Monday, September 23, 2013

EDITORIAL OPINION: Where Is A Reputation Tracker For Network Marketing?

NOTE: Editorial Opinion is my personal thoughts on the state of the network marketing industry. 

The entire network marketing industry is overdue for a reputation tracking system, for companies, executives, and affiliates. And this would be maintained, much like credit bureaus track credit history, by similar private entities.

If you join a company that claim to be "started by veterans of MLM that has combined 20 years of MLM industry experience", don't you want to know who they are, and whether their experience are successes or failures? And if they are successes, did their DOWNLINES enjoy success as well? Or are they just cloning themselves with their downlines? If they are failures, don't you want to know WHY they failed? Are they bad at management, operated a scam, or just right business wrong time?

If you are joining someone as a downline, don't you want to know who your upline really are? What schemes / biz have they joined before? What were they promoting? Would you join someone if they have a history of pushing shady businesses, or worse, businesses that turned out to be scams?

Companies can publish their stats, like income disclosure statements, in a COMMON format (right now they are free to mangle the sheet as long as it contains the right fields).

Frankly, a lot of this is just due diligence, which is SORELY lacking, a very surprising fact given that network marketing is founded on social interactions, and thus, relies a lot on trust, and trusting without due diligence leads to one getting scammed.

Now you're probably thinking, no way! That's invasion of privacy! You will want to read on.

For those that worry about privacy... Those concerns are unfounded. The database would only contain FACTUAL information, like
A was affiliate of B from period X to period Y. 
Indeed, most of that is easily discoverable through Google search, if one knows how to search, but if one promotes offline then this won't be found. Heck, most of this the affiliate put out in the public themselves! And it may even be on LinkedIn or IBOSocial or such profiles!

The difference is, anything on LinkedIn or IBOSocial can be edited at will. This "history" cannot. Like your credit history, this history is permanent. It can be disputed, and line edited with dispute procedure, but it's an ongoing record.

Would make people pause if they know their actions leave a permanent record, doesn't it?

Nowadays, if "A" promoted a scam, like Zeek Rewards, via a website or article, A simply erases that website, and soon the Google cache is gone, and it's as if he never did so.

But it'll stay on this record.

So where does the data come from? We could ask the MLM companies to submit the data themselves, and one can even see DSA getting behind this... (or perhaps not, too much burden on the companies, they'll say). But the fly-by-night schemes pushed by various HYIPsters will not have data to submit. And indeed will NOT submit any as they want to stay hidden.

That leads to two ideas: crowd-sourced data with curation, or bounty system with curation. They are effectively the same, albeit with the difference of reward offered to add to the database.

So perhaps there can be some sort of a bounty system: Fresh info are awarded small amounts, like a few cents. And people who wish to query the system need to pay a small processing fee (maybe $5 to $10). The rates and bounty rates can be adjusted yearly depending on operating profit or loss to ensure the business is self-sustaining.

Information submitted would have to be on the Internet with URL, which would then be inspected, curated, and verified authentic and "fresh" (not a resubmit). Some can be automated, but some human intervention would be required at some point. Information would then be screen-shot, saved offline, and perhaps, videos downloaded (if size permits) to be hyperlinked later.

But the net result is a timeline and social graph of everything in network marketing, once it has enough data. Some can be mined through Google itself, or linkedIn, or IBOSocial, or such places. Others by simply following the links posted.

So you'd end up with a combination of Wikipedia AND Read-only LinkedIn where you can find just how many companies did a certain individual promote, and with what language, how those opportunities turned out, and so on and so forth. it's cross-linked with multiple views.

Messy, yes. But with modern technology, infinitely doable.

The problem is how to keep it real and useful, instead of becoming advertising piece for the network marketing industry. As this sort of transparency may be too much for the "industry" that prefers a lot of gray area to roam.


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