At a recent network marketing convention a slue of top business leaders were on stage talking about social media marketing and the distractions it presents to their distributor base. Their audience demographic consists mostly of middle aged to retired individuals, many of whom have been with their company for several years with little to no results. Yet, they were doing very little to nothing to change the scope of their marketing efforts.

At this very same convention, the product store toted CDs and various promotional tools in bulk. Distributors flocked to the store, buying as many promotional products as they could squeeze into their suitcases, only to fly home and market to their friends and neighbors. It’s a scene that’s been repeated at every convention this company has hosted over the last ten years. Their sales have steadily declined, while many of their top leaders have gone running to other companies, companies with a very distinct and different message – social media marketing understood here.

Talking to other network markers, I hear people asking the same question over and over again: Does social media really have that much of an impact on this industry? My answer to them is always a resounding yes!

Nielsen, a company that does nothing but focus on consumer buying habits and trends in over 100 countries, has recently stated that approximately 46% of online users rely on social media when making a purchasing decision. Indeed, how often do you see your friends and family posting questions about purchasing a certain product, or checking the feedback on a company they’re considering buying from or using a service of? According to Experian, a marketing and credit reporting company, 27% of total U.S. internet time is spent on social networking sites.

So what is the magic behind these virtual communities people can’t seem to break away from? Researchers at Harvard University did a number of experiments trying to answer this very question, eventually concluding that when a person shares information about themselves, the same section of the brain is being used that is associated with pleasure- the same pleasure we receive when eating a delicious food, receiving money, or even having sex. Yes, you read that right. Interacting through social media outlets and sharing our daily, mindless habits is equivalent to having sex… sort of.

The Disgruntled Company

Social media gives us a chance to share information about ourselves with others, and people love to talk about themselves. Which leaves us to wonder, why are so many network marketing companies so resistant to incorporating Social Media into their marketing strategies? It seems to be the perfect outlet for those wanting to share all the incredible successes they’re having with their business, service, or products, and with a large audience.

Well, to further understand this I went to my social media outlet and started asking this very question to the people in the industry working with these very same companies. One of the main things I heard back expressed was many of these companies lose quality control over the ‘pitch’ with social media – an understandable concern. Network Marketing is an industry under a microscope monitored by the FTC and, worse, friends and family. It’s an industry where people are quick to point out every minute mistake, hiccup, or discretion within the message. Especially when it comes to health and wellness. Sure, pharmaceutical companies sell drugs that do who knows what, on a daily basis and with very little accountability. Yet the health and wellness industry, especially when it comes to network marketing, is forced to walk a fine line. Company after company has been sued because an overly excited distributor promised their products could do something it couldn’t. So it only makes sense that a company would be weary of their distributors freely posting information on Facebook, Twitter, or Google sites.

Another distributor within the industry said that companies shy away from social media marketing because it pulls from their tools business. Remember the eons of CDs and promotional tools I mentioned earlier, riding the plane on their way home to eventually end up in the garage, or on shelves collecting dust? Yes, those are the same tools many of these companies love – love to market, that is. I’ve heard numbers as high as 20% when it comes to companies’ revenues from marketing these promotional products. Remember, distributors don’t make commissions off of their tools in most cases. This is an income that goes directly to the powers that be. I guess we can see why this aspect of marketing is so important to these companies.

One of the last reasons given on the hesitancy of these companies to embrace social-media marketing is the idea of branding. Social media marketing encourages marketers to brand themselves and create a following directed at them, as an individual. This is in direct opposition to what many network marketing companies desire. Competition in the industry is fierce. Since the onset of social media, companies have seen an increase in turn over within their sales force. The analogy “the grass is greener on the other side”has never rung more true than when it comes to the network marketing industry in the new media age. Unfortunately, as sales pitches go, they’re meant to make the company and products look the best with little to no concern for the distributors. Which means when the going gets tough, many distributors will start looking to the horizons for their next venture, and promises of a new day.

