The internet is not a broadcast medium

Over on the Amway Global Opportunity Zone, Amway Global lawyer Gary Vanderven has written a post Online advertising drives business. But just like on the road, rules apply regarding the rules around Amway business ownership and internet advertising. I found the following comment particularly interesting –

1. The posting of an IBO’s number and contact information in comments in blogs or online publications. This is considered non-local advertising and is prohibited by the Rules of Conduct.

What exactly entails “contact information”? It’s virtually impossible to post a comment on a site without supplying an email address and/or website. Corporate bloggers on the Opportunity Zone have even highlighted online reviews of Amway products that have included link to perzonalized websites. The Opportunity Zone itself requests commentators give a website address, and this is then linked to the commentators name on the post. The rule as just explained means that any ABO who comments on Gary Vanderven’s post and supplies a website, as requested, is breaking the rules if that link allows them to be contactable.

What about a blog? Is an ABO with a blog allowed to talk about their Amway business if they have their identity or contact details on the site? Apparently not. Anonymous blogs only! And if the blogger is “outed” by a third party, as I was?

In my opinion this is all moot – none of this is “non-local advertising” in the sense the corp seems to take it. Internet sites are ALL local. With traditional broadcast type advertising, the consumer is presented with marketing whether they want it or not. They watch Friends and get advertisements. They drive to work and get all the billboards. With internet websites, the viewer comes to you – they were already looking for whatever it was you were talking about – The Internet is not a broadcast medium.

Now, this doesn’t excuse spamming or posting comments inappropriately, but if there’s a discussion on skin care, or nutrition, or makeup, or cleaning or whatever, then an IBO should be perfectly free to post their contact details as part of their contribution to the discussion – if appropriate and the website in question allows it. Note that most websites and forums *do not* allow commercial advertising in their comments and forums (though they often do allow a link to your own site in your “signature”).

For one’s own websites though, ABO’s should have no restriction other than those that already exist for the offline world, such as no exaggerated claims about products or income possibilites. A health expert should be able to have a blog about health issues and talk about and promote Nutrilite. Someone who loves Artistry should be able to rave about it on their “mom blog” and direct people to their personal website or Amway site with their IBO number. ABOs should even be allowed to directly promote the business opportunity itself – without the silly password requirements that currently exist.

The only potential risk with this is the one that I already alluded to, and one that already exists on the offline world – exaggerated or false claims. Such claims potentially open the business up to legal issues with bodies such as the United States’ FTC and FDA. I would argue however that the same potential exists in the offline world, but the online world is easier to monitor and police, both for Amway and for various government authorities. It should be seen not as a threat, but an opportunity.

My recommendation is that Amway sets up a global register of blogs and websites run by Amway Business Owners. ABOs who own sites or blogs and expect they may make reference to Amway products and/or the Amway business should then be required to register their sites. I’d further suggest that Amway require ABOs who run such sites to include a standard disclaimer, either on a common area that appears on all posts, or on any particular posts that specifically refer to the Amway business or Amway products. The disclaimer should include a link to a corporate website with further information, including an ability to register a complaint if a reader felt the content was false or misleading.

The Internet is not a broadcast medium, and blogs and websites are not “non-local advertising”. Readers find you or what you are offering because they’re looking for you. Done properly, relaxing (and clarifying) the rules in regard to this could make an enormous difference to the positive presence of Amway on the Internet.

Comment below, or join the discussion on Amway Talk

37 thoughts on “The internet is not a broadcast medium”

  1. As I understand it, a person can promote products on a one on one basis.

    So a personal trainer, for example, can have his/her own studio or weight room, can not display Nutrilite stuff. However, they can personally promote to each of their clients and/or direct them to information or even give it out right there.

    I am also glad that Quixtar/Amway is a bit tolerant with regards to the rules. We all have made stupid mistakes and probably will continue to do so, and it is nice they are not hardline with the rules. Especially when it is an honest mistake.

  2. AFAIK the rules re the internet are pretty much the same everywhere. According to the GV post, you can’t put your contact details online –

    What is not appropriate, however, is to include your IBO number or contact information within comments posted for the world to see.

    Note that – no contact information posted for the world to see. Your comments here have contact information, as do mine. You are identifiable as an IBO and are contactable from your posts.

