If someone says to you “this isn’t a pyramid scheme”, 9 times out of 10, it is. My frustrations have grown from a dressed-up pyramid scheme, and it’s been dressed up with the use of social marketing (not to be confused with social media marketing). Social marketing is described as “a way to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good”, in some areas though, social marketing is used as a term to mask what’s really going on, commercial marketing, which is the “act where a commercial marketer will only seek to influence a buyer to purchase a product”. The goal of a social marketer is to eventually change long-term behaviours of people which may or may not involve the purchasing of a product (in my experience, it always involves the purchasing of a product). Certain social marketing models pull on their networks to sell their products, eventually branching out to friends of friends or friends of family members.

Social marketing also crosses over with influencer marketing, with social marketers often having their own Facebook business page, Instagram page, and utilising these platforms to showcase the company’s products, create a fanbase and usually become an inspiration to followers. Social marketing is not to be confused with entrepreneurs, usually, the company is already established but uses consultants to create their own ‘business’ off the back of it, and work for commission – which is why it becomes tricky. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a great model - if you do it right. It’s when it’s done wrong that the customer frustration kicks in.

Do I want to be contacted multiple times a week with the latest offers that aren’t relevant to me? No. Do I want to be guilt-tripped into buying products because you’re meant to be ‘helping a friend out’? No. Do I expect when I politely say “no thank you, not for me” or “not this time” that the consultant should stop pushing products and let me come to them? Yes.

I follow a few people from multiple companies that follow this model, all people I have met in real life whether from social events, networking events, through school etc, I support their business’ because I know them personally and encourage success amongst peers. However, because I follow so many, I have started to notice a few things and one of my biggest pet peeves with this type of marketing or selling is authenticity or the complete lack thereof.

I notice the same products, with the same images and similar copy being pushed each week from the ones under the same company. If I’m going to be inspired enough to purchase a product, I need to feel like it’s genuine, and this just doesn’t strike me as being genuine. There is no personality, there is no feeling to it. I want to feel that this product has changed your life, I don’t just want to be told about it - and believe me, there is a difference.

The other thing that gets to me is the lack of knowing who your customers are. I recently received a message saying, “Happy Birthday, hope you’ve had a great day!” then proceeded to pitch me the product. Few things here:

  • It wasn’t my birthday. This is where knowing your customers is crucial. This person has access to my Facebook, can easily click onto my profile to see that it is in fact not my birthday and there were no indications that it could have been. It started off leaving a bad taste in my mouth (and left me wanting birthday cake).
  • It comes across as not so genuine when you, in the same message, pitch your product. I get it, you have targets to meet, commission to make, but you’d get a lot further with people (or at least me) if you strike up an actual conversation, you’re on my friends list for a reason, I genuinely care about you as a person and would like to see you succeed. Take a different approach and it might not be a “no thank you” next time.

As I said, this model could be great when done right, and I’m sure that there are people out there doing it right – I just haven’t seen it so far. Take it down a notch, think from a customer’s perspective, you’re marketing to your friends and family, you know these people – or at least should know them. Do your research, take your own photos, put your own thoughts and feelings behind things and make me feel it – like really feel it.