Our New Challenge


DIRECT SELLERS have always had a special bond with their customers and their fellow sellers, many of whom are friends, neighbors, and relatives.

Because we meet “up close and personal” with customers, direct sellers feel a special obligation to provide a level of care and respect that one doesn’t find in other forms of retail. As a result, we hold ourselves to such a high standard of care; doing so today is more critical today than ever before.

These past months, we’ve not met in customers’ homes. Instead, we’ve gathered around a virtual hearth, trading stories of family, jobs. Social media and the internet have allowed us to share our hopes and dreams, our pains and challenges. We have entered into a new era of technology-based intimacy. Yes, it is a form of communicating and socializing that is in some ways even more intimate than meeting in a person’s living room.

Think about the information we are sharing and seeing: it’s not unusual to learn about a friend’s recent illness, what they had for dinner, who’s seeing whom. Most remarkably, our new intimacy extends farther than we could have imagined back when the people we chatted with over the backyard fence or folks we saw as we bought groceries comprised our circles.

While the pandemic has limited those in-person engagements, our circle of intimates can number in the thousands through social media.

Direct sellers faced a new challenge: maintaining that same level of intimacy and respect that we have in the home to our electronic relationships. No longer was it merely a matter of being polite or adhering to some social norms: interactions have consequences that impact our businesses’ failure or success.

Witness the recent limits that some social media platforms have placed on “multilevel” business activities. These platforms are under intense pressure to monitor and control the behavior and information found on their sites for fairness, accuracy, and some level of decorum.

At the same time, direct sellers increasingly rely on these platforms to share the benefits of their products and opportunities.

If this avenue of communication with our customers is restricted or eliminated, direct sellers, their customers, and the community will lose.

DSA’s members are committed to ensuring that we use social media to enhance relationships with our customers and salespeople. In a world filled with misinformation and mistrust, we have the unique ability to be the messengers of accurate information about our companies and our industry.

We can communicate honestly with the same level of respect and care for our customers and colleagues we’ve always had.

That’s why DSA is working with our companies and others to ensure that we adapt our high standards for our new digital world.

Our continued focus to deliver a high level of care—guided by standards for communicating responsibly, respectfully, and accurately—allows us to continue thriving on social platforms and also shows policymakers and the public who we are.

If you’d like more information about the ways DSA is dealing with this new challenge, contact me at joe@dsa.org.


JOSEPH N. MARIANO is the President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.