    Obviously the rules folk are using discretion and stretching them a little – but rules where folk need to use discretion are dumb rules … it leads to “stretching” of other rules by IBOs.

  3. Actually, in an online conversation, where a relationship is built, yes, I would say that they can solicit–one-on-one.

    Not a mass spam job, which we’ve already talked about a few times. 🙂

  4. IBOFB,

    I am really missing your point. They CAN promote in an online conversation. They just can’t solicit.

    There is a difference.

    And, what you are saying doesn’t even make sense, because your original post is about what Gary V. from Amway Global–the North American market–is saying. He’s talking about the Rules for one market.

    So if you are trying to talk about ALL of Amway and ALL of their rules, then that is a much bigger issue and, actually, a different issue entirely, IMO.

  5. That was a bit of a leading post of mine since I knew the answer. Indeed, in some markets “professionals” like that are even allowed to sell them at their place of work, just not display them, and they’re required to post a sign saying that if the customers knows an IBO you should get them from them.

    My point is – so those folk can talk about and promote them in an offline conversation, but cannot do it in an online conversation.

  6. IBOFB,

    They can. But technically, cannot do it at their same place of business–it goes back to the retail rule and Amway wanting to maintain an “even playing field”, person-to-person relationships.

    In other words:

    A make-up artist can promote Artistry, but not sell it at his/her salon.

    A nutriionist can promote Nutrilite, but can’t sell it out of his/her office.

    A hairdresser can promote Saninique but not sell it at his/her salon.

    So I’ve seen people of these professions recommend product(s) and then give the person information on how to order online.

    And I’ve also seen where, if the ordering and delivering is done offline, then it is not in the same physical place of business as another business.

  7. Let me quick clarify my second paragraph above. It is against the rules to promote your Amway Global business through another business, whether online or in real life.

  8. Jeffrey,

    Re: Level playing field. You are correct with regards to people’s lot in life, it isn’t fair or level by any means. However, what I was pointing out is the spirit of the Amway business is so that YOU, who is not a Rockefeller, can get in grow yourself, grow a business, without unfair competition from the Rockefellers in life.

    Re: Your website. It is a straight violation of the rules to use one business to promote another, whether online or in the real world. It goes both ways. However, what you could promote with your cleaning business are all the benefits of the cleaning products you use (without naming them).

    Ex. “We use safe, organic, chemical free, green cleaning products because your family deserves to be safe inside and outside of your house.”
    Or something like that.

  9. I realize that things have to be kept clean, but I still think the rules are too restrictive. Advertising is mostly just add-on business, but it is still nice to be able to have the CHOICE to do some advertising with graphics, which we currently don’t have unless we jump through hoops to get it approved.

    I did get approved for the yellow pages and did that for three years and all I got out of it was a great big bill with almost no results.

    They prematurely announced pre-approved ad slicks two months ago that are still not ready. Don’t know what the holdup is with those but am anxious to see them and possibly use them.

    One thing I don’t understand is that they want us to promote our websites, then say we need the human contact. One response to my websites link from the Opportunity Zone is from Georgia, and another one from Ohio. I live in Iowa. How personal is that? (But I’ll still take the PV and profit from the orders.)

  10. RS,

    I do not think it’s against the rules.

    What would be against the rules is if you got on other websites, spamming your new website’s address.

  11. Let me get it right…

    If tomorrow i decide to create a personal website, which has information about me and certain other things, and along with them are the links to my quixtar website (4 sites provided by quixtar), is that against the rule?

    I am not selling anything directly on my website (which i have seen several websites doing and told quixtar legal department as well about it), but rather just providing a link to official websites from quixtar. Shouldn’t that be an allowed practice?

  12. Jeffrey,

    I’m not an expert in the rules, but you might have been asked to take it down because you are using your other business (janitorial) to promote your Amway business, which is against the rules.

    Your janitorial website is like your janitorial’s business office.

    This would be the equivalent of a doctor’s office selling Nutrilite in the front office.

    don’t know. Just a guess.

