For Mark, Avon’s flirty little sister, social networking runs in the family.

“One could say that the Avon lady was the first true instance of social networking, and she did it by going door-to-door,” said Annemarie Frank, director of e-commerce, digital and strategic alliances at Avon Product Inc.’s Mark unit. “What Mark has done is move this model from door-to-door to wall-to-wall.”

All of Mark’s beauty products are sold on the Web using an updated version of the direct-selling model, where representatives can make pitches for makeup, fragrances and other products on Facebook’s digital walls, and other online venues including Twitter and YouTube.

Frank said a multichannel “surround sound approach” made for a modern cocktail of merchandising and entertaining and resonated with the brand’s Gen Y target audience, who check their Facebook profiles three times a day.

“What we’re trying to do is really blur the lines between socializing, between sharing, buying, selling, direct selling — which is not the sexiest business — as well as retail and all the while engaging [consumers],” she said.

Frank said Mark’s customers are leery of the hard sell, will not be confined to one shopping channel, live in a state of information overload and thrive on social networking. Mark’s 40,000 to 50,000 representatives have an average of 400 Facebook friends.

And last year Mark set up a boutique on its Facebook fan page, where shoppers can take in the brand’s offerings and find a local representative.

“What we’re doing is finding new customers for these reps to bolster their business,” Frank said. “What we’ve done is created a perfect marriage between social networking and our social selling model and really blended them and found a way to make money from this.”

Other brands might migrate to a similar grassroots model.

“Traditionally, there’s been a single corporate digital storefront, almost like your flagship store, and I think retailers haven’t gotten out of that mind-set yet,” Frank said.

The next step for Mark is the launch of mobile commerce this year so reps can process a sale from anywhere on their phone.

“We will continue to innovate and push the envelope and test and crawl and then walk and run,” Frank said. “We’ve failed many times at different things. Learn what didn’t work, does work, iterate, try it again.”

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