One of the most valuable items in Direct Selling’s modern toolbox is social media. In January 2016, We Are Social Media, one of the largest independent websites dedicated to analyzing and reporting on trends in social media, found that of the world’s 7.3 billion people, nearly 3.4 billion of them have access to the Internet, and of those, 2.3 billion state that they are active users of social media. They use sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to connect with friends and family, meet people with similar interests, and watch entertaining and educational videos.
They also increasingly shop. These consumers naturally turn to their communities for recommendations, solutions, and inspiration. A 2016 Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey of 23,000 online consumers found that 45-percent of them said that reviews, comments, and feedback on social media influenced their behavior. A further 78-percent said that social media influenced their digital shopping choices in some way. As Direct Selling harnesses this technology to deepen its ability to connect with consumers while delivering unique goods and services, the field of opportunity appears infinite.
“As Direct Selling harnesses this technology to deepen its ability to connect with consumers while continuing to deliver unique goods and services, the field of opportunity appears infinite.”
An Integrated Approach
While there is plenty of room for opportunity, the space for competition is also wide. It is more imperative today than ever that Direct Selling companies and their representatives understand who their customers are, what they are looking for, and their interests in order to meet their needs. Social media makes it possible to engage as well as watch and listen.
“Just as representatives would have listened carefully while visiting a customer’s home or during a product party, modern Direct Sellers put those same skills to use in the virtual world.”
Just as representatives would have listened carefully while visiting a customer’s home or during a product party, modern Direct Sellers put those same skills to use in the virtual world. People may be talking about a particular brand, product, or issue, but the company in question doesn’t know. By tracking conversations using specific phrases, words or brands, it is possible to deepen engagement and further build relationships with consumers.
Distributors and representatives have access to an unprecedented number of potential customers and recruits. Once upon a time, companies hoped new members could compile a list of 100 people they knew to approach for their first sales. Today, Statistica reports that the average person has 350 friends on Facebook alone, more than double that original ideal number. By offering interesting and relevant information, engaging with consumers and their friends in meaningful ways, distributors can gather a circle of customers and eventually garner sales while “hanging out.”
“Social media then opens a virtual door for Direct Selling to do what it does best: engage with consumers on a personal level while offering tangible products and solutions via the convenience of the Internet.”
Whether listening to consumers or sharing information, this industry’s unique advantage remains its emphasis on the person-to-person relationship. By offering meaningful and ‘real’ content – snapshots of a product versus slick publicity photos, videos demonstrating it in action, or timely suggestions of how a product might be helpful in a particular situation – in a neighborly way puts Direct Selling’s classic strengths at the forefront of online shopping. Social media then opens a virtual door for Direct Selling to do what it does best: engage with consumers on a personal level while offering tangible products and solutions via the convenience of the Internet. Paired with the prompt service that ecommerce makes possible, the result is a customer for life.
Walking the Talk
While social media presents an unprecedented opportunity to interact with the consumer, Direct Selling companies and their executives also experiment with and make use of the medium. Direct Selling executives regularly and personally interact with other business leaders, their distributors, and customers via social media in an effort to collaborate and understand how to better serve them. A study by the Direct Selling Association found that nearly 57-percent of Direct Selling CEO’s have a social media presence. (By comparison, a study by CEO.com and Domo finds that 68-percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s do not.)
“Direct Selling executives regularly and personally interact with other business leaders, their distributors, and customers via social media in an effort to collaborate and understand how to better serve them.”
Some Direct Selling companies create their own apps and social media platforms for training and interactive purposes as they expand across cities, countries, and the globe. These platforms make it possible to share information with distributors, track sales data, and offer incentives. It fosters community within the company, allowing leaders to listen to and encourage exchange between often widely dispersed representatives. Doing so puts the Direct Selling tradition of building trust, relationships, and community at the heart of twenty-first century operations.
Is the Return on Investment for Social Media worth it? For anyone engaged in ecommerce, and that clearly includes Direct Sales, the answer is a resounding yes. Shopify.com, an ecommerce software company, took a look at data compiled from 37 million social visits that led to 529,000 orders with early two-thirds of all social media visits to their stores coming from Facebook. Another study by Social Media Examiner found that the more time companies spent using social media, the more their sales improved. Firms that invest the time and effort in learning to use and understand this technology and subsequently evolve their work are bound to see their efforts pay off.