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.
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