Thursday, September 8, 2011

Multi-Level Marketing and Social Media Marketing: A Marriage Made In Failure

I have been involved in multi-level marketing (MLM) before, several times. For some products and services, it is fantastic. It creates ways to get reduced pricing on quality items and services, business opportunities for entrepreneurs with little start up money, and is a great way for some people to make a great living, and for others to supplement their income part time. I did well in one of the opportunities, and terrible in the other! What you put in, you get out. Simple.
I never thought I would see the day when marketing itself would become a multi-level marketing entity! Yes, you heard it here. There is now a company that is basically a multi-level marketing entity that is selling social media marketing tools and "support".
Had I never been involved in MLM, I may think this would be a good idea. But since I have experience in both MLM and 20+ years of traditional and new media marketing background, let me break down why buying something as important to your business as social media from an MLM source is probably not the best idea.

1. Lack of experience. So far, having researched this company, you can get in with absolutely no marketing background at all. I can pay to join the MLM, get my portfolio of tools to sell, and off I go. In reality, social media marketing is a complex entity, and growing more so every day. While lack of experience will still get you some results, and cool tools will make it look pretty, having a marketing background is what separates mediocrity and real results. Having looked at ten of this company's re-sellers, I can tell you they haven't the foggiest idea what ROI even stands for.

2. Here today, gone tomorrow. The retention rate in MLM is about 20%. This means that 80% of MLM participants will drop out within the first year. In essence, trusting your business's most important element (marketing) to a source that has an 80% chance of disappearing on you in the next year can be a bit scary. As well, over 90% of MLM participants are involved with their MLM only part time...well, you can figure out the problem here.

3. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters? Might as well. Beyond the tools and online info you can get from them, can you call someone to discuss a strategy? An issue? What if someone just posted on your wall and you don't know how to handle it? What about your Facebook ads? How can you interpret insights? Facebook changed a setting, how do I adjust it? Any reputable agency will answer your call and help you...and be ABLE to help you. Real social media agencies live and breathe social media marketing and continually educate themselves on webinars, at seminars and digest tons of white papers and watch trends. It's moving way too fast now. Not being involved every day all day is long term failure.

4. Strategy is king. There is no such thing as "viral" explosion to your Facebook page, and more than this, no such thing as just getting it out there and getting windfalls of prospects and a huge ROI. It takes engagement, relationship building, cross marketing and it must fit in with the other marketing you are doing to work well. It must work with your other social media platforms, using each platform to help bring people to the platform they would most like to hear from you on. "Viral" marketing on facebook brings you some likes and may jump your numbers up a bit...but how qualified are they really? Creating a personalized, developed strategy that integrates with your other marketing (both traditional and new media) is paramount for success.

5. REAL tools and customization. Plug in designer tools are cool. You can get a decent look, and if you are a "mom and pop" business that doesn't care so much about branding, go for it. For those businesses that have a branded look, nothing beats true graphic design capability. Pantone colors are important, the layout or look of each entity (such as the sidebar or landing/welcome page graphic) is paramount to looking professional, and having someone you can go back and forth with who has a graphic background and experience is important. Graphic design has actually come down in prices , so not utilizing talented individuals who can separate you from the plug-in crowd is a no-brainer.

7. Beyond Facebook. Social media isnt just Facebook. While they are the largest piece of the puzzle, having an agency or professional that can help you determine what integrations you should make are important to long term success. As well, having a branded look and strategy across these platforms will be the deciding factor of ROI. Start on Facebook, but don't forget YouTube, Twitter, linkedIn, and other platforms work together and with your traditional marketing to create the ultimate platform. When you develop across all mediums, you dramatically increase your sales funnel.

Research who you decide to use to handle your social media marketing. Interview them. Ask to see their LinkedIn profile (if they don't have one...RUN!!!), ask their marketing experience, look at what other social media platforms they utilize. Do they give seminars or webinars? Can you speak to any of their clients for references?

In essence, social media has gone beyond "playtime". It has become a serious marketing tool that deserves serious attention and professional support. Companies and businesses who realize the long term potential and develop their social media along these lines will be the ones who grab market share, create real relationships and advocacy and generate ROI. The ones who would like to play with simplistic tools and treat it like an ancillary tool will get ancillary results.

You may now kiss the bride.