In January, I attended the Franchise Expo South in Miami. I heard the same 3 questions from numerous franchisors and franchisees over and over again.
1: How do I use Social Media to market my National Franchise to other potential franchisees?
2: How do we scale Social Media for our Franchise to the many locations across the country?
3: What are we doing wrong with our current Social Media strategy?
There are many intricacies that each franchise must consider before answering these questions.
The nature of your franchise
Are you in a regulated industry? Does your business include handling of proprietary information, either your own or that of your customers? Does public communication constantly need to be approved by legal before being shared? Is there potential risk of real damage to your company or your customer by inadvertent sharing of confidential information? Are you in a position where you can quickly do damage control if something bad happens? This may be true with certain companies in the health, law, insurance or governmental fields.
If this is the case, consider whether you are able to put adequate controls in place to permit real-time (or frequent) social media interaction at a franchisee level. You also might want to consider how you structure your marketing department.
Do you have specific territories that are managed by local marketing directors? etc etc.
Individual presence vs one, overall brand
For instance, are there parts of your business that are different location to location? All franchisees believe their markets are different, and, in fact, they often are. They may be urban or suburban. They may have customers with different demographics or socio-economic status. But are they so different that you accommodate that difference by allowing variation in your products, pricing, coupon offers, marketing, promotions, décor, etc.? If the answer is yes, entrusting franchisees with locally oriented social media may actually be more beneficial, not only for the customer, but for your workload too.
Some franchises, however, may make more sense just having one Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter account to encompass all locations.
Are you willing to invest in consultative resources to ensue that both your corporate team and local franchisees are educated online reputation management, content curation/ generation and measurement? If so, you need to have the ability to put together social media guidelines and a policy that makes sense for your franchise. You also need to schedule training for each your locations on best practices in social strategy, paid advertising, positioning in the local markets.
Whether you go with a centralized approach or local, you need to be ready to invest in hiring someone or a 3rd party to handle this for you.
Having said this, I've put together 2 ways to market your franchise using Social Media that any franchise can start today.
1: Create a Community
Being a part of a community will help market your franchise on so many levels. For example, if you're a commercial cleaning franchise and you want to attract more franchises in regions that you don't currently have them, you can utilize social media to start combining the appealing entrepreneurial mentality of your target market along side your cleaning opportunity. More specifically starting up conversations on social channels with these people and getting them engaged with your website, start nurturing them with email content, and tying in the social network amplification effect by having their interactions with your community amplify out to their network.
You can then identify influencers and people more engaged with your brand to do further marketing amplification. I recommend partnering with agency that specializes in working with franchises on this level.
2: Local Optimization
Implementation of a social media strategy for your franchise can come from many forms. Most common are contests, updates, pictures, video and measurement. Now with the focus that Google (Google Plus Local) has on local and mobile, you have to start thinking about social media from these angles. You also have to think about how other local social media sites like Foursquare, Yelp and listing sites like YP.com affect your local SEO.
Ask yourself things like... Do all 3000 locations of my franchise have the most up to date location data? Are people finding me on Google Maps? Are my franchisors active enough on social media enough to affect the search engine results of local consumers? What happens when I want to change that data? How in the heck do I manage it!? Are my local listings affecting my overall SEO? What are people saying about me on local social media sites?
You should seriously consider all of these questions and take immediate action internally or through an agency has had experience in this area.
I'll keep this short. Too many brands and small businesses are using social media to blast out messages. No one cares about your widget. The fact of the matter is that millions of people are on social channels, engaging in conversations relevant to your local car wash business. You should be engaging with these people to HELP them with their daily life. In turn, they will follow you and share your content.
Listening can also come in the form of Research and Development. Target your listening into other communities similar to your franchise and listen to what people are saying. You'll be surprised on what you can learn about your target demographic by just putting your ear to the wall.
Do you have any franchise marketing success stories? Have you used social listening tools to capture good insights about your current or potential customers? Please comment below.