Why you need to beware the Facebook message out of the blue from an old friend

Curious or flattered that an old friend has got back into touch after years of no contact? Find out why you may need to brace yourself for an imminent MLM sales pitch!


Your phone notifies you that you have a new Facebook message. You check and are excited to see it’s from a friend, relative or old work colleague you haven’t been in touch with for years.

You wonder what they’ve been up to, and are flattered they’ve been thinking of you and decided to get in touch. You reply back with enthusiasm, and a flurry of likes and comments on your posts and photos follows.

And then the real reason they got in touch emerges: they’re selling an MLM.

Yes, they didn’t suddenly remember you in a warm, rosy recollection. They didn’t miss you so much they just had to reconnect. And they certainly didn’t genuinely care enough about your Facebook posts to like and comment on them.

They saw you as a chance to make some cash.

If this seems a bit cold hearted and unlikely, then clearly you haven’t been targeted by an old friend-turned-MLM-rep. Yet.

Because as unpleasant and unethical as this approach seems, it’s how MLMs train their reps to grow their customer base and, more importantly their downlines. And mums are top of their hit list.

How MLMs train reps to contact old friends

Here’s how uplines (the MLM reps above you on the pyramid-shaped earning structure of your MLM – everyone below you is your downline) coach their new MLM recruits to ‘warm up’ old friendships:

“Reach out to friends you haven’t seen in years via messenger. Say hello and catch up a little. I like to start messages with something warm like “hey girl” or “pretty lady” and talk about something they’ve posted about lately. Compliment their baby or how they look, and try to sound genuine. Then try to get some interaction going. Like their posts and leave positive comments. Be friendly.

Two weeks later, send another message telling them how excited you are to be running your own business selling [MLM name]. Ask them what makeup/skincare/diet supplement they’re currently using and why [MLM name] is better. If they don’t reply, send them another message later asking if they’d like a demonstration or send a link to your website. Be persistent! Some times it takes a while before you’re comfortable and they’re curious enough to find out more.”

The old, cynical “Give them a compliment” ploy

The above text is taken from several virtually identical recommendations, from different MLMs, that have been shared with us by former reps. It’s the classic strategy used across the board to make new ‘friends’ and warm up old ones, as this cynical breakdown of the ‘authentic’ strategy shows:

It’s nice that this woman recommends spending a whole 30 seconds checking out someone’s profile before preparing the bait with their false compliment. That doesn’t sound inauthentic at all.

Some reps forget to change their template

Occasionally MLM reps are trying to harvest so many cold connections that they forget to adjust and personalise their template, as in this example from Reddit:

MLM reps are told exactly what to say

This accidental Facebook post reveals just how spontaneous and authentic conversations with MLM reps on Facebook really are. As you can see, they’re told exactly what to say:

Not even men are safe!

Don’t assume you’re safe if you’re a man! Here’s how Younique coach their reps to approach men (taken from the brilliant Elle Beau blog):

MLM reps can keep this up for months

If you’re unlucky, you’ll have attracted the attentions of an extra-persistent (or desperate) MLM rep. And trust us, they can continue messaging/harassing you for months without any encouragement, as this non-exchange demonstrates:

They don’t even need to know you…!

And don’t think you’re safe because none of your friends or family would be foolish enough to fall for an MLM’s sales pitch. As this exchange shows, a rep doesn’t even need to know you to message you out of the blue:

You’re not that special

And in case any part of you felt even slightly special at hearing from an old friend – or even a stranger – out of the blue, here’s an example of how many other people they sent the same message to:

Yes, that does say 156.

Beware any ‘life changing’ opportunities

We hope you’ll never need to roll your eyes at a blatantly fake or patronising Facebook message from an MLM rep (who would seriously be ‘warmed up’ by a patronising “Hey girl!” or worse, “Pretty lady” greeting?!!).

But if they do infect your Facebook inbox, we recommend deleting them as a friend, or better, sending them a link to independent research into the apparent con that the MLM business model really is. Like this thorough research published by the Federal Trade Commission. Or our own 10 ugly truths MLMs don’t want you to know.

We don’t expect you’ll crack through the brainwashing they’ll have been subjected to, the false hope or the confirmation bias that allows them to remain trapped in their MLM right then. But maybe, who knows, you’ll plant some seeds of doubt that will help them to get out before too much damage is done.

And you’ll hopefully protect yourself from receiving any more “Hey sweetie!” greetings from them for now.

Why the MLM business model doesn’t work

We’ve conducted extensive research into MLMs and their supposed income opportunities over the past few months. And the more we learn, the more horrified we become. Here are some of the articles we’ve published on the subject:

And in these articles we look at the reality behind some of the income claims MLMs make:

Photo by Kendra Kamp