Using Social Media To Sell A Franchise

Joel Goldstein, of MFV Expositions, provides examples how American brands are using Facebook and Twitter to help generate new leads for their franchise opportunities.

With The Social Network, a film about the founding of the social networking website Facebook debuting in UK cinemas in October, it seems like the perfect time to look at social media strategies for franchisors.

The film focuses on the early years of Facebook when only college students had access to the site and everything was written in the third person. But let's jump ahead a few years. Now, not only is Facebook open to everyone but companies also have a large presence on the site.

The majority of companies have already jumped on the social media bandwagon and are chugging along at a rapid pace. However, most of this activity is aimed at the consumer market. But what of the untapped market for gathering franchise leads? Facebook and Twitter can be effective (and free) tools to communicate with potential candidates.

"It's an untapped market for franchise leads," said Tom Portesy, president of MFV Expositions. "We recently launched our (Facebook and Twitter) accounts and have seen an overwhelming positive response from our 'fans'."

Social media is not a replacement for traditional lead capture
A virtually free communication tool, social media is simply another way for franchisors to interact with their prospects.

The United Franchise Group, which includes SIGNARAMA, EmbroidMe, Billboard Connection, FranchiseMart, and Plan Ahead Events utilises social media as an introduction between the prospect and the franchisor.

"We have Fan pages and Twitter feeds for each of our five brands," says Dave Masterson, Chief Technology Officer for United Franchise Group. "We reply back to the leads in the fashion they are most comfortable with, some want direct messages back on Twitter, some want a shift over to their private email accounts."

Of course, there is no need to abandon a system that works for a company just because social media is the latest new trend. Instead, it should be intergrated into current campaigns.

What to communicate
Social media is a perfect platform to promote upcoming events, special offers, webinars and driving prospects to your website to capture the lead work with other departments and post messages in conjunction with advertising and public relations campaigns.

For example, MFV Expositions use its Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote upcoming expos and even offer discounts to those who sign up via the link provided in certain posts. For a look at the WCFE page, just log on to Facebook and search West Coast Franchise Expo or visit twitter.com/FranchiseEvents.

Common pitfalls to avoid
Don't Lecture: When interacting with prospects, always to talk with, not at them. Remember, selling franchises is about relationship building. Prospects are much more inclined to move forward in the process if they feel that you are speaking with them rather than lecturing them on why this franchise is right for them.

Don't delete: Inevitably, not everyone is going to love your company or concept and in some cases prospects will take to social media to vent their frustrations. If an unhappy prospect does share his or her frustration on your Facebook or Twitter page, do not delete the comment unless it is offensive. Instead, take the opportunity to work with the unhappy prospect openly. You may not be able to retain that prospect but others will see and appreciate your firm's openness.

Know who is updating your page: Choosing the right person to manage the company's social media strategy is key. A company's social media presence represents the company as a whole, so when choosing the person to portray your messaging make sure they understand the core values and goals that need to be achieved.