct sellers that aren’t very tech savvy to get connected to social networks. Take your time, start slowly, and do what you can. Don’t get sucked into the time vacuum, and get distracted from your core business building activities. Great business relationships can be cultivated online, but you need to enter the fray in a controlled and meaningful way. Otherwise, you’re just spinning in circles.
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Lisa Robbin Young teaches direct sellers how to be a superstar in the eyes of their customers. As Founder of HomePartySolution.com, Ms. Young has garnered the attention of thousands of direct sales consultants around the world looking for ways to integrate online marketing with their offline businesses to achieve greater success while working from home. Sign up for her free ezine at HomePartySolution.com