  13. The company is the one that is being weird about it. What’s the big deal? It’s 2008, not 1959. We need some freedom to promote our business, even just for add-on business. They let the tool and function scam go on and on and on and on and on to infinity and beyond and I literally cannot put a link to my personal website with my name, voice mail number and e-mail address, on my janitorial site saying that I also offer cleaning products. I was told to take it down. That is just plain stupid to me. I wish someone from the rules department would call me tomorrow at home and explain their reasoning to me. For heaven’s sake, get in the 21st century. I’d like to see some major changes with this transformation and quit the dinking around.

    And addressing another person’s comments: nothing is fair. Some people have good contacts, good people skills, and lots of money when they get into the business, and some don’t. It’s also not fair that I was not born a Rockefeller. There is no such thing as a level playing field and I wish people would quit trying to make one. Oh yes, there is one. It’s called communisism. It doesn’t work.

  14. IBOFB,

    I think you are asking for cookie-cutter answers in a non-cookie cutter community.

    Get the spirit of the “law” rather than ask for the letter of the law.

    The laws are here to protect all of us, not stifle us.

    Put up your darn health blog and see what happens!

    Sometimes people have to SEE what you are talking about to determine if it’s “wrong” or “right”.

    As an example, my first inclination as a mom is to say “no” when my boy asks to do something which sounds a bit dangerous. He’s now learned sometimes to go ahead and start doing the thing and see my response in the process.

    Nine times out of ten, what he ends up doing is not that bad at all…I just wouldn’t have understood what he meant by hearing just his words of explanation.

    The one time out of ten he’s proceeded with something, like putting a chair on top of a table…okay, then sitting in that chair…um, okay…then standing on the chair, okay but a little scary…then jumping on the chair, not okay…that I step in an rein him back in.

    My intention is not to stifle his creativity, to stop him from growing and prospering. My intention is for him not to hurt himself.

    I see the Rules of the Corp in the same vein.

  15. Bridgett – that’s not what GV said though. The contact info is “there for the world to see”. Would “my email” with a mailto: link be okay, but not “my@email.com” with the same mailto: link?

    TB2IBO – doesn’t just say comments, also says “or online publications”, though it’s not clear whether the “or” refers to “blogs” or “comments in blogs”.

  16. IBOFB,

    I would be for and allow the same thing on the net. Conversations that are real would be fine. It is just as Bridgett pointed out, avoiding the solicitation aspect. I mean on your blog and associated commentary you have the ability to “advertise” your business with your link. Since you have to comment far more than any of us you link could be viewed as advertising by the ignorant.

    If it is done is good faith, so to speak, I think it should be allowed.

  17. Bridgett, he didn’t have a site. He asked first and was told he couldn’t.

    GV clearly stated that “What is not appropriate, however, is to include your IBO number or contact information within comments posted for the world to see.”

    Bridgett, your contact information is posted within comments on this website. I click on your name, I get to your blog where I can clearly contact you directly. How is that not a violation of GV’s statement above? How is your own website not a violation? Blogs are by definition “comments posted for the world to see”, and if it’s your blog and it allows comments, it is by definition a place where you can be contacted.

  18. TB2IBO said –
    This is where you drift into the “weirdo” stage, and lack of quality duplication. Now if person X stopped and spoke directly to each person in a conversation and either business opportunity or customer stuff comes up and they give a card..that would fair IMO.

    So why not allow it on the internet, which is pretty much just an online community of people talking? Weird behaviour is weird behaviour both offline and online – why should positive behaviour be “banned” because of the potential for weird behaviour? it’s not “banned” offline. (wish we could! 🙂 )

  19. IBOFB,

    Having not seen the guy’s site, I have no idea if he gave us all the details about what he was actually writing.

    The content might have been the issue, not the vehicle with which he delivered it.

  20. Bridgett, on one of the OZ blogs a health guy reported he was explictly told he could not do what I’m talking about – have a blog about health and talk about Nutrilite – if he was contactable and identifiable as an IBO

    What GV wrote seems clear to me – you can’t be identifiable as an IBO and have your contact details, and you do.

    As for sites here, we have no corp available client or prospecting website other than the local Amway website (crappy), and any other site needs to password protected and fully approved. Of course, I’ve had no luck trying to find out who to ask approval from. Request to Amway have come back with a “we’ll get back to you”.

    RB, I agree re the lists of IBOs things, I have to delete them regularly off my youtube channel. I think though that’s more an ettiquette and training thing, much like jumping on your friends and harassing them until they join doesn’t work either.

