The Amway Metaphor for Social Media

Robert Scoble recently interviewed Brian Solis (or more accurately, interviewed himself with Brian Solis in the room), and one portion of the interview struck a chord, particularly as I try to put together a coherent definition of the most effective tone to strike in social media.  They were discussing how out-of-place conventional advertising feels in social media (as Twitter debates how to monetize its newfound influence):

@scobleizer: “A lot of people want just to talk to their friends.  It’s a little weird … Chris Pirillo is my personal friend – I was at his wedding and all this stuff – but he’s putting ads in our conversation.  It’s like if I walked in here and said ‘hey Brian, before we sit down you’ve got to sit through an ad; you’ve got to drink some Coca-Cola and you’ve gotta sit through a 30-second D&W ad before we even have a talk.’  It’s so weird, right?  It’s a weird world.”

@briansolis: “Well, but people do that in their social circles, right?  There was Avon and Tupperware and …”

@scobleizer: “… and that always turned you off – that changed what you thought of that person.  My college journalism professor joined … Amway and it changed how I viewed him, you know.  Because now, am I your friend – are you inviting me over to dinner, or are you inviting me over to have dinner and pitch me on the new soap that Amway has?”

@briansolis: “Interesting, you’re right – it does have an effect on dynamic.”

I’d forgotten about Amway: the real-life equivalent of an advertising pitch in a social situation.  It makes me wonder if it would be possible to learn from Amway’s practices and apply them to marketing/advertising online (that prospect is particularly tantalizing given their investments internationally).  On the one hand, Amway is (by all appearances) a successful company.  On the other hand, though, the combination of social media and the damage wrought by the death throes of the advertising industry (which continues to shamelessly abuse its audiences) are likely going to fundamentally alter our social dynamics, making it an apples to oranges comparison.

Experiment: Think about the last time a friend or associate used your relationship as an opportunity to tell you about a multi-level marketing opportunity.  How close of a friend were they?  Did it change the dynamic between you?  Are you more/less close to that person as a result?

2 thoughts on “The Amway Metaphor for Social Media

  1. Ric Underhile says:


    If you’ve not yet visited the Public Museum’s Amway exhibit, it is worth your time! Whatever your perception of Amway as a business and business model, those guys were amazing.


    1. derekdevries says:

      I definitely need to; I’ll actually have a chance to check it out next month while I’m photographing an event for the college. Amway has a pretty spectacular museum of their own at their world headquarters; really dynamic and interactive.


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