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July 01, 2010

Working Smart

Planning Parties in the World of Social Media and Mobile Capabilities

by Sebastian Leonardi


Working SmartIt’s official. Direct selling today looks little like the party planning business of the past. The digital age has brought with it powerful social networking tools, mobile technology and readily available content, all of which are ways for consumers to connect with large brands on a new level. The advent of social media alone has fashioned a different world in which we communicate. Connections can be initiated and fostered through social networks, extending our abilities to engage and enhance those into more personal relationships.

Direct selling was built on the premise of leveraging an individual’s social network to perpetuate success. Prior to the digital age, consultants sought prospects and customers within their “real world” network and relied on booking parties through in-person meetings, phone calls, flyers, snail mail and friendly referrals. Notwithstanding the evolution of technology, social media and virtual communities, there are many ways today’s consultants can book parties and a variety of avenues in which communication with consumers can occur. For example, a content-driven approach to e-communication allows companies to harness the power of relevant content and consistent communication. A solid e-communication strategy, coupled with social media marketing, works to drive sales, book more parties, recruit more sponsors and build stronger customer relationships.

However, while e-communication and social networking are highly effective tools of engagement, analytics providing near real-time insight with regard to readership interest is key to helping consultants engage and develop new relationships. Insightful reporting empowers consultants to easily reach out and communicate with subscribers using warm, relevant conversation focused to each individual’s unique interests, ensuring a high probability of conversion to customer, host or recruit!

Staying Connected

The necessity for doing business easier and faster demands innovation.

According to TGDaily.com, 48 percent of Americans over the age of 11 now have a profile on at least one social networking website. In addition, 30 percent of those with profiles check them “several times a day.” With almost half of all Americans now using social media, there is no doubt that direct selling consultants need more effective tools to keep them connected in the fast-paced world of social and mobile media. “Tell a Friend” features and social media widgets within e-newsletters are now commonplace and allow users to share their interests and passions, and boost subscriber growth by increasing exposure to a whole-new audience.

According to Facebook, the average person has 120 friends within their network. And according to Mashable, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third-largest in the world. We all know the viral reach of content on Facebook. For example, if an e-newsletter recipient posts an article from a direct selling company’s e-newsletter to their profile, that company’s content is now being seen by that person’s 120 friends. And, obviously, if a friend decides to share the article as well, then the exposure increases.

This massive swell of exposure is undoubtedly the organic answer to making party planning and connections with potential recruits easier and more accessible. Besides increased exposure, being effective (whether that means recruiting successfully, driving sales or booking more parties) by creating meaningful relationships and loyalty with customers is crucial to success. Social media breeds this development easily. It allows consultants to create deeper relationships, encouraging people to share content across their social networks.

Leveraging Mobile Devices

The effectiveness of social media as it relates to direct selling is just one piece of the puzzle. Mobile capabilities also help harness the efficient lifestyle that many of us are now engaged in, allowing users to access their networks quickly and easily. Keeping a seamless and easily accessible experience for customers to have with your consultants and brand creates a desire to share your company’s content and business opportunity. In addition, consultants’ success increases when they are better able to provide service to their customers utilizing these social media and mobile capabilities.

Last year, an April 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project showed that 56 percent of adult Americans have accessed the Internet by wireless means, such as using a mobile device. In addition, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed said that mobile access is very important for getting online information on the go.

The days of sitting at the kitchen table and booking parties through phone calls and invites in the mail are long gone. Now, direct selling consultants are mobile, running their businesses by smartphone and connecting with people in the social media universe, all while picking up kids from school and attending seminars. Mobile technology, coupled with a solid e-communication strategy, is a “must-have” these days. These tools help consultants manage their business on the fly. With instant insight and click-to-call, click-to-email capabilities, anytime mobile access ensures their finger stays on the pulse of their network to keep the party going.

Succeeding in the Social Media World

A content-driven approach to e-communication engages the customer much longer than a purely promotional approach to e-communication. Social network users must also provide that same relevant, consistent, content-driven approach to marketing on social networks. As we know, people are bombarded with messages every day, and social networks like Facebook are no different. Quality of content is crucial to getting users to pay attention to your message. But consultants can’t just post sale message after sale message and expect to be successful. As users on social networks, we know that content must be relevant to our lifestyle, interesting, helpful and multimedia-rich to grab our attention. Combining content-rich e-newsletter articles with social media sharing and mobile access as well as e-communications is a fail-safe way to ensure success.

More and more companies are developing a strong online presence in which their customers can communicate—with both the company and each other. Social media marketing trends are changing weekly. Whether exploring the next big online trend has been part of your business plan, the digital world is moving along, with or without you. Many companies are already using social media to promote their products to their online customer base.

They are also creating training manuals for consultants to succeed and are using e-communication platforms with social media sharing tools to help consultants exchange information. In addition, many companies are tapping into mobile capabilities to help consultants stay in contact with their networks. Consider these platforms and brainstorm how they can help your business.

Your independent salesforce is your strongest resource. Now imagine your salesforce with the ability to communicate the value of your brand to thousands with the click of a button from their mobile device!

While times have changed, there will always be value in communicating with customers face to face. However, social media and mobile technology have enhanced and streamlined these activities significantly. The biggest difference is that promoting your company’s brand, communicating with customers and simply booking parties has never been easier!

Sebastian Leonardi is the Vice President of Direct Selling and Multichannel Markets with IMN. For more information, visit www. imninc.com.