While independent businesses have long tried social media, franchise companies are light years behind everyone else. The nature of franchising – systems, consistency and control – can run counter to the spontaneous spirit of social media. A franchisor wants to closely manage the brand, but that takes away the point of social media, which is the personal interaction.
That attitude is changing, however. Franchise companies are starting to pay attention because they now realise that social media does impact sales.
Here are tips on how a franchise company – and its franchisees – can become more social.
1. Start with a plan
Yes, posts and tweets should be fun and spontaneous, but they should also be part of a comprehensive social media strategy. It’s a very free environment, but you also want to make sure the brand is well-represented when you flip the switch.
As with traditional media, you’ll want to think about your target demographic and the best channels for reaching them. Although Facebook is a no brainer for consumer interaction, also consider Twitter, Foursquare, Tumbler, YouTube and, for business to business, LinkedIn.
For a smaller franchise with limited staff, it can be difficult to maintain a presence on all of these. Many companies will test the various avenues before launching a full-scale campaign. Ultimately, spend the most amount of time on the platforms that give you the most return on investment.
2. Decide who has control
Should the franchise company control every aspect of social media, relinquish control to the franchisees or craft a policy that allows for both? Do you have a single Facebook page, or allow for individual franchisee pages?
The Jury Is Still Out
Some manage social media at the corporate level but with regular feedback from franchisees. Others encourage individual franchisees to create their own social media campaigns but within the guidelines of the franchise. They believe you can’t be a multi-unit company and have one presence on Facebook. You have to crack the local nut. Franchisors can provide resources and let franchisees add their own flare to their pages. At the same time, the corporate office could share marketing ideas, syndicate content and keep tabs on what’s happening on franchisee pages.
The right move may depend on the particulars of your brand – for example, the extent to which franchisees already have marketing autonomy or whether promotions are national or regional.
What do you do about franchisees who engage in unsanctioned tweets and posts? Technically a franchisee cannot use the trademark without written consent. But rather than threaten rogue franchisees, tell them you are going to take care of their digital footprint while they focus on local marketing.
3. Keep it real
Of course, if you want to get the full benefits, keep your profiles fresh and interactive. This is media plus social. One way to make sure your pages stay fresh is to create a schedule of franchise contests and specials. But that doesn’t mean you can turn your page on auto pilot. If you are spitting out generic content that isn’t interactive, your social media campaign will not be successful.
Likewise, if followers use your Facebook page or Twitter handle to pose a question or lodge a complaint, they expect a quick response. Even worse than ignoring a negative comment is removing it. You’ll only enrage people when often they just want an apology. By addressing the issue, you can turn a negative experience into a glowingly positive one.