I've heard it said (anyone else immediately start singing that song from Wicked in their head after that sentence?) that being recruited to an MLM (or Multi-Level Marketing) group is a rite of passage. From Avon to Tupperware to YouNique to Arbonne to Stella and Dot to Scentsy, these enterprises are everywhere offering the promise of great products and financial freedom. Some of the products are fantastic, some are meh, but that's not the issue I'm discussing today. I'm not going to debate the merit of these products or joining the programs (indeed, my boyfriend and I sell products from a MLM on a very casual basis and we do know people who make good livings from them...hence this post could be construed as hypocritical, but highlights a bit why I've not made much of a time investment despite liking the products), because everyone's just trying to make a better life for their families. I get it.
But this is what I don't get: why MLMs have infiltrated the blogging community. I don't mean corporate offices reaching out to bloggers, but individual distributors hounding bloggers by disguising themselves as "blogger opportunities." The people that do this seem blind to how absolutely obnoxious this is and are constantly preying on people's misconceptions. And what happens when you call them out? The majority of people get angry. I had one distributor harass me online for a couple of days after I commented on her "opportunity" that she wasn't being completely honest (she was telling people she was giving free make-up, but it was really free make-up* *make-up to be redeemed after being told to hound your friends to buy the make-up from her and meet a quota).
I get that it's not fun to get called out. I also get that sometimes I'm probably more aggressive online than I am in person as I seem to have a knack for making people angry via the Internet. But maybe you should be more honest. If someone tried to sell me make-up/whatever MLM honestly, I think I'd be mildly annoyed for 3 seconds, or sometimes possibly even interested, as opposed to being pissed that my time was wasted.
How to Spot an MLM from a Genuine Blogging Opportunity
1) MLM "opportunities" often don't say who they are with and are very evasive about the brand name. They'll simply say "a company" whereas most genuine opportunities will say the name of the company straight up.
2) One of the key catch phrases is, "Can I get you to try some products and give me feedback?" You're not a product tester, so why would you be giving feedback?
3) They'll be quite aggressive and ask to call you immediately.
4) They will email you from addresses @gmail/@hotmail, etc. or from Twitter accounts not from a genuine PR company/company. Sometimes companies make initial contact via Twitter, but often they will move to email and will always contact you through an official company account.
5) They are very evasive about what it entails for you. If you ask if they are asking you to sell a product, they will often respond that they just want you to "recommend."
6) You may be asked right off the bat to watch a video about MLMing, which is clearly a red flag.
7) In some cases, they may even pose as "agents" or people trying to hook you up with a sponsorship "deal." I had this happen to me very recently, and when she realized I already distributed what she was trying to get me to sell, she made up some crazy story about how she wants people who have brand exclusivity. No legit blogging opportunity will turn you down because you have worked (non-promotion) with a competing company in the past (i.e. someone would not be turned down for a partnership with The Gap because they have worked or currently work at Abercrombie and Fitch in a sales role). It is very rare for you to enter an exclusivity clause, and this only happens to very big actors, bloggers and influencers or if you are chosen to be the "face" of a brand or in national commercial spots. Do not let people fool you into thinking otherwise.
8) If you question their motives or suggest that they may be evading the truth or misrepresenting the opportunity, many people get very hostile and defensive. You may even find yourself blocked.
9) Make sure to research anyone who claims to be a talent agent, blogger agent, etc. Don't be afraid to ask other bloggers if the email/DM/whatever you've seen looks legit or like an MLM pitch.
If you want to buy MLM products or participate in an MLM, I am in no way discouraging you. However, please respect bloggers and our time. And maybe if you're a consumer, stick to working with people you already know and respect.
No one wants to do business with someone who seems dishonest.
What are your thoughts on this trend in the blogging world?