Supporting your direct selling consultants using social media can be both a blessing (it’s easy, almost-free, and convenient) and also a challenge (can get out of control!) Since Facebook is a tool almost “everyone” uses on a daily basis in some way, it works as a forum in which to offer support to those who are there. In fact, a lot of consultants and leaders start their own groups without thinking things through, so I thought I’d offer some general strategies I’ve found to work well.
Within Facebook there are 3 main areas: Timelines, Pages and Groups.
Timelines are what you use from your personal account – the profile that goes with your name. These are semi-private in that most of the information and posts are not visible to people unless you accept them as a Friend or change the setting of posts or sections to be visible by others. These are generally not for marketing a business, although you can certainly talk about what you do.
Pages are for businesses or organizations, and are designed to allow you to have a persona from which to connect with customers and prospects. Pages are 100% public, and therefore searchable and indexed by search engines. Pages can only interact with the people who comment on their posts, or on other Pages. They cannot commend on Timelines or within Groups. In the direct selling profession, Pages are best used as a consumer-facing social media presence and as a place where the home office can post appealing content that distributors can model or share in their networks either as their Timeline or Page.
Groups can be for either personal or business use, and are often used to build community around people who have a common interest. Groups can either be “Secret” which is invitation-only, and hidden from search, or “Closed” which is findable, but whose members must be approved, and whose posts are hidden from non-members, or Open which are completely public (the member list, the posts, and comments) and when a member post, the content is seen by their Facebook friends even if they are not members.
I highly recommend that direct sales companies, and top leaders, use a Facebook Group to support their distributors. Direct sellers need a place where they can go to discuss their business, get ideas from each other for how to run their businesses, and ask questions when they get stuck. If all a company or leader has is a public Facebook Page, or personal Timeline, that is what your consultants will use, and then your customers and prospects will see the posts that distributors are making. This can sometimes be problematic.
For example the other day I saw a company Page where on the sidebar under “Posts by Others” there were several consultants complaining about products or asking questions about holiday deliveries. If a customer or prospect sees that, they may get the impression that the company is not reliable. Those conversations need to happen privately – ideally via phone or email to your consultant services department. What happens though is that since distributors are using Facebook throughout the day, they want to communicate via Facebook. This is why a private (closed or secret) group is necessary – meet them where they are and provide a place for them to go.
Groups, when done well, can also foster a sense of community and support among distributors who often feel isolated in their home-based business. Whether they have an active and supportive leader or not, it is always fun to get together with other distributors and talk! This is why live events work so well – the energy among the consultants is contagious! What you don’t want, though, is for the Group to become a forum to complain or gossip. This can happen in “real life” meetings and events as well but with strong leadership and modeling it can be avoided.
In my WOW Webinar, Supporting Your Direct Selling Team with Technology, we go into detail for how to use Facebook groups and other online tools to support the field and I highly recommend it if you would like to learn more.
Here are some general recommendations I have for using Facebook Groups:
1. Always have posting guidelines in place that outline your expectations that the group be used for positive support and encouragement. Remind them that the best place to ask customer service questions is through normal customer service channels, if you prefer that they call or email direct. Gently warn them that posts violating your guidelines will be removed.
2. Train your leaders to create and use their own Facebook Groups effectively. People want to stay personally connected to their own team leader, and a team Group can be a great way for the organization to run their own incentives or to share ideas that have worked for them. Just be sure the leader running the Group also posts guidelines and monitors the Group to keep everyone on track.
3. If a negative or gossipy post comes through, address it quickly within the Group to get people back on track before they are drawn in to it as well. Redirect the person to the appropriate channel if necessary. Individuals need and want to express themselves, so we do want to encourage communication as long as it is constructive and would benefit others reading as well. If someone has an issue, it should be handled privately.
4. Sometimes an individual will post something offensive or distasteful in a Group, not to be malicious but simply because they thought it was harmless or funny and that’s their personality. They do not realize it could possibly be giving other consultants the wrong impression or alienating people. When this happens, private message that person and delete the post. Let them know that we are always a reflection of the business and even though it is a private forum, we need to be sensitive to others in the group.
5. Consider having discussion starters that will proactively guide the conversations and encourage involvement that is not only focused on questions or concerns. An example would be to post something new each day, or ask your group members to post, based on a schedule such as Motivational Monday, Tip Tuesday, Weekly News Wednesday, Team Building Thursday, Friday Funny.
6. Your Group can be a resource by using the Files area. In the Files tab you can upload documents such as PDFs or Word documents, MP3 files, and more. Consider encouraging your members to share their own files that others on the team can use or adapt for their own business.
These tips address the most common strategies I recommend when companies or leaders are using Facebook Groups. What have you noticed about your own use of Facebook Groups? What issues have arisen for you? Did I miss something? Please share in the comments.