Based on comments from two executives, direct selling behemoth Amway thinks of itself as a “social network” that existed long before the advent of the Internet.

During a recent interview with Forbe’s editor Jennifer Rooney, Amway CMO Candace Matthews referred to the company the “original social network.”

Matthews’ sentiment echos something Amway Global Chairman Steven Van Andel, son of co-founder Jay Van Andel, said to Australian publication The Age in May 2011.

“Amway was a social network 50 years ago before the internet was even around, and so the idea of communicating and building a relationship was something that’s been important in our business from the beginning,” he said.

Founded in 1959, Amway, a global brand with 20,000 employees, could be considered the standard bearer for the multi-level marketing business model. And whether you like MLM or not, both comments have substance because the model is built entirely on the concept of personal networking, albeit primarily face-to-face.

But with the advent of social media that’s changing. The message contained in the following video provides ample evidence that Amway intends to make sure its distributors are keen to the idea of using social media, presumably to capture the GenY market.

Facebook Social Commerce Campaigns

Amway avidly uses Facebook and has Pages for the company, its Nutralite health and Artistry cosmetics brands, as well as regional Pages for the US, Latin America, Japan and Australia. According to ClickZ, Amway has a staff of 30 who work solely on social media marketing.

In terms of social commerce specifically, Amway recently leveraged the power of celebrity with a Facebook campaign featuring the newly crowned Miss America Mallory Hagan. (Amway is a pageant sponsor.)

Called “There She Inspires,” the campaign was an essay contest that asked entrants to submit a photo and share how they inspired others in their community. Sponsored by the company’s exclusive Artistry cosmetics brand, winners were awarded a $10,000 scholarship from Amway. In addition, as the official spokesperson, Hagan uses her celebrity status to promote Artistry products.

Not to be outdone, Nutralite has a Facebook campaign of its own focused on its “Multipops” multivitamin product where parents upload videos of their kid’s reaction when trying the product. Winners receive a $5,000 savings bond and all expense paid trip to Disney World. (Think that won’t incentivize parents to buy the product?!)

I wasn’t able to surface specifically how Amway utilizes social media at the distributor level. According to an Amway blog post, the company does have an interactive social hub where it provides content in the form of tweets, posts, images, videos and blog articles that distributors can share with fans and followers.

Although I’m sure Amway has made significant headway since Van Andel was interviewed by The Age, let me conclude with another of his comments, which evidences its determination to adopt social media: ”I don’t think we’ve figured it all out yet, but we certainly aren’t afraid of it and we embrace it. We try to figure out how we’re going to use it and how it’s going to help our business.”

Artistry Facebook campaign

Nutralite Facebook campaign

Today’s article is sponsored by Payvment: The #1 Social Commerce Platform