Should we be social?

Social Media has become a platform to communicate to your customers, create a brand following and an advertising method that is free. Here we take a look at how franchisors and franchising can use social media


If social media can challenge and confuse a general business start up, imagine the challenges and complications that arise in a franchisor’s mind. How does a franchisor incorporate social media into their marketing communications plan? The mistake that some business owners make is that they drill all of their marketing budget into online and forget traditional marketing methods. Social media should not control your brand message, but it should play its part and receive the same level of attention as other marketing platforms.

One of the biggest concerns for the franchisor is ensuring that the franchise owners maintain the same level of promotion - the right brand message as a continuous extension of the entire brand. All territories should be working in the same way rather than delivering lots of different messages to their target audience.

Franchisors have difficultly putting this structure in place and ask themselves should social media be managed at a corporate level or should each individual franchise owner manage their pages at a local level? As always this really depends on the type of franchise, audience and size of the network.

Location

Franchises vary from location to location and often each individual territory is very different. They may be based in a city or rural location and they may have customers with many different demographics. However, is each individual franchise so different that they require their very own Facebook page? If the products, pricing, offers and promotions are so different then perhaps focused social media strategies for each franchise could be more beneficial and, not only for the customer, but for your workload too.

Target audience

Ask yourself, is your target audience likely to use social media and how frequently are they likely to use it? How are they most likely to consume information and if you attracted this audience via social media, would this enhance the content they already receive from other platforms? If the answer is no, then perhaps keeping just a centralised strategy will better serve your social media audience verses attempting to target customers in certain regions who just aren’t online yet.

Marketing plans

Are most of the marketing decisions made and implemented centrally or are franchise owners encouraged to run and own their own marketing ideas? Are you comfortable distributing control over your brand message? All of these questions will answer your social media management concerns. If the thought of giving authority and responsibility to each individual franchise owner frightens you, then perhaps a centralised marketing approach that runs across the entire network may be best for you.

Customer relationship

If your business is retail or service related you will know that it is really important to build a good, solid and trusting relationship with your customer. One of the great things about social media is that you can almost become your customers ‘friend’ where they become familiar with your brand, your discussions and like to listen to what you have to say.

Resource

Online marketing is very time consuming; it takes dedication and lots of attention. Pages, tweets, blogs and news shouldn’t just be monthly, it should be daily, hourly, but all of this needs a dedicated online person within the franchise if social media is managed at the franchise owner level. It’s not just the content either, it is the monitoring, management, response, interaction and measurement of what’s happening online that also needs to be taken care of. Are you willing to implement such systems into individual territories and educate franchise owners? Would social media be included within their budget? Are franchise owners wanting to manage their own online marketing or do you have willing and intelligent corporate staff to monitor and guide the network’s entire social media activity? If franchise owners take on the responsibility then franchise owners should be informed on what’s expected of them. The Operations Manual should include your social media policy, brand standards, brand voice and overall strategy.

If you’re thinking a centralised approach would be easier then don’t be fooled. A corporate branding social media programme will take just as much time, if not more, as you will be faced with a higher volume of brand activity and you may need a dedicated team for online to deal with customer issues, brand content, updates, prospecting new ‘friends’, ‘fans’ or ‘followers’, collecting customer feedback and much more.

If neither of these systems are appealing then consider customising your own programme that best suits your franchise and audience. For example, McDonald’s, one of the largest global franchises in the world, created a unique way of managing their corporate Facebook page while allocating a tab for local content. When a user types in their postcode, content will appear that’s targeted to where they live. This then allows the corporate team to just oversee published local content. Social media is part of our lives now and with an estimated 1.2 billion Facebook users worldwide, you would be foolish to miss out on these prospective customers.

Written by Jenna Leeds