When it comes to maintaining an online presence, franchise development experts are split:
Should the franchisor or the franchisee maintain franchise social media accounts?
On the surface, it feels like a question of responsibility. A good social media strategy takes considerable work and as a result, both sides of a franchise partnership may seem eager to hand off the responsibility to the other.
But the real reason why franchisors should consider who owns franchise social media accounts has little to do with the workload.
In fact, the real question lying underneath “who manages social media” is:
Does a localized approach to social media help or hurt the franchise brand?
Admittedly, it’s a complicated question.
On the one hand, it’s virtually impossible for franchisors to keep a pulse on all of their locations. And without monitoring, your franchise social media channels can end up looking like this:
No offense to Bennigan’s, of course — they’re a great franchise. But I’d guess this Twitter account isn’t exactly what they’d consider to be “on-brand.”
(If you need proof, here’s the actual Bennigan’s corporate Twitter):
But corporate-managed social accounts come with there own set of disadvantages, too.
According to Blue Corona, as many as 8 out of 10 local consumers research small businesses online before visiting them or making a purchase.
But even smaller franchisors can’t maintain engagement with local audiences in every market.
As a result, local franchises potentially miss out on big opportunities for new business when franchise social media accounts are managed by franchisors.
From a business perspective, franchise social media needs to exist at the local level.
“If all went as planned, launching a local social media program would mean franchisees (zees) would have direct access to their customers. They’d have the opportunity to share real-time, location-specific content on community, team members, products and promotions, keeping them happy and your system in the black. If your zees stayed the course, brand accessibility would be at an all-time high as customers began to associate local social media pages as an alternate (or even primary) means of communication with your brand through social commenting, tweeting or messaging.”
Of course, as Taylor points out in her post, those are some pretty big “ifs.”
Franchisees are strapped for time and money. Sure, everyone knows marketing is important, but social media marketing doesn’t always yield the most immediate ROI. And when you’ve got a business to run with a full-time staff and inventory and books to balance, “maintaining brand integrity” on Twitter or Instagram might not feel like a top priority.
Which is why there needs to be a happy medium.
Franchisors need to set up their franchisees for success with social media marketing. But it’s the franchisee’s responsibility to make sure their channels align with brand standards.
Here’s how to make it happen:
How Franchisors Can Maintain Brand Integrity with Localized Franchise Social Media
1. Make social media marketing part of new franchisee onboarding (and beyond).
Look, we all know that new franchisee training programs are already packed to the gills with information.
And I’m sure the last thing you (or your franchisees) want is one more three-hour-long seminar tacked onto your already-too-long onboarding session.
But, that’s not what I’m suggesting. The good news is that you should have the fundamentals of social media marketing already built into the foundation of your training program.
Instilling the brand standards, culture, and values are all key parts of your existing franchisee training. And they all play key roles in social media marketing, too.
So rather than building out a whole session dedicated to franchise social media, integrate social strategy and best practices into every element of your new franchisee training. That could include using social media for:
- Hiring. Educate franchisees on how social tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can help generate new candidates for open positions on the franchisee’s team.
- Marketing. Getting the word out about a new business is obviously an important first step in a franchisee’s success. Work with your new owners to show them value that comes from engaging with their local audience on social media.
- Customer service. Reacting promptly to positive and negative reviews on Google, Yelp, and other social review sites can make a world of difference in your reputation and customer experience. As I noted in a previous blog post, real-time communication is the latest trend in the franchise world. Make sure that’s a key focus of any customer service training your new franchisees go through.
Of course, franchise social media training doesn’t stop after the onboarding session.
“Supplying ongoing training that places resources within reach of the franchisee is not only vital at the onboarding phase but throughout the lifecycle of the business relationship…Initial and ongoing training should support the idea that following the system is the most important aspect leading to the success of the business. This approach puts franchisees in a better position to make sound decisions concerning the business with little outside assistance and with little room to “‘reinvent the wheel.’”
In other words — like every other aspect of your franchisee’s business plan, social media marketing should be systematic and predictable. Which leads to the next point…
2. Give franchisees all the content they need to succeed.
From their profile photo, to the banner image they use on Twitter and Facebook, all the way to the bio they include on their LinkedIn Company Page.
The more you offer, the more universal the brand experience will be for customers. But your franchisees will appreciate it, too: the more you share, the less work they need to do to get up and running on social channels.
But it’s not just the materials to get started that you should share — franchisors should continually share new content (in the form of a weekly newsletter) that franchisees can push out through their social accounts.
That could mean blog posts, podcasts, articles, case studies, white papers…you name it. But it also could be strategies and best practices for engaging with a local audience.
Sharing content is another way franchisors can maintain quality control. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to just share content and then walk away…
3. Make social media part of you franchise auditing procedure.
Most franchisors have a clear-cut plan for how (and when) they audit their franchises.
And while that might include a basic scan of social media today, it’s important to really make your franchisees’ social strategy a serious component of your audit.
That means sitting down and reviewing the quality and consistency of the content franchisees share in addition to their engagement with local customers.
Doing so ensures you can keep up with each franchisee’s representation of your brand and fix any problems as they arise.
Social media marketing is a key part of any business that admittedly gets a bit complicated within the framework of a franchise organization.
But it’s the franchisor’s responsibility to maintain their brand integrity and give the franchisees all the tools they need to get the most from a localized social media presence.
What does your company do to help franchisees on social media? Do you include social strategies in your onboarding? What about your audits?
Shoot me an email at email@example.com with your thoughts.
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