Social Media Guidelines for Direct Sellers

How not to lose friends and alienate people

For those of us who sell Avroy Shlain, Justine, Avon, Herbalife, Honey, Amway, Tupperware or anything else that involves handing out brochures, social media is more than just the window through  which we watch our friends’ latest escapades, share our own adventures and giggle at tongue-in-cheek memes.

For the purposes of our mini-businesses, it’s the best thing since sliced cheese. Most of us purvey our products as a side hustle, to earn extra bucks while our salaries pay the bills. So a  hefty marketing or advertising budget isn’t viable.

Social Media Guidelines for Direct Sellers
Pick your platform.

When it dawns on you that social media sites hold the opportunity of becoming your own personal billboards, you won’t rest until your little business is the proud new owner of a Facebook page, as well as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube accounts and, if you dare, a WhatsApp group or two.

Social media sites are ideal platforms for making known your status as a direct seller and promoting the exhilarating special offers on your brand’s innovative products.

As an Avon lady myself, I love the potential social media offers for efficiently marketing the brand I sell. It’s free, far-reaching and the extensive functionality of facilities like Facebook Pages allows me to present my products professionally and in attention-grabbing ways.

It's not you - it's your social media behavior.Advertising on social media may encourage existing and potential customers to bite the bait. The golden rule to remember, though, is that “overenthusiastic sharing” rhymes with “being irritatingly overbearing”. The consequences of being trigger-happy when it comes to hitting the share button include a shrinking number of followers and online friends and, even worse, the loss of real-life friendships that you truly value.

Image 5 - Social Media Marketing Etiquette

Manners  maketh man.”

Having made some of the mistakes you’ll read about below, I’ve developed a set of guidelines for my social media marketing activity. These help me to remain reasonable in terms of the amount of social media marketing I do and to avoid abusing the privileges of having been added as a friend or follower by someone on social media or having been given their phone number. You’re welcome to adopt whichever of them apply to your social media marketing efforts.

1. Be a bona fide business, not a backyard mechanic

Yes, it is a good idea to create a Facebook page for  your business. On other sites like Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, create accounts for your business that are separate from your personal accounts on those sites. Marketing your products directly from your personal accounts is sloppy, unprofessional and tacky. It effectively amounts to hijackingDon't let poor social media etiquette detract from the reputation of a top quality brand. your friends and making them your captive audience, instead of giving them the opportunity to opt in by liking your page or following you on the other platforms.

On Facebook I push my luck a little by sharing most of my page’s posts on my own timeline, but the page does at least create a distinction between me as a business person and me as your Facebook friend. I’ve asked friends for honest feedback about whether they’re seeing too much of my branded content in their newsfeeds and so far there have been no complaints. My method gives friends who would prefer not to see my page’s posts the option of clicking on “Hide all from (my page name)” rather than having no choice but to unfollow or unfriend me.

2. It’s not about you, it’s about them

Before you post, tweet, or share anything, think about how others might interpret it – will it be perceived as insightful and informative, or crass and boring? Online, you especially want to avoid anything that sounds even vaguely like a desperate plea for people to buy your product. For anyone who spots your post while scrolling through their feed, it’s about as enjoyable as being pestered at a traffic light. And just like we duck and dodge at those traffic lights, they will scroll down as quickly as possible and try not to think about what they’ve just seen.

If you have a favourite TV or radio ad, the chances are that it tells a story rather than shoving the so-called benefits of the product that’s being advertised in your face. Nevertheless, the ad camps out in your brain’s “stuff I like” compartment, making you more likely to remember and choose that brand when you go shopping. Wouldn’t you love to achieve that when it comes to what people think of you and your brand?

On the other hand, those ads that make your ears bleed or your eyes glaze over are probably the ones with a guy yelling out the latest special offers or ones that consist of a trite monologue that spells out how the product being advertised has changed the character’s life (could they sound more like a novice actor who’s being paid to read lines?!). Likewise, your posts will irritate or bore people if they’re overly gushy or if you go for the hard sell every time.

The 4:1 rule, which was developed for Twitter, but can be applied to other platforms, is a good template for engagement. The idea is that every post that’s pure advertising should be followed by at least four posts that are entertaining or informative as opposed to being blatant sales pitches. Often I publish a tip relevant to my products together with an image illustrating the tip. I include a couple of images of the products that specifically relate to that tip and leave people to make the connection themselves.

Also on the topic of small doses is how often you should publish posts. To get their posts seen regularly by a large audience, yet without flooding people’s feeds, social media marketing professionals usually stick to these guidelines:

How often to post to social media sites

How often to post to social media sites. Source: Buffer

3. Groupies are born, not made

Unless you’re trying to get rid of friends, do not (I repeat: do not) add them to a Facebook group you’ve created. Would you be unfazed if a shop assistant showed up at your house, dragged you down to their store and then smiled graciously at you, expecting you to nonchalantly start making your way up and down the aisles? Now imagine that demented sales person being your friend. It’d be pretty awkward to get out of that situation, right?

People prefer not to be abducted on social media either. If you must have a group, use your manners and invite them to join rather than adding them yourself. If they’re interested in what you have to show them and they actually like the concept of groups, they’ll join.

You’re not going to gain anything from forcibly adding people anyway, because they can easily leave the group. For anyone who does that, the only impression you’ll leave them with is a bitter taste in their mouth.

4. WhatsWrong with WhatsApp

Read point four above again, then multiply the awfulness of that by a thousand. Now you have an idea of how obnoxious you’ll be perceived as being if you use a WhatsApp group as a means to advertise your product. 😖🙈🤮

It’s the digital equivalent of a telemarketer conference calling 50 people all at once and launching into their sales pitch.The telemarketer knows all 50 people personally and most of them are mutual friends too. Then those interested in what’s on offer start chipping in with questions, interrupting one another Image 1 - Facepalmand shouting to be heard over the hubbub. If anyone hangs up, a loud voice announces who just left the conversation. Then after an awkward silence, the cacophony resumes.

In other words, WhatsApp should be used with utmost caution if at all. I do use WhatsApp, but I stick strictly to these guidelines. If you have your heart set on using WhatsApp to advertise, I beg of you, don’t ever add me to your group. Rather do this:

  • Send your messages via a broadcast message. Each person then receives the message as though it was sent to them personally, so any replies will only go to you. No one else will have to put up with having their phone going berserk if 20 people reply with questions and comments then launch into full-on conversations, as would happen in a group.
  • Send no more than one broadcast message per month. Otherwise it’s as irritating as having the same telemarketer call you every couple of days.
  • Send no more than one image, voice note or other attachment every two to three months. Nothing bigger than 3MB – some people have limited data and/or limited memory space on their phones. Rather send them a link to the online version of your brochure so that they can access it when they’re in a free wifi zone.
  • If anyone asks you not to send them ads for your product, apologise promptly and remove them from your broadcast list immediately. Add a note to their name in your contact list to remind yourself not to add them again at a later date.
  • Simply put, don’t abuse the trust of those who give you their phone number. It’s not something they’d hand out to everyone in their online social network, so taking advantage of having it is especially offensive.

5. You’re not at a karaoke bar

Dragging a friend up on stage with you to sing “Sweet Caroline” is all fun and games in context. Outside of a karaoke bar, it’s a no-no. You also wouldn’t loudly discuss your colleague’s latest breakout of pimples, nor would you mock them about their choice of lunch container in front of the guy from accounting they’re crushing on.

The online manifestations of this are inappropriate tagging, as well as sharing your page’s posts on friends’ timelines. In your personal capacity, tagging friends in posts about competitions or memes, or sharing those kinds of posts on their timelines, is fine, as long as what you’re sharing is something they would appreciate.

When it comes to what you publish on your page, though, tagging friends or sharing those posts on their timeline is, at best, like filming an infomercial – studio audience included – in their living room. At worst, it could be mortifying for them, especially if the post relates to something they’re embarrassed to admit. Keep in mind that no matter how convinced you are that your product is just what they need, you don’t know how sensitive they might be about what they would prefer not to discuss in public.

Tagging a person when you announce the winner of a competition you’ve run is fine (assuming they actually entered the competition and you’re not just trying to co-opt them into liking your page somehow). Another good way to increase engagement is to post a question and ask people to respond in the comments.

6. Lay down your sword

Image 8 - No weapons

They see me postin’, they  hatin’.

