This is a guest blog post by Darren Jamieson.
No matter what you think of Twitter on a personal level, for the business owner – and especially the franchisee – Twitter is a vital marketing tool that simply must not be ignored.
Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has grown in popularity like no other website. What started as a ‘micro-blogging’ site for sharing the thoughts of teenagers, limiting posts to a meager 140 characters, has become the go-to website for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who want to know the latest news, at the expense of conventional news agencies and media.
Unlike TV or radio, Twitter allows the real-time reporting of news on events as they happen, by anyone who happens to be there. Together with the rise in popularity of smartphones (the number of mobile phones in the world is expected to exceed the population this year), it has given everyone the opportunity to broadcast their views and opinions to the world instantly.
In addition to changing the face of news reporting, Twitter has also changed the way businesses interact with their customers – and this is of extra significance to franchisors and their franchisees.
Where previously any issue a customer may have had with a company could be dealt with in the relative privacy of a phone call or letter of complaint, they are now dealt with on Twitter, in full view of the world for everyone to see. Businesses are judged not just by the complainer, but also by the rest of Twitter, on how they deal with a complaint.
It’s at this stage where you may be thinking “well, what’s the point in going on Twitter as a business?” If your brand is going to be exposed to complaints in the public forum by being on Twitter, why not leave it well alone?
That’s just the problem, whether or not your brand is on Twitter, your customers are – and they’ll be talking about you with their followers, and anyone who wants to listen. It’s for this reason the more forward-thinking brands are on Twitter, with whole customer service teams, looking for brand mentions, customer comments, feedback, complaints, and praise – and interacting with it in equal measure.
Twitter for the Franchisor
Where this differs slightly for the franchisor is that many franchises are older, more established businesses and their franchise agreements predate the Internet, never mind Twitter. Whether or not a franchisee is allowed to register a Twitter account and represent the franchise online is a constant cause for concern, especially when you read all of the horror stories of Twitter catastrophes businesses have made.
For the same reason Twitter is so effective (instant access to anyone, with Tweets being made available worldwide, immediately), it’s also why Twitter is so dangerous in the hands of the unprepared (instant access to anyone, with Tweets being made available worldwide, immediately).
This is why franchises should have a clear strategy when it comes to Twitter, with a number of different Twitter accounts. Why would you need different Twitter accounts? Simple, a customer in Charlotte isn’t going to be interested in Tweets from a franchisee in Orlando, and would only want to follow the Twitter account of a business relevant to them.
Equally, Tweets about your business offering, aimed at customers, aren’t going to help you attract new franchisees – they’re a completely different audience.
This is why franchises should be on Twitter with separate accounts for every franchisee, run by the franchisee (to answer those customer questions only they would know the answers to) as well as with a franchisor account, responsible for the branding and marketing messages about the business.
Dealing with the negatives
This is the common apprehension businesses and franchises have towards Twitter. You will get complaints, it’s inevitable, so it’s best to deal with them privately rather than out in the open, right? Wrong! How a company conducts itself on Twitter, and how it handles customer/client feedback (both the negatives and the positives), shapes the public perception of that company.
There are a number of very high profile companies we could name (but won’t) who are very conspicuous by their absence on Twitter. Either they have Twitter accounts and do not use them, or they’re not on Twitter at all, and they ignore any attempts by customers to contact them. However, as more Twitter-savvy complainers use things such as hashtags, and other companies hijack Tweets that are being ignored, their silence is very damaging to their brand.
What do we mean by hijacking a Tweet?
Say, for instance, you’re a website hosting company (as that’s part of our business at Engage Web) and you have issues with your service causing many customers to take to Twitter and post questions about why their websites are down, using hashtags such as #hostingfails, and you ignore them – what would happen?
Yes, your customers would be annoyed and would consider leaving you – but worse yet (and we have seen this happen with the web hosting industry), more proactive web hosting companies could reply to your customers for you with Tweets such as “having problems with your hosting? Switch to us and we’ll give you 50% off.”
The customer is already unhappy with your level of service, and your competitors can see that. If you’re not going to contact them, someone will. It’s for this reason alone that Twitter is worth being a part of – although there are far more reasons as well, of course.
Is your franchise on Twitter?
Darren Jamieson is the Technical Director of Engage Web, a digital marketing agency specializing in the franchise sector. Engage Web has developed a bespoke digital marketing model for franchises, FranchiseXcel, which has helped franchises grow online within the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.