A Franchisor’s Short Guide to Social Media
Social media marketing is a must for businesses to stay competitive in the market today. More and more franchisors are discovering that social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and even Pinterest can help them connect with customers in ways they never could before. On these platforms, franchisors can hear and address complaints, learn more about what the customers want, and transform casual customers into loyal regulars. On the other hand, social media platforms can create unique challenges for franchise owners who may have more restrictions on their marketing than traditional businesses. Before allowing franchisees to jump into social media, it is imperative to understand your unique situation as a franchisor. This article discusses the importance of using social media marketing for your franchise, a few tips on how to use it, and some concerns to be aware of when implementing it. Here are a few steps to help you in creating a social media plan for your franchise.
Diving into social media simply because you see everyone else using it is not necessarily a bad reason–after all, it is working for them—but you should do some research before jumping in. Your franchise locations can reap measurable benefits from social media, but you have to start by educating yourself on the digital platforms and defining what you are trying to accomplish by using them. If you are not well-versed in the world of social media, now is the time to get your feet wet. Learn about the different platforms and decide which is best for your business. At the same time, don’t be afraid to “buy up” as much online real estate as you can. It usually costs nothing to register an account with each social media service, and you never know if you may be able to utilize the platform later. Furthermore, securing usernames on every platform is a way to protect your business against future users who may have the same name or who try to use your name for whatever reason. To help you decide which platforms to focus on, take a look at which platforms are the most popular with your target audience, consumers and even your competitors.
Establish Rules and Protect Yourself
Let’s imagine that you have a talented franchisee managing your most profitable location. In their digital marketing endeavors, the franchisee decides to get a little too creative and offers free drinks on election day if a particular public official gets elected. Now, even though this location is legally distinct from other locations in your franchise, your business as a whole has taken on a new image and identity. At this point, you may have even made the news for unwanted reasons. Maybe this marketing strategy benefits your urban locations, but all of your rural locations suffer and your franchise loses money as a whole. This example does not even consider what would happen to your franchise if the franchisee advertised in an illegal manner.
After you have figured out what platforms and methods you will use in targeting your audience and consumers through social media, you will need to create clear rules for your franchisees to follow. One of the most common concerns franchisors have in allowing franchisees to market with social media is being able to maintain a unified brand. You can prevent a lot of the division as you take steps to outline your brand’s voice and clearly communicate that information to all franchisees. Some other rules to include are those that your franchisees must abide by, as well as confidentiality agreements that they must sign stating that they will not disclose private information about your business on any social networks. Additionally, you should make sure that your trademarks, logos and other intellectual property are used properly.
While uniformity may be critical to your franchise, you may also want to consider giving your franchisees a little wiggle room to use social media accounts in different ways. This approach will allow you to experiment and discover the most effective marketing strategies and would allow franchisees to market based on their location. To avoid franchisees giving the impression that they are making a social media post on behalf of the entire company, consider requiring your franchisee to post a disclaimer such as, “The posts on this account are my own, and do not represent the franchise company’s opinions, positions or strategies.”
Identify Consequences, but Add Flexibility
Make sure your franchisees know that when they misuse social media or fail to abide by your guidelines, there will be correlating consequences. The severity of these consequences should vary based on your franchise and the severity of the misconduct. Your policy should be able to evolve as social media does. Reserving the right to make changes to your rules will allow you to work better with your franchisees and maximize marketing opportunities as they arise.
Designate a Monitor
As your franchise expands its presence in the digital world through social media, the stakes become higher and higher. Designating someone to monitor the individual franchise accounts will ensure that social media marketing is successfully serving its purpose of creating and maintaining relationships with your customers within the boundaries you have set out.
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