Competition between product to product and company to company is one thing. Competition from leadership to leadership is an entirely different beast. The network marketing industry survives and thrives on its sales force. So, if a distributor feels they’re not getting all they can out of their uplines then they start to become disgruntled, looking around for that special leader that everyone else is raving about. If that leader happens to be branded and has created an empire based solely on their own image, it makes the prospect of working with that individual even more enticing. Exactly what a company does not want. Because if that branded individual ever decided to leave the company, they would take their entire sales force with them in a blink of an eye.

And finally, change is difficult. Many companies’ top income earners are also their founding distributors. Founding distributors who’ve built their organization on tried and true methods. Granted, they’re methods that are now ten or more years old, but they’re what those top leaders are comfortable with. Creating a drastic change like implementing social-media marketing is a huge risk to take. Company owners tend to be on the fence when it comes to pleasing and remaining loyal to their top producing associates, and pleasing the new wave of individuals streaming in. Implement the changes too soon, or too quickly, and you could wipe out your entire organization in the matter of months.

The Glory of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit, and the list goes on. What do they all have in common? They’re all free, they’re all popular, and they’re all seriously lucrative. Most of all, it’s completely made our small world even smaller. All of a sudden, you’re networking with people from around the world and chatting with them like they’re your next door neighbor. This means an ever growing prospective market.

Websites are one-dimensional and social media has given companies of all shapes and sizes a chance to become two-dimensional. What does this mean? For the first time in business history companies and representatives are able to interact on a regular basis with their prospective and current clients. Interaction not only can mean a better experience for the client-consumer, but it can also mean a better understanding of customer needs.

So what does this mean for network marketing? Network marketing was one of the first industries to really implement the personal touch of salesman to prospective buyer. From Tupperware parties to the Avon lady calling, the personal representative there to answer your calls and provide the ultimate experience in customer service.

Now that can be taken to the next level. Individuals can brand themselves and their image – making it much more than a personal buying experience. More than that, it will be easier to build their own sales organization because – going back to what was stated earlier – people love to talk about themselves.

What is branding?

Brick Marketing, a marketing company that focuses on SEO, explains branding this way; To understand branding, it is important to know what brands are. A brand is the idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with, by identifying the name, logo, slogan, or design of the company who owns the idea or image. Branding is when that idea or image is marketed so that it is recognizable by more and more people, and identified with a certain service or product when there are many other companies offering the same service or product. Advertising professionals work on branding not only to build brand recognition, but also to build good reputations and a set of standards to which the company should strive to maintain or surpass. Branding is an important part of Internet commerce, as branding allows companies to build their reputations as well as expand beyond the original product and service, and add to the revenue generated by the original brand.

One of the most essentials of what branding is, is recognition of an image – something people can identify with. Often times, people have a brand image and don’t even realize it. Mostly because they aren’t consciously marketing themselves. What is this person known for? A friend that I work with is always posting law of attraction type quotes and statuses. She’s very into the metaphysical aspect of business and growth. I often see her tagged in statuses that related to the law of attraction from her friends and colleagues. Without realizing it, she has branded herself as a metaphysical, law of attraction, business woman. Imagine if she were to consciously start branding herself. Her business would grow exponentially because she would be speaking on something she is very passionate about, something from the heart. People would easily see her as an expert.

Now, at this point, I know adversaries might suggest that she would limit her demographic by branding in something so specific. I would tell them that they are wrong. Niche marketing helps with budgeting for ads, helps build a defined website and gives a better understanding of direct consumer needs. It also expands your market past your typical individuals looking for a home based business or even those that the rest of your competitors are targeting. People like to buy from people they like, they relate to, and they have built bridges from. My friend who is into metaphysics is an internet marketer and has recently started a fan page dedicated to spiritual marketing. It’s easy for her to market her business that way because it’s something she already knows and a language she already speaks. Her social media fan base is very targeted and instead of just being another internet marketer like the millions already out there, she’s offering something unique and special to a very specific market. Social media takes this concept of branding to another level. The level of interaction further establishes the personality of the brand.