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August 01, 2010

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, August 2010

John FlemingThis month our cover story returns to one of the hottest topics to emerge in the past few years: how best to use social media functionality and how to measure its effectiveness if you are using it. We all agree that Facebook and Twitter are changing the way many of us communicate. While Facebook started out as a tool for individuals to use in forming communication networks, today you can find a Facebook page for practically every major company, including each branch of the U.S. armed forces.

Many executives contributed to this month’s story, “Getting Social About Results.” As mentioned, we continue to watch this topic closely, because the game keeps changing as newer and more effective ways to use the tools emerge. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It, is an advocate of social media and has the proof that it works when approached properly. His success is nothing short of phenomenal, and I know you will enjoy the story inside if you have not read his book, which I consider a must!

One of the greatest challenges many companies have faced is how to integrate social media functionality into the company’s strategic plan, and figure out who should manage it and what is the “return on investment.” I think you will fi

nd answers in this month’s story, along with a new measurement that I personally found to be very interesting—return on relationships!

Our industry has always been built on the relationships fostered among the salesforce, customers and field leaders and between the salesforce and the corporate team. While social media functionality may be changing and enhancing the way we communicate, some things never change, and one would be the importance of building relationships. When the relationships between the salesforce and customers and field leaders and the company are solid, transparent and energy-producing, loyalty and enthusiasm for a product or service appear to always be the result, which of course is the fuel for growth. If social media functionality can enhance relationships, then we may just be on the verge of strengthening the relationship element, so essential in direct selling/network marketing, more so than through any other tool ever created to support communication within networks of people.

I would be remiss this month if I did not touch on the economy again, since jobs and job loss are becoming a front-page conversation again in the media. The current unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, while representing a slight improvement over previous months, still reveals an enormous number of Americans are out of work or discouraged regarding their employment opportunities. Approximately 15 million are suffering seriously from the continuing impact of a recession, and it is still being debated whether we are recovering. The 9.5 percent breaks down as follows: adult women 7.8 percent, adult men 9.9 percent, teenagers 25.7 percent, whites 8.6 percent, blacks 15.4 percent, Hispanics 12.4 percent and Asians 7.7 percent. The number of “discouraged unemployed” went up to 1.2 million. This group is defined as those not even looking for work, because they feel that there are no jobs for them. The estimated number of direct sellers in the United States is approximately 15 million, so the industry still stands to gain from the current adversity many are experiencing if the positioning of the recruiting message is in tune with what is happening in the mindset of a very significant number of people. Unemployment impacts mortgage payments, credit issues, credit repair ability and, of course, foreclosure. Most important, the morale of a nation is impacted!

What is not so obvious when we review the data associated with unemployment is outsourcing, which many companies have resorted to in an effort to reduce expenses in a recessionary economy, where spending is curtailed and revenues are stagnant. Outsourcing  will continue to eliminate jobs on the home front faster than new jobs are created, meaning any recovery from this recession will be a jobless one for many years to come (a prediction held by many). The question becomes: What could this mean for an industry that relies on people from all walks of life to sell and service customers and share with others how they, too, can do the same thing? From our point of view, my past experience and the conversations that I am constantly engaged in, these could be robust and growing times for a direct seller. An opportunity to learn the basic skills of entrepreneurship in an environment where one has very minimal financial risk and relatively easy startup should appeal to both the unemployed and the employed who are nervous about the future. How this industry crafts a message of opportunity to incorporate the insecurities of a growing number of people will obviously determine whether it offers growth or challenges for direct sellers. However, an industry that does not outsource its labor needs, trains and encourages personal development and growth, is built on relationships that are quite different than the norm, and does not have limits in terms of what a person can actually achieve and receive should, ultimately, be a leader in these most difficult of times.

Until next month, enjoy the issue!
John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief