An open letter to people selling MLM products on social media

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 22, 2017, 2:33 PM | comments: 0

I've been trying for the better part of two years to figure out how to write this post, and honestly, there's no delicate way to put this. And as much as I'm kind of a hater around this issue, I mean to say this with love.

Marketing your MLM "business" on Facebook is the worst idea ever.

While Amway is the quintessential MLM company completely full of shit, the others are really not any better. 

One of the fundamental problems is that you, as a "distributor" of product are incentivized to love the product. After all, the best way to get others to sell it is to gush over it yourself. What's worse is that even the terminology invites feelings of rainbows and puppies. I mean, after all, Beachbody people are "coaches," right? They just want to improve your life (which you can do without buying product). Rodan+Fields people just want you to look better, and what's the harm in that? The problem is that you're pursuing a revenue opportunity based on the shortcomings of others, who are too fat, too old, too poor or whatever. That seems like a moral issue to me. It's predatory, and about as bad as the payday loans business.

Then there's the problem that the products simply aren't necessary. Ask any bona fide dietician if you need Shakeology (they'll say no) when your average GNC has comparable products anyway. It Works! has zero scientific basis (it doesn't work). Herbalife, I don't know, what the fuck does that even do? Is Rodan really any better than drug store product (no)? And of course, Amway in the era of Amazon and Costco is totally absurd.

There are a few brands that seem to just be nice spare time endeavors where people like the products, and I think that's OK if it's not the only thing they talk about. People have 31 or Tupperware parties and they move on with their lives. They don't pretend that they're in "business" or whatever. They sure as hell don't post about it every fucking day on Facebook.

Let's also do math. The last numbers that I recall puts the average friend count of adults at around 400 people, and of those typically only 20% engage as regular users. So at that point, your "useful" friend count is about 80. The product you're pitching may appeal to half of those friends, if you're lucky, which gets you down to 40. Some portion are going to start hiding your posts because you're selling shit instead of posting photos of your kids, cats and food porn. Anecdotally, I'd guess you're left with a remaining half, which gets you down to 20. So now you've annoyed 60 friends, and probably a good portion of the infrequent friends from the other pool of 320. And for what? So you cover costs on products that serve only to make corporations rich?

I have to ask myself why I care at all, and I suppose I'm not entirely sure. I think part of it is all of the contrived positivity that goes with it, and the self-serving defense that comes with it. All of the talk of "fulfilling your dreams" smells like bullshit, because it is. You aren't really working for yourself, and you aren't not working. You're definitely not printing money and buying a boat. There is no shortcut here.

Please, watch John Oliver's show below. He gets even deeper into the numbers that show the ethical and moral shortcomings of this stuff.

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