Written by Jonathan Gilliam. Jonathan is Founder & President of Momentum Factor, a compliance software and services firm serving direct selling companies exclusively. He is a well-regarded industry thought-leader and author of two books for executives, Social Selling: How Direct Selling Companies Can Harness the Power of Connectivity… and Change the World, and Blastoff! Creating Growth in the Modern Direct Selling Company.
Jonathan has an extensive background in Internet technologies and interactive marketing and is a regular speaker and presenter at industry conferences and conventions.
Post-Pandemic Social Selling Spurs New Opportunities & Challenges
As social media has become more and more a part of our daily lives, direct sellers have applied their relationship-building skills to these channels in order to expand their customer connections and pivot towards a new e-commerce strategy: Social selling.
Although the direct sales industry has always had a stake in this consumer-centric approach, other businesses have been quick to adopt this model that became even more prolific amid the Covid-19 pandemic. With people prioritizing online interactions and purchases, companies had to escalate their digital transformation to compete by working within a more direct-to-consumer approach. As a result, online channels exploded with new content, driving more engagement between consumers and brands.
To build on this momentum and capitalize on this business culture shift, many current social platforms began expanding their offerings. The user-created video market boomed with TikTok’s incredibly rapid growth, and social audio stepped onto the scene with Clubhouse. Tenured platforms like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram began testing audio and video components.
Social channels also began to introduce ways to sell directly from their content spaces to shorten the sales funnel and encourage users to “impulse-buy”. Work-from-home software like video conferencing and live streaming became the norm for direct sellers. These changes prompted social channels to incorporate similar functionality to enhance and streamline the social selling experience. Now, large brands host live-streamed product events on social channels, interacting with consumers in a space where they can purchase that product with the click of a button. And these are just a few of the many features being offered and developed.
Essentially, social selling has gone mainstream. And this carries both opportunities and risks.
This poses a challenge for direct sellers, who have always found a niche market in the consumer-centric sales approach. Even so, taking advantage of these new social offerings also provides an opportunity to build better relationships in exciting ways for the direct selling industry. While the competition has increased, direct selling representatives have the know-how to better leverage these new tools that spur connection, interaction, loyalty and sales– this is their home turf.
While it’s very exciting, there are some additional challenges besides increased competition to keep in mind. These new features and offerings open direct sellers to increased compliance risks. How representatives utilize these channels can lead to violations of company policy, or worse, attention from regulators. Field social media needs to be monitored vigilantly to avoid regulatory issues. Up-to-date field education will also be needed to reduce the claims, and unauthorized sellers will have to be curtailed as they find innovative ways to move inventory at the expense of company sales, enrollment and retention.
It’s a lot to consider, but it all can be done. The benefits of social selling in the hands of direct sellers outweighs the challenges. Like everything, it’s about having a plan, tools and techniques for effectively leveraging these new platforms and features, so the field can do what it does best: build relationships.
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