Companies Turn Your Facebook Friends Into A Sales Force

By David Pierson
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Rather than suffer the humiliation of cold calling, these days marketers can blast sales pitches and promote their brands online with little effort.

Los Angeles Times

Betsy Stover was 17 when her mother asked her to help fax strangers, hawking a service that had the markings of a pyramid scheme.

“I always felt like a creep sending unsolicited faxes,” said Stover, who hated the chore, but knew the work required cold calls to succeed.

Stover, now a 38-year-old comedian based in Los Angeles, had largely forgotten about the experience until about three years ago. That’s when her Facebook feed started filling up with new direct sales posts touting cosmetics, jewelry and leggings.

Friends Stover hadn’t seen in years had added her to private Facebook groups promoting body oils and makeup. She had little interest. It felt too similar to her mother’s get-rich-quick schemes, which had more to do with recruiting new distributors than selling actual products.

“It was super awkward,” said Stover, who discreetly left the groups. “With these people, there was always a looming sales pitch in the background.”

Unsolicited calls and face-to-face pitches once defined multilevel marketing, a $35-billion industry that recruits an ever expanding network of independent distributors to sell their products rather than rely on bricks-and-mortar stores.

Instead, today’s generation of multilevel marketing brands including Rodan + Fields, Stella & Dot and LipSense are often discovered on social media platforms such as Facebook, which gives distributors instant access to a vast network of potential customers and recruits with the swipe of a finger.

Rather than suffer the humiliation of cold calling, adherents can blast sales pitches and promote their brands online with little effort, attracting increasingly distant acquaintances who would have been previously unreachable.

It’s why many women such as Stover have seen their news feeds transformed from a place to keep up with friends and family into a clutter of livestreamed sales events, invitations to trunk shows and incessant promotional threads about moisturizers and lipsticks.

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