Freedom of speech plus social media equals the potential for people to go public with their negative sentiments about your product. No matter how rude or untrue these digs may be, always refrain from responding in kind. You are better than that and you have various ways to prove it.

If their complaint is valid, you could reply with something along the lines of, “I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience with this product. I will contact you so that we can rectify the matter.” Directly after that, send them a polite direct message asking if there’s anything you can do to solve the problem. This will encourage them to communicate with you privately rather than continuing their rant on your page.

If the comment suggests that the person is simply trolling your page, in other words, their sole intention is to stir up trouble by being unacceptably abusive, foul-mouthed or some other version of antisocial, delete their comment. If they do it again, delete the comment and block them from posting on your page.

7. Keep it real

Dishonesty will erode your reputation. Breaking your promises will do the same, only faster. Don’t promise that your product will make some radical change to your potential customers’ lives unless you have an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that this is true. If you promise to give a free product to everyone who places an order, come up with the goods and don’t dilly dally about it. No one gets conned twice by a sleazy salesman. Keep your promises and let your products speak for themselves.

The bottom line

All in all, it’s actually quite simple. From refraining from monopolising people’s news feeds, leaving people’s dignity intact and not boring people to death, to maintaining yourImage 6 - If it's bad etiquette in person... integrity, most best practices are simply a high-tech version of old-school etiquette. Imagine yourself having a face-to-face conversation with a group consisting of your friends, family members and colleagues and behave accordingly.

I know it’s tempting to go plunging in where angels fear to tread. Every day I walk the fine line between gently building awareness of my brand and being the online equivalent of an overzealous fleamarket vendor. I feel the lure of social media’s advertising potential – the fact that it’s free, it’s quick and easy to implement and it has the potential to reach virtually everyone in your area and beyond. And did I mention that it’s free?

But we all know that hardly anything is absolutely free, with no strings attached. Someone inevitably ends up paying somehow or another. A negative unintended consequence can sting all the more when it unexpectedly boomerangs right back into your nose, robbing you of your reputation and creating hostility between you and the people you enjoy having in your life.

When it comes to advertising to people you know on social media, one of the worst negative unintended consequences is annoying, and thereby driving away, the very people you are trying to attract to your products. Even worse is realising that certain friends seem to be avoiding you in person as well as online. Another serious headache is getting into legal trouble for harassment or false claims. You’d better believe that it’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

For maximum gain and minimum pain, my advice is that before you share anything, pause and check whether doing so will be violating the golden rule: Do to others what you would like them to do to you. And even then, remember that some people are more sensitive to being imposed on than you are. So if in doubt, leave them out.

Do you have any other social media marketing etiquette tips to share?

 

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In Your Heart

 

When you were alone in the crowd

Did you know

I was there

Alone with you?

 

When you hid away in the shadows

Did you know

It was my hand

You held?

 

My heart is with you

My heart is with you

My heart is with you

In your heart

In your heart

The black can never be pitch

I shine through the dark

Light the way

For you

 

If the well is bottomless

You’ll never know

I reach down, take your hand

And pull you up

 

My heart is with you

My heart is with you

My heart is with you

In your heart

 

© Sandra Swanepoel, 2000

 

This poem was inspired by e.e. cummings’ poem, i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart). The concept of my poem, however, is the inverse of his. cummings’ poem speaks of him carrying the other person’s heart within his heart. Mine speaks of the other person carrying my heart within theirs. cummings’ poem is about romantic love. Mine is about being the support someone needs when all is not well with their soul. Nevertheless, cummings has been a great inspiration to my poetic side, so I’d like to acknowledge him here.

Life, Interrupted

No one lives a charmed life. If you’ve ever thrown your hands up in bewilderment, thinking, “This is NOT how I planned my life to work out,” you fall within the 100 percent of the population who’ve done the same.

fall apartOnly the slightly delusional few plan their lives down to the finest detail. They’re the ones soonest and hardest hit by the stark realisation that no amount of planning can set the future in stone. Ironically, the rest of us wonder if our failures were due to the fluidity of our expectations.

