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I was asked recently for my thoughts on how social media is influencing the direct sales industry.  Oh man, is this right up my alley, or what?  How much time do you have?!

Where to start.

Let’s start with Millennials.  This is the largest demographic cohort since the Baby Boomers with over 80 million, and encompasses those born between approximately 1980 and 2000 (which makes them 15-35ish now).  Millennials are technologically connected, ethnically diverse, socially conscious, and are much more segmented as an audience due to the rapid expansion of communication channels such as cable TV, satellite radio, and the Internet.  Millennials are less brand loyal, and due to the speed of the Internet have a much higher demand for instant information and instant gratification.  They are flexible and fluid in changing fashion, style, and how they engage with their peers through different communication technologies.  They value convenience, recognition, and community.  This is the group that is the fastest growing segment building eBay storefronts and Etsy shops.  Millennials are entrepreneurial, and have little interest in joining a company and staying for their entire career.  Millennials also have a higher unemployment rate than the general population.

What do Millennials mean for the direct selling industry?  

  • A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that 54% of Millennials expressed interest in either starting their own business, or having already started one.
  • Millennials seek community, belonging and recognition.  Peruse your social media feeds and you’ll likely notice your online community filled with “humblebrags” — casual posts of recent achievements that their peer group is likely to value and recognize through likes and comments.
  • Millennials are more likely to switch companies often or be kitnappers (someone who joins a company just for the kit because it has great overall value, but doesn’t have intention to sell), but they don’t want to be labeled as such.  Kitnapper has a negative connotation that  implies someone is selfish, and is not providing value.  (Heck, I’ve kitnapped five different brands, just because how much I was spending retail was more than the cost of the kit.  So why not join, and get what I want at cost?)
  • Millennials want to work their businesses online through their social channels.  They are likely to be early adopters of new technologies and social platforms, and likely to be more educated in online marketing strategies.
  • They perceive home parties as old school, and something that Mom and Grandma did.

Even the social channels are evolving.  While 88% of older Millennials get their news from Facebook, younger (teenage) millennials are the fastest demographic dropping off Facebook, in favor of Snapchat and Instagram. Why?  Because Facebook now has three generations of users – and frankly, what kid wants to hangout where their parents and grandparents are?

What should direct selling companies and consultants be doing?  

  • Go where the prospects are.  This means being on the channels they are on, and speaking to them in voice, content and imagery that will connect – modern, fashionable, technological, community oriented, and socially conscious.
  • Consider the value of kitnappers.  Are they really a bad thing to the company?  Or is it an opportunity to focus on the business value of getting kits into the hands of people who become walking advertisements and ambassadors?  Or, create more levels within a career plan that could appeal to the kitnapper, such as Discount Diva or Brand Ambassador.
  • Define the corporate roles of Social Media Manager versus Community Manager more clearly.  A Social Media Manager is responsible for the logistics on the brand channels, including copy, content, growth strategies for the channels, and aligning content with the brand vision.  The Social Media Manager is usually measured by quantitative data, such as engagement, channel growth, and what kind of content is performing best.  A Community Manager, on the other hand, is about building relationships and human insight.  They are more involved in social listening to their customers, users, and members through blogs, forums, and the various social media platforms. Community Managers are more driven by qualitative results, as the voice of the community will directly affect the success of the brand.
  • Maximize convenience, community, and value, while minimizing cost, risk, and fear.  STARTING A BUSINESS {said in your most ominous booming voice} isn’t necessarily what a Millennial wants.  They want the ease and convenience of opening a box and being ready to go.  Change the conversation around the opportunity.
  • Make the direct sales business model flexible enough to appeal to someone who has the hustle, but can do it on her own terms, in her own way, on her own timeline.  Provide the training on how to be a brand ambassador, while still having her own personal brand and voice.
  • Be an early adopter of new technologies, and encourage consultants to use them too.  Livestreaming is the new norm – and it’s only been around for a few months.  Some companies are embracing it, and building community on those new channels.
  • Make Social Retail a formal component of sales strategy that complements home party based sales, rather than competes with or replaces it.  Social Retail’s primary objective is much more about relating than it is about selling.

Those who will be most successful in direct sales and networking marketing, are already embracing technology as their channel of choice. They are defining their personal brand within their corporate brand, and relating to their communities in a personal way.  The corporate brands are speaking directly to the Millennials in a way that highlights their core values, and showcases their talents and interests. Any company that stays entrenched in the old party plan mindset will soon find their consultants aging, and their recruiting numbers shrinking – no matter how awesome their product is.  I Periscoped recently and asked my 100ish viewers if their company teaches social selling to their consultants.  Everyone in my incredibly informal focus group answered no.  This should be alarming to direct selling and network marketing brands.

So what if you’re a direct sales or networking marketing consultant and your company hasn’t yet evolved into social selling?  You can still do all these things, within your brand’s rules. Seek out personal training and coaching, build your online communities to connect and relate, share successes, and upsell the convenience and value of your business.  And of course, come join the Socialite Suite where we talk about these things all the time.  Social media is the future of this industry – and those who embrace it will find success easier and faster than those who do not.  Social media is not a quick hit.  It is an evolution rather than a revolution, and it must be part of a go-forward marketing strategy.

Want to learn more?  Contact me and let’s chat about your social strategy!

Social media marketing is changing the world of direct sales, and Millenials are changing the world of network marketing. Find out the latest trends in social marketing and how you can keep up. Then, come on over and join The Socialite Suite on Facebook - FREE tips!!! http://www.thesocialitesuite.com #DirectSales #SocialMediaMarketing Don't forget to repin this for later!!

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