  21. RS,

    In a word, “soliciation”.

    Just like going door-to-door is unattractive and unwelcomed, the equivalent on the Net is what you are describing.

    Leaves a yucky impression–and an ineffective one. 🙂

  22. Great discussion. The issue should not be about leaving the contact information, it is more about the way that is left.

    Every now and then i come across blogs with users (IBOs) leaving comments with information about their email and website stating that you can buy so and so products from them . The worst is that it is not just one IBO, you will see list of those comments there with each having some number/email/website. This is sort of annoying. If this will be allowed every wall on the internet (I mean every site/blog/forum) will be swamped with the contact information from IBOs. This will not bring any results but will surely annoy more people.

    Personal touch is really necessary in any direct marketing business, it takes time and energy to build this businesses and if it would have been as easy as just putting your contact information on some blogs, then people with great internet skills would have been millionaires already and same applies to people with great social skills. A balanced approach is the key.

    Solution can be:
    IBOs should be allowed to put in their website information in the blog link where it is allowed and available, but should not use the language to suggest people that they can buy stuff from them.
    i.e. give some good suggestions about how to improve skin, but should not mention that you can buy items from their website or by calling me. just have their website link available at the bottom.

    This way, it won’t look aparent that we are using the forum for selling stuff and but also will give chance for the users to get some useful information about how they can solve their problems and if they are interested they can visit the website mentioned.

    This is same as talking to someone and mentioning that you are in business to help people make some extra money on side, if the person is interested and wants to know more, you can ask them to meet you later and exchange contact information, but if the person is not interested then just leave it there, instead of somehow getting their number and then calling them later to find out if they are interested.

  23. IBOFB said: “It’s just plain weird that I can’t have a website to send clients or prospects too that isn’t password protected.”

    Don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in North America, our sites are not password-protected on the first page. They used to be, but after much discussion, including from me, in which I explained how other shopping sites, like Amazon.com, aren’t password-protected, on the first page, this was changed.

    IBOFB: It’s just plain weird that I, as a health expert, cannot blog about and promote Nutrilite because I’m an ABO.

    I don’t think this is true. I think it’s how you go about doing it—like you mentioned about not making false or misleading health claims.

    IBOFB: It’s just plain weird that I, as an ABO, cannot talk about my “profession” and a link to my website in forum signatures etc etc

    I don’t think this is true.

    IBOFB: Now, as GaryV wrote it in his post, your blog, where you are contactable and an IBO, is a violation of the rules. Posting a comment where you are contactable, which you are if you post a link to your blog, is by extension a violation of the rules.

    This is not true, as I originally did not have a link, and I was specifically told by someone at Rules that having a link is not a violation. Again, it goes back to one’s intention and not being an uniformed renagade IBO/ABO writing stupid dumb stuff on the Net.

    Furthermore, to address TB 2 IBO’s comment about someone web-savvy people having an advantage, my blog, your blog, is an asset to the ENTIRE AOB/IBO community. THAT is the distinction, I think.

    The entire ABO/IBO community can use individuals’ blogs for their personal advantage for their businesses. It goes to the high-touch part. As an example, TB 2 IBO, can send potential clients and potential IBOs to my blog and see what I wrote about “clinical studies” and how that ties in with Artistry. Or, regarding the business opportunity, sending them to my blog to see who I am outside the world of Amway and say, “See, this is the type of person who thinks the Amway business is a good opportunity.”

    I’m a low-(wo)man-on-the-toten-pole IBO, much more relatable than an Emerald or Diamond, I think.

    And I highly doubt that that potential client or potential IBO would drop TB 2 IBO like a hot potato and say, “Wow, I want to buy stuff from Bridgett!” or “I want to get into business with Bridgett!” And let’s not forget that Bridgett is quite picky about who she sponsors and services as a customer. I’m in to long-term solid growth. 🙂

  24. It would be if person X was simply going out and just dropping off cards left and right with little or no interaction with said shops fairs and people. Especially if his/her card said, “want to make money fast” or some other such nonsense.

    This is where you drift into the “weirdo” stage, and lack of quality duplication. Now if person X stopped and spoke directly to each person in a conversation and either business opportunity or customer stuff comes up and they give a card..that would fair IMO.