As six-year-olds we confidently assert that we’ll be firemen or astronauts when we’re big. Fast forward ten or so years and we consider more seriously what we want out of life. Most of us jam-pack our futures with a dense, interwoven set of pathways and goals: illustrious careers, dream weddings, two point five children, a vibrant social life and, of course, a comfortable retirement resplendent with cruise holidays.

broken-glassWe’re just about as realistic as our six-year-old, astronaut-in-training selves. We don’t factor in setbacks like illness, loss of a spouse, the many years it might take to find said significant other, financial disasters and other speed bumps that bring our pretty plans to a screeching halt.

Our failures hit us all the harder because we don’t plan to fail. Life becomes a series of tangents as we find ourselves stumbling through gauntlets and ploughing face-first into unexpected brick walls. The way forward becomes unclear and success seems frustratingly elusive. Stopping to catch our breath, we cry out, “I did NOT sign up for this!”

keyboard

It’s exhausting and often demoralising. Crushing heartbreak, the pain of seeing loved ones suffer and the alienation of loneliness strain and twist our internal resources until we shatter.

There is only one hope. While we were building castles in our heads, thin veneers of perfection that turned out to be concealing harsh reality, God was rolling out His infallible plan for our lives in intricate and complex detail. According to His flowchart, everything is going precisely according to plan – and it always will. Only He knows exactly how things will turn out.

That’s enough for me. I trust Him. I have survived every ordeal and more importantly, encountered joys that I could never have dreamed up. I can honestly say that the painful moments have refined and enhanced me.

Beyond that, know that the vastly greater proportion will be sublime in its perfection. One day the last piece of the jigsaw will slot into place. I will see my life in its entirety and will at last comprehend the point of every moment of it. As I consider it all, I will say what God said in the beginning: “It is very good.”

Memories and their matrices

Memories

I remember the days of my life
I recall the faces – mostly yours
Magic moments – life was a mystery
There’s no place on earth that we’d rather be

Moving up – going through some changes
Storing up the memories
Can you give me the light of my life?
I always gave the best I could give

I remember the days of my life
I recall the faces – mostly yours
This is my life
And I’m passing on the
Memories

If you can get yourself beyond the the clichéd response to the unexplainable fashions and hairstyles of the eras depicted in this ad, you’ll be able to appreciate its brilliance. Volkswagen South Africa’s homage to its “Beetle” was first aired in the early 90s. My favourite element here is the soundtrack. Memories, performed by Andre de Villiers, is a work of art.

I’ve heard the song played in various settings. Once, Andre showed up with his guitar at my school and performed Memories and some other songs for us. That happened well over 15 years ago. Still, the delight of that experience ensured that I’ll always recollect it with clarity.

The song is loaded with open-ended concepts. Read the lyrics again and see how many mental images they evoke. This version of the song reminds me of so many things. Looking back at the series of events and the vast array of different situations I’ve experienced brings home the realisation that while sometimes life seems to be running on a mundane loop, it is punctuated by events and experiences that not even the wildest or bravest of imaginations could dream up.

There’s more to it though. Even though the ad runs for over 90 seconds, which makes for a long and costly bit of advertising, the song itself is longer than that.

There’s a bridge. It’s a whole section of the song that couldn’t be included into the ad. Using the entire song would have made the ad far too long to play during regular TV ad breaks.

Here it is:

Sometimes it never seemed like enough
Though we never quit when – the going got tough
Do you remember the way it used to be?
Never counting cost – was a matter of trust
Covenant cut – were lovers for life
I still bear the scar – you used to carry the knife

The bridge speaks of the context these memories are rooted in. The relationships, the challenges and the constraints of our situations. The expectations, values, norms and non-negotiables. Those things that saw us staying the path with those we love, no matter what, or that led us to break away and set off in a new direction.

The context is often what outsiders don’t see when they look at a person and sum up their abilities, personality and possessions. What battles did that person have to fight to get to where they are? Where did they sow love and reap unexpected rewards? You’d have to step into their memories – and their contexts – to know.

Did you ever see this advert on TV? What memories does watching it now bring back?

Judgment: do you demonstrate God, or do you play God?

New Test Leper – R.E.M.

Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe

I can’t say that I love Jesus / That would be a hollow claim
He did make some observations / And I’m quoting them today
“Judge not lest ye be judged” / What a beautiful refrain
The studio audience disagrees / Have his lambs all gone astray?

Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper

“You are lost and disillusioned!” / What an awful thing to say
I know this show doesn’t matter / It means nothing to me
I thought I might help them understand / But what an ugly thing to see
“I am not an animal” / Subtitled under the screen

Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper

When I tried to tell my story / They cut me off to take a break
I sat silent five commercials / I had nothing left to say
The talk show host was index-carded / All organized and blank
The other guests were scared and hardened
What a sad parade / What a sad parade

Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper

 

When Michael Stipe’s somnolent monotone isn’t verbalising frustratingly enigmatic lyrics, it can give me a jolt that leaves me shuddering for days.

New Test Leper expresses Stipe’s thoughts pertaining to the experience of being a talk show guest. The show covered the topic of being judged. Read what R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck had to say about the lyrics here.

Stipe makes some rather disquieting observations on discussions about beliefs. Talk shows can be melting pots for horrific human behaviour, but does this also play out in non-televised contexts? Have you been part of a conversation that mimics what has featured in Stipe’s encounters?

The song drips with the judgment he feels has been leveled against him. It’s also clear that he’s often been cut off when trying to explain his point of view and beliefs.

There’s a strong sense that the “evangelising” Stipe has been subject to hasn’t struck him as coming from the heart. All he hears are glib platitudes, which he’s resorted to recycling into weapons of self-defence. In the end he’s left feeling alienated and appalled by the way the matter has been handled.

Sharing one’s faith is not a simple, textbook process. Everyone you encounter has different experiences, biases and expectations. And so do you. What’s more, fumbled attempts to hand out your religion to others can shake your own faith.

But don’t lose heart; God wouldn’t have given the command to share His good news if doing so was ultimately going to be destructive and futile.

The last thing I’d claim to have is all the answers, but here’s what I’d like to see myself doing:

  • When a person is willing to hear about my beliefs and offer their thoughts, I’d like to show them that same level of respect, rather than resorting to clumsy Bible bashing tactics.
  • On that note, I never heard of Jesus steamrolling anyone with a giant Scriptural scroll. Instead, my understanding is that He backed up what He said and did with compassion and a sound understanding of the Word of God. As a Christian, I am called to imitate Christ.
  • I’d like to imitate the love and humility Christ showed in His dealings with mankind. He took it to the extreme, meeting people where they were at by stepping down from heaven and being plunged into hell thanks to His great love for us.
  • I’d like to remember that while talk has its place, living the beliefs I proclaim is the proof people will look for.
  • I’d like to look to God; praying for His guidance in enacting the commission He’s given us.
  • I’d like to remember that God is sovereign in all things, and to trust that as I play my role, He will ultimately bring to fruition His will.

I won’t give up on my call to share the gospel message and I pray that you won’t either. I hope, instead, that I’ve given you some interesting insights and made you think about how we bear witness to Christ.

Death and other terminal pursuits – part four

The unspoken pain of being the terminator

The snatching quality of death and other such terminal moments are traumatic because they’re beyond our control. Whether we like it or not, they happen and we’re left to deal with things we’re not prepared for.

How we face life after a part of it has been taken from us is reactive. We do what we do because the circumstances demand it, whether we deal with the loss and its implications in a constructive way or not.

Sometimes though, something needs to be brought to an end. In this case, the process that leads up to and follows the termination is quite different. There’s the preceding disillusionment and dread, the rallying of courage, the fun and games of swinging the axe, the postmortem and finally, the healing.

The person who breaks off a relationship often attracts the majority of the flack dished out by onlookers, while the spurned party is often seen as the only victim in the scenario.

I’m grateful that, in my case of self-inflicted relational dismemberment last year, the criticism wasn’t weighted too heavily towards me and my decision. In fact, I received a heartening amount of support and respect.

Also, my mindset and motivation centred largely around self-preservation – to act in a responsible manner towards the life I have been given – so others’ opinions, whether congratulatory or condemning, wouldn’t have influenced me too much anyway. Still, the support was helpful and greatly appreciated.

But if you make a practice of reserving your sympathy for the person who gets their marching orders, consider pausing and analysing this – be brutally honest (it’s so empowering) – is your appraisal of the situation actually based on ignorant judgments?

