Two years ago there was a reluctance by franchisors to get involved in social media. Flash forward to 2012, and there shouldn’t be a franchisor who doesn’t think they need to do something. There’s been a huge turnaround in the way people perceive what social media can do for them.
There’s also been a turnaround in social media itself. As platforms like Twitter and Facebook mature and become more conscious of their user groups, they’re working to make their services more relevant to the unique characteristics of various types of businesses, including franchises.
At the same time, as use of social media becomes more sophisticated, the franchise community is finally understanding the value beneath the hype.
Franchisors have moved squarely away from wondering, ‘Is social media even necessary?’ to not only accepting the new technologies, but actually embracing them, asking, ‘How can we make social media work better for us and our franchisees?’
A tip for franchisors is that there has to be real people behind all the posting, and more often than not, the personality needs to be that of the franchisee. ‘Social media is inherently local. Customers don’t have a relationship with the corporation, but they do see their local franchisee every day. Consumer interest is with connecting to local business.
So the social media opportunity lies with franchisees. But from an execution standpoint, getting all your franchisees to agree on a new campaign or discount is a nightmare.
Facebook now offers a suite of tools released earlier this year that changes the way franchisors use social media. Facebook’s Reach Generator gives companies a way to finally capitalise on their ‘fans.’ The Generator puts a sponsored post into each fan’s feed, increasing weekly eyeballs on advertising from 16% of fans to about 50%.
The most important change, however, involves the ‘parent/child’ or ‘national/local’ management tools, which were previously available only to companies with a minimum advertising purchase. Now free to all, these tools give franchisors administrative control over franchisee pages and link all the brand’s pages together.
This gives franchisors more say in how their brand is presented, and gives franchisees more access to corporate images, tools and copy.
Franchisees are just running their businesses day to day. They can’t be masters of everything. Unless you give them some hand-holding guidance, you can’t expect them to do anything, or they may come up with their own harebrained ideas that don’t reflect well on the brand.
Instead of forcing franchisees to struggle to produce offers and interesting posts each day, such companies have implemented sophisticated management tools that provide interesting posts, offers and tweets and have them lined out on a monthly calendar.
In fact, some new franchise systems are so heavily invested in social media that it’s a required part of the business. A US franchise offering painting parties and wine tasting has heavily invested in social media. So much so that the company has included it in its training programme.
And the founders emphasise that it’s not all about self-promotion. It’s more about interacting with a community of Facebook friends. Out of three days of franchisee training, the franchisor spends half of one day doing nothing but social media.
Keeping franchisees on point means giving them tools to manage their social media without being overwhelmed by it. As the franchisor you have to make sure everything that goes out there is part of your brand and acceptable to your brand.
And for the franchisee who can’t or doesn’t want to do this every day, they have a list of posts to choose from on their dashboard, or they can automate their updates to Twitter or Facebook for the next two months. You can take that daily grind away and automate social media for them.
But many insist that social media is worthless if it’s just about putting eyeballs in front of their corporate logo. To be effective, the content has to be compelling and create real engagement with customers.
Coming up with content on a regular basis is the No. 1 task franchisees say they struggle with. They need to be talking about the right things at the right time. It’s important that franchises are engaged. There can’t be a dead voice on the other end.
Another international franchise specialising in baked goods has invested heavily in social media and has training sessions to get franchisees up to speed on the most effective tactics.
“We’re lucky because we’re involved in fun events and celebrations that guests already like to talk about,” says Donnie Robertson, director of marketing for the company. “We’re very privileged to be a part of those conversations.
So we pay close attention to the quality of our posts and make sure we’re listening to our guests and talking about what they want to talk about, not just our products. We’ll give them recipes that complement our cakes, or put up some humour. We create loyalty by listening and talking about things that matter.”
In addition to Facebook and Twitter, newer platforms like Pinterest are drawing crowds and creating marketing opportunities for businesses, while Google+, which has languished since its launch, is seen as having tremendous potential to integrate search and social media.
New platforms will also continue to emerge. But the core of social media – customer engagement – will be key to franchises moving forward, no matter what form it takes.
Franchisors should be platform-neutral though, because there could be other social media worth pursuing. You have to keep an open mind and keep an eye on any new channels that come along. It’s important for businesses to know where their customers and potential customers are spending their time.