    I know it is nit-picking, just trying to myself in the shoes of the corp.

  25. So let’s take it to the extreme … say person X is an extremely social person with great people skills. Talks to nearly every person out there and visits every shop and fair he can find. In each instance he leaves his business cards with details. Wouldn’t that be a little unfair to those that either (A) are not highly social or (B) are building it the traditional way?

    Isn’t that an unfair advantage over the computer geek with poor social and people skills?

  26. Overall I still agree. But let’s take this to the extreme. Say person X is an extreme avid blogger. Posts on nearly every blog out there and also has his/her own blog. In each instance he/she links to his/her website or contact information. Wouldn’t that be a little unfair to those that either A) are not super internet savvy or B) Are building it the “traditional” way.

    The way I interpret the rule on this, and it has served me well thus far, is simply think,”Is what I am doing give me a unfair advantage over the average IBO?” Now, as a person with a little more money than the average, I would love to “advertise”, but it would not be in the spirit of an Amway business. Very much like Bridgett points out.

  27. Bridgett, what you’re talking about is pretty much spamming and is already (a) against the rules (b) against net ettiquette (c) against the rules of pretty much any website you might care to participate on. It’s really nothing to do with building the business per se, which is, as you say, about building relationships.

    Really it’s about one of my favourite quotes of you – don’t be weird.

    It’s just plain weird that I can’t have a website to send clients or prospects too that isn’t password protected.

    It’s just plain weird that I, as a health expert, cannot blog about and promote Nutrilite because I’m an ABO.

    It’s just plain weird that I, as an ABO, cannot talk about my “profession” and a link to my website in forum signatures

    etc etc

    Now, as GaryV wrote it in his post, your blog, where you are contactable and an IBO, is a violation of the rules. Posting a comment where you are contactable, which you are if you post a link to your blog, is by extension a violation of the rules.

    It’s just plain weird.

    Throw on the negative effect on Search Engines, and it goes beyond weird and in to plain stupid.

  28. IBOFB,

    I don’t think the rules are broken if you have blogs and websites with linked signatures.

    I think the issue, regarding one of your points about comments being left on blogs and forums, becomes when you cheapen the business and create a dorky impression by typing your IBO # and contact info blatently all over the Internet.

    It creates a bag image–and isn’t very effective, by the way. That’s something to ponder…

    New IBOs think that they can just get the word out about their personal website, and then everyone will swarm to their site and start shopping. And then they get discouraged when they send out emails to their entire contact book, post their IBO info all over MySpace and Facbook, and get zero results.

    It’s not about the website. It is and will always be about that high-touch. And in this high-tech world, people are craving connection and “realness” like never before. THAT’S what we have to offer. And in order to have that, it is still and will always be about building relationships.

  29. I agree that would be a problem, but it’s not what I’m suggesting, indeed I don’t think the advertising rules should change much, if at all.

    What I think is silly is considering a blog/website or comments on blogs and forums as “non-local advertising”, somehow analagous to broadcast advertising.

  30. I have to agree to with blog. At least as you put it. The only problem I see, and this would apply to the offline world as well, is the improper advertising of one’s website.

    What I mean is that this business is and continues to be promoted as a “level playing field” for anyone that desires to build. Allowing personal sites is fine, I guess. My beef would be with someone with a ton of money placing ads all over the search engines to drive volume and prospects to their site. When the next guy has little or no money and can not do the same thing. That would be the problem I see.

    Cheers

  31. His post raised my ire quite a bit. This is a typical example of the “non-transformation” of Amway Corp.–things that they simple refuse to change, such as case lots, their refusal to update the personal websites to be customizable, their refusal to deal with the tool and function scam once and for all, and their infuriating adamant refusal to bring the receipt function into the 21st century. (The tech department guys could fix it in a day if they WANTED to.) They can advertise all over creation using every available media, but I still have to promote my business one-on-one in person. Whatever. We are not Independent Business Owners. We are Amway sales reps with the ability to sponsor other Amway sales reps. Please remember, as a button I have says, I yell because I care. But, (are you listening Gary?) the archaic, outdated restrictions placed upon us are why some people quit, and I would think that some real major changes would have been in place by now, since we are a year-and-a-half into the “transformation.”

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