Reyka Beth VanSickle

DSOhhh They’re an Influencer: An In-depth Analysis of the Social Media Strategies Used by Direct Selling Distributors to Personally Brand Themselves and Build Relationships

April 3, 2021   /  

Name: Reyka Beth VanSickle
Major: Communication Studies
Minors: Spanish, Theatre and Dance
Advisors: Dr. Michelle Johnson, Dr. Denise Bostdorff

With social media at the fingertips of people all over the globe, many individuals have been able to gain a true influence in society through attaining an increasing group of followers on these platforms, especially those in the field of direct selling. This study examines the strategies that direct selling distributors use on social media to personally brand themselves and build relationships which result in them being successful social media influencers for their direct selling organizations. In particular, I conducted a series of 40-minute interviews where I asked various distributors about their day-to-day social media use and their social media strategies in terms of constant online presence, viewership and follower count, the platforms and distribution channels of their brand, ability to story tell and relate to others online, the influence of and connection with other users, relationship building, and interactivity. The first overall theme that surfaced from the analysis was the importance of keeping a constant presence on social media, specifically through keeping a consistent image on the platforms, utilizing a variety of features, and being active on the right platforms in the right way by understanding the platform audiences. Another theme was that these distributors build relationships with their users when maintaining a positive personal brand through the use of emojis and voice message, showcasing the unedited pieces of everyday life through different features, and the importance of other users and how their positive or negative relationship to the influencer can affect their personal brand.

Reyka Beth will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST 9-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening) and 4-6 pm EDT (PST 1-3pm, Africa/Europe: late evening)

26 thoughts on “DSOhhh They’re an Influencer: An In-depth Analysis of the Social Media Strategies Used by Direct Selling Distributors to Personally Brand Themselves and Build Relationships”

  1. Your research is fascinating, Reyka! You mention that you have personal connections to DSOs; do you view this kind of work any differently now that you’ve completed this project? Similarly, did you learn anything in your interviews that surprised you?

    1. Thank you so much Emily! It was so fun getting to talk to my participants and understand a topic I love, social media, within a context I only knew a little about, direct selling. After doing my project, I definitely have more of an appreciation for the work and strategy that some of the direct selling distributors, including my personal contact, put in. I always knew that a constant presence on social media is important but I give these participants a lot of credit for also coming up with engaging content as well. In order to pique audiences’ interest, whether or not they see the content, is to make it engaging and relatable every time and that is the challenge. One thing that I did not expect when starting the interviews was the increased use of Voice messages when connecting with the users. That is a feature I do not use often but it is definitely a great tool when building relationships because you can actually hear their voice and the emotions they are conveying and understand that they are genuine.

  2. Really nice presentation. It was fun working with you on this project. How long do you think it will be until you are an influencer? 🙂 Congratulations!

    1. This project has definitely inspired me to see what I can do in the influencer world! However, as we both know from the “jab jab right hook” analogy, it is a gradual process that takes a lot of time and effort so we will see! Thank you so much for all your help and encouragement during the IS process.

  3. I still say you and Cassianna should compare notes and start a company together. 🙂 It was nice to see how this project evolved.

    1. It makes me happy to see others like Cassianna who are also interested in social media as a topic for research! Thank you so much for all your guidance and encouragement throughout my project’s evolution.

  4. Wow, I am truly inspired by your IS. As a student pursuing the new GMDS major, you have shown me what is possible! Also, I love the fact that you added a podcast talk to help explain your project. It was very inviting and informative to listen to.

    1. Thank you so much, Jordan! It was a lot of fun creating my presentation, and it does have a similar vibe and structure to a podcast which I also enjoy. As we both know, there are so many great topics and possible opportunities in the world of media. The main reason I knew I chose the right topic was that it never felt like work to do the research and write my paper. It was truly fascinating to me, and so as long as you choose an IS topic that you love, it will be a fun and truly rewarding experience.

