One of the strategies I recommend every direct sales/network marketing company implement, if they have the staff to monitor it, is to start a consultant-only Facebook group, blog, LinkedIn group or other private forum.
Your party plan or network marketing distributors want and need a place where they can connect to each other, get their questions answered, share their successes and get support when they are challenged. Direct selling companies have a wonderful opportunity to create and sustain a sense or community among their representatives throughout the year, not just on calls or live events.
This helps with retention and can also cut down on phone calls to the home office. You will find that leaders will step up and answer questions from new consultants – encourage them! And that those who are having success with new strategies will love the recognition they get when they share and other consultants like or comment on their posts.
The trouble starts, though, when a representative has a personal concern or complaint about the company, another consultant, a staff member or their leader. Since the private group feels like a safe place to share anything, their first thought is to post in that group, vs. taking it up directly with the person involved or with the home office.
Of course you want to know when someone is unhappy. Of course you want to be able to address the issue and resolve it as quickly as possible. But when it is done in a forum where the audience includes impressionable new starts, eager and excited distributors and leaders who are challenged with keeping their team excited and motivated, these posts can drag everyone down! The subsequent comments (either in disagreement with the original poster or in support of her!) can easily get out of control and truly infect a company with negativity.
It is vital that the company and top leaders stay in control of maintaining a positive culture in these semi-public communities. Here are some steps a company’s community manager can take to both prevent these unfortunate situations, and handle them if they come up.
- Include a clause in your Policies and Procedures stating that comments of a disparaging, demeaning or defamatory nature are not tolerated and that concerns should be brought up with the company directly.
- In the description of the social media group, include community guidelines that clearly state it is a place for positive support and inspiration, and to take personal issues up with involved parties or the home office directly, and that negative or offensive posts or comments may be deleted without warning.
- When someone does post in the consultant group a comment or concern that is mildly negative, consider whether the post can be a “teaching moment” not only to address the concern if it applies to other consultants, but also to model for others how to respond in a constructive manner. Gently address the concern in a comment, and encourage the original poster to contact customer service to discuss further.
- When the social media post is obviously inflammatory, personal or harmful, make a copy or screen shot of the post for your records, delete it, and then send a private message to the consultant who posted it, inviting them to discuss the issue privately. Let them know that although you always welcome communication from the field including constructive feedback, the attached post (attach the screen shot or paste the text) was deemed to be against the community guidelines/company policy and was removed. Yes it is Ok to delete damaging or disparaging posts. The rest of the field who want a positive environment will thank you for it! Just be sure you are keeping records of who, when and what, and letting them know why. If the issue they raised is truly something others can learn from but was simply phrased in an accusatory or overly negative way, offer suggestions on how they might repost it in order to have a positive and constructive discussion among the representatives.
- If the negative person persists, delete the post again and warn them that they will be removed from the group if necessary to maintain a positive atmosphere. You may choose to give them a temporary “ban” from the group or remove them indefinitely. I know some companies have ultimately needed to terminate distributors, and although that is unfortunate, it is important in severe cases when other representative may start innocently chiming in to support their fellow consultant. It is better to “nip it in the bud” and if there is a real complaint, and a real issue that needs to be handled, all involved can handle it privately. The consultant forum is not the place.
I understand what it’s like from both sides, in the field and corporate, it’s no fun for anyone. I hope that by giving you permission to take action on negative posts, you will be able to keep a positive atmosphere in your private groups. No one likes to need to “go there” but the truth is, your active, enthusiastic and ambitious consultants will thank you for it!