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Exploring a social selling framework to support the acquisition process of customers and partners within a multilevel marketing environment

Kaufmann, Florian


Florian Kaufmann


The aim of this study is to explore the potential for Multilevel Marketing Companies (MLM), to actively support and stimulate the recruitment activities currently managed by the distributors of the MLM Company. To date word of mouth (WoM) has been the means, by which distributors of MLM companies, have managed the daily recruitment activities to develop their customer as well as partner base. However, this study intends to explore the potential for application and use of electronic word of mouth (eWoM) and how it may be adopted as a methodological approach to support and improve the distributor’s productivity in recruitment activities, establish a qualitative standard within the distributorship and limit the generation of health & income claims as well as association to pyramidal schemes, that affect negatively the image and turnover, limiting market growth opportunities of the MLM company.

Review of the literature suggests that WoM applied to a social media channel environment, called also eWoM, can reach a much broader audience in less time through a viral distribution of the information, allowing a better monitoring and measurement than WoM, thus improving transparency and control for the MLM company. Currently there is no evidence in literature relative to the central production of content to be used to generate eWoM, for a multitude of distributors.

Research Design
The research reflects a personal interpretivist epistemological philosophical approach, underpinning the non-acceptance of the set of believes, that recruitment cannot be influenced proactively by the MLM Company. Furthermore, through fifteen qualitative interviews of successful distributors and the analysis of a set of secondary data, the intention is to understand how distributors manage the art of offline recruitment creating the bridge to centrally develop content distributors can share on social media channels, reflecting a familiar working process, therefore limiting the risk of a possible rejection.
Analysis shows the key aspects WoM should reflect when applied electronically within a social selling environment (Dobele, 2007; Goldenberg, 2009; Golkar, 2015; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2011), also reflecting the ideal sequence the acquisition process should follow to generate a follow up the distributor can implement to develop his customer base. This process can be supported (Barnett, 2004; Reingen, 1986) by the MLM Company allowing a better control and transparency of the acquisition activities performed in the market by the own distributors (Coughlan & Grayson, 1998; Keep & Nat, 2014; Sullivan, 2012).

Findings suggest a framework for MLM companies to guide and support the acquisition activities of new customers and/or business partners managed by the distributors, merging the knowledge obtained from the literature review (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2011; Goldenberg, 2009; Gladwell, 2000) as well as from the interviews of 15 successful distributors of the MLM company. The particularity of the suggested framework starts from an existing ideal offline acquisition process adding the key criteria necessary to be successful within a social selling environment (Feick & Price, 1987; Dobele 2007; Eyal, 2001).


Kaufmann, F. Exploring a social selling framework to support the acquisition process of customers and partners within a multilevel marketing environment. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 4, 2022
Keywords Multilevel marketing, network marketing, distributor, word of mouth, electronic word of mouth, acquisition, viral, duplication, canvassing, social selling, digital content, standard, interpretivist, qualitative research, two-stage data research, design
Public URL
Award Date Jul 8, 2022


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