Here are a few things that the party who officially pulled the pin on the relationship may be grappling with:

  • Having to accept that they made a serious mistake and became completely caught up in a false reality. Love is stupid and blind sometimes.
  • Having to concede that, based on this false reality, they projected a lifetime of love and happiness which was, in fact, just an unrealistic illusion
  • Having to admit defeat in terms of their efforts to bring out the best in the person they loved
  • Facing the creeping paranoia that this failure is part of a pattern that will forever disqualify them from a successful “til death do us part” relationship
  • Relearning to navigate the terrain of single life when the coupled-up gig has become such familiar territory. In the context of an emotional ground zero, they have no choice but to summon up the fortitude to face spending a lot more time alone with their thoughts, having to go places without the reassuring presence of their “partner in crime” and getting used to the absence of that person with whom they shared their life

Often you will have to pick a side; being the confidant to both parties is tricky and potentially treacherous ground. Still, it’s better to reserve judgment and instead resolve just to be there for the person who needs your support. What they’re going through is difficult enough without the added strain of fielding opinions that aren’t going to change the past anyway.

Death and other terminal pursuits – part three

It’s an unholy hour of the night and still I’m not asleep. That can mean only one thing: it’s time to write a blog post. It’s not like I have RSI and need to rest up my now deformed-looking wrist for the load of copy I’ll need to produce for work tomorrow… But without further ado, let’s get to the subject of adieux, from the perspective of my psyche of yesteryear.

(If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series yet, you should. To read part one, click here and to read part two, click here)

Shaun and Sandra

Shaun and I being whack jobs together.

Saying a long-term goodbye to a family member who’s off to seek their fortune on another continent seems innocuous enough. A pumping farewell party at a local bar and a tearful airport farewell, but with the assurance that we’ll be in touch regularly via Facebook and other postmodern mediums.

Follow that up, though, with having to support your significant other and his family as they make the heart-rending decision to end the life of a pet whose aged organs just can’t do their job anymore.

So, just an emigration and a dog, right?

Actually, it was a little more painful from my perspective. The tear-streaked faces of my boyfriend’s family and his own grief over the next few days, as they mourned the passing of a 14 year-old (canine) family member, who had brought only sweetness and joy to their lives, was not fun to witness.

The dogAnd really, I should’ve coped – after all, it wasn’t even my dog, I’d only known her for two years. But I didn’t. Metaphorically, I fell flat on my face as that final straw sent my legs sprawling beneath me. Too many other incidents and eventualities faced during 2013 stacked on top of the immigration and the dog, leading my brain and body to stage a coup against my will, which was determined to carry on with an unrelenting pace of living.

That’s what happens when you push yourself relentlessly beyond your physical and emotional limits. I’m guessing that the primal section of your brain senses that you’re sort of killing yourself and steps in before you succeed in that. Miss Primal Brain then co-opts your body into malfunctioning so severely that you’re forced to take it down a notch stress-wise.

A full day of nausea, trembling, incoherence and an inability to focus for more than a minute stopped me in my tracks. Unfortunately there was still work to be done that day, so I made my best effort, fumbling though it was. Still, I don’t think it was wise or safe for me to drive (i.e. operate heavy machinery) at night in that condition. But I did what I had to do and I survived.

It was a pretty bad day. I felt bewildered, frustrated, tearful and highly anxious. My memories of the day are hazy, but I think I collapsed into bed feeling dazed and dismayed.

Resilience is a wonderful thing. A few days later I could feel that I had turned a corner from the moment I woke up. For weeks I’d experienced deep disappointment every morning – simply based on the fact that I’d actually woken up at all and had no choice but to face another day. My inability to shake this dark outlook had been discouraging. The mind is a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master. When you wear yourself so thin that your mind begins to control you instead of you it, you’re on dangerous ground.

But all that was over. I’d shaken the months of depression and even feeling just a little better was exhilarating. Getting recharged to 100 percent took a bit longer. Fortunately the December holiday came around (not a moment too soon), giving me a chance to forget about some of life’s pressures and just relax. Resting, taking proper care of myself and re-mastering my mind over the next few weeks brought back my trusty old strength. And I was going to need it…