This guest blog post was written by John Murray.
Social media is becoming more widely used by businesses for many different purposes, whether it’s as a marketing tool, a tool for brand awareness, or a way for businesses to interact with their customers.
Franchises should be aware that using social media can be beneficial to both the franchisee and the franchisor if used in the correct way. Everyone involved in franchising will be familiar with Facebook and Twitter, but sometimes they fail to make the most of them and understand their importance to franchises.
Firing Up Your Franchise’s Facebook
The way that Facebook now organizes its business and company pages is more like a business directory, so allowing franchisees to set up their own page is a good idea as it can list specific information about a certain branch and allow it to display the most important and sought after information, such as the location of a store and contact numbers. After all, this key data is guaranteed to be different for each franchisee.
Facebook’s ‘check-in’ facility even allows customers to virtually check-in to each franchisee location, showing their friends and family where they are and thus further promoting your brand.
Working a Tweet
Twitter is perhaps the best-suited tool for internet marketing due to its popularity and the use of hashtags to make it easily navigable. This also means, however, that it’s important to screen tweets before it becomes detrimental to the whole franchise.
The 140-character social site can be a very good tool for franchisees in particular, as they are already a part of a well-established brand. Franchises can take solace in the fact that separate social media accounts for franchisees can help reach certain target audiences.
As an example, having a Twitter account for a branch of the business in Illinois that tweets about information unique to that store and its target audience won’t be interesting to someone in Louisiana, who will be interested in tweets from a more local store. It’s therefore a chance for the franchise to become aware of its audience and what they would like to see from the business at a local level.
Personalizing Each Branch
Having different pages for each franchisee will allow each branch owner to inject a little bit of personality into their social media page. This can be negative or positive, depending on the amount of freedom you give to the franchisee and whether you have a set strategy regarding the type of content they can and cannot post. This will encourage customers and potential customers to get an idea of what that particular branch is about.
A Useful Marketing Tool
Social media is a great way for franchises to find out the needs of their customers. With customers interacting with the business via these accounts, it is a great way for the franchisee to find out what their target audience requires and feed this back to the franchisor. This can be in the form of praise or criticism.
It will also mean that the number of interactions is smaller than it would be if it was one account for the whole of the franchise, presenting an opportunity for franchisees to reply to each interaction. This couldn’t otherwise be achieved due to volume and other issues.
This is particularly useful to franchises because having different accounts for each branch of the business can allow the franchise to tailor its offers and product range to suit the needs of that franchisee.
It allows market research to be conducted on behalf of the franchisor, which can give out results such as finding that the consumer base in a certain geographical location may want more of something that the consumer base of a different franchisee may not want at all, allowing the franchisor to make executive decisions that would benefit each franchise and create a more positive reputation for the business as a whole.
Setting the Rules
As with all social media accounts, franchisors must outline a clear strategy for their franchisees to follow, as one little mistake can cause bad publicity that can affect the whole business, no matter which franchisee it was that made the mistake.
You don’t have to look too hard to find examples of high-profile social media blunders that have got certain businesses into the public’s bad books. Even so, companies have often managed to dig themselves out of these holes by using professionalism, empathy, and – provided that it’s appropriate and approached carefully – humor.
Social media is what a franchise makes out of it. It can be a great way to interact with the public and prove to be a useful marketing tool that can enable the franchisor to enhance each branch of the franchise, or it can be a big pitfall in the reputation management of the company. As long as there is a clear strategy with set rules that are easy to understand and agreed to by franchisees, there is nothing to worry about.
With the world of technology slowly taking over the way the public perceives both businesses and franchises, it’s worth thinking about whether your Facebook and Twitter strategies are franchise friendly.
John Murray is the Content Team Leader at Engage Web, a UK online marketing agency specializing in the franchise industry. John heads up a team of journalist trained editors and a global network of writers based across the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.