  5. Congratulations Reyka!!! You should be really proud of your project. When can I expect influencer Reyka to make an appearance?

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! It would be such a cool experience being an influencer, but it takes a lot of time and strategy to build that relatable personal brand. Maybe someday I can reach that increasing group of followers!

    1. Thank you Kayla! I am glad we had each other for encouragement throughout this process as well!

  6. I really enjoyed listening to your audio recording and learning about what you found. It’s easy to follow and engaging. Excited for your future after graduation and will be happy to support however I can! Stay in touch 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! I am glad you enjoyed the presentation. This project was such an interesting and rewarding experience. I will definitely stay in touch!

  7. Great work! Do you see personal branding / influencer marketing becoming more common as tools in traditional sales and marketing channels?

    1. Thank you, and really great question! I definitely see influencer marketing increasing in popularity with the plethora of tools that are now available and continually being introduced on the platforms. Influencer marketing and social selling is also still a new concept within the world of direct sales in particular as well, and I can see it gradually becoming more common. Social media have made companies in general more personal because they offer so many opportunities to connect with others and gain an influence through relationship building. Also audiences on social media do not want to be sold to; they want to connect with others who have similar interests which makes influencer marketing the next most beneficial step within social media marketing.

  8. Great job Reyka! I really liked the personal touch you added to the presentation. How did you decide which influencers you were going to reach out to, and what did that process look like?

    1. Thank you Erica! In terms of choosing influencers, I was fortunate to have a personal contact that knew a lot of people within the field of direct sales and also used social media to personally brand themselves and sell products. She reached out to some people and if they were interested she brought them my way! With this method of recruitment, my sample was focused on a particular demographic of direct sales. For example, they all sold health and beauty products. All my participants had an influence and a substantial following base particularly on the platforms of Facebook and Instagram as well. I also think it would be interesting to see if the analysis would expand or change in future research if the sample of influencers was more diverse!

  9. Congratulations Reyka!! I’m so proud of you!

    I was wondering if you think relationships built on social media is different from platform to platform?

    1. Thank you Abby! Great question, the relationships you build with audiences definitely vary on the different platforms. Each platform has different audiences, with different demographics and interests. With that, I learned in my analysis that influencers must understand the platform audiences and the expectations of each site so they can connect with the users in the most beneficial way possible. For example, my participants discussed how younger generations congregate on Instagram while older generations are on Facebook. They then discussed that the content they post on Instagram and Facebook varies. Some of the participants stated that they connect and engage more with their audience on Instagram and just simply post content on Facebook. Others said they posted short-form content on Instagram and Long-form content, like social media lives, on Facebook. Since they connect differently on the different platforms and they build relationships with different demographics of people, the relationships and the maintaining of those connections will look different on the different platforms.

  10. This is a great I.S to see and I am more than prod to have known you these past four years by being an Alum of B-Boys and Ballerina FYS with you.

    1. Thanks so much Angela! FYS was such a fun experience and I hope you are having a wonderful year.

  11. Broooo!! Such interesting findings! Do you know what type of content is the most engaging for each platform?

    1. Thanks so much Joelle! This is an interesting question. First, I would say that different audiences enjoy and engage more with different types of content so there is not one feature that is better than the other in that respect. It truly depends on the audience you are reaching. That is why it is so important to not only post consistently but also post on multiple features per day so that an influencer’s content can have the greatest opportunity to be seen by the most users. Also, social media platforms are always adding new features so that also changes audiences’ interests and what they find engaging. However, personally, I feel that one particularly engaging type of content currently on social media is Instagram Reels. On Instagram, because of how the algorithm is working, Instagram Reels are a really beneficial feature because of the organic reach that it has. Instagram is pushing content out to more new audiences because of the fact that it is a newer feature allowing one’s posts to be seen by more users which means more follows, comments, likes, and overall engagement. It also offers so many possibilities for creativity through colorful captions, filters, and fun sounds.

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