Social Gathering

Social media has exploded onto the franchising - and business - scene with a fury not seen since the early days of the World Wide Web back in the mid-90s. As more and more franchisors and franchisees begin experimenting and utilizing like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, we've decided to report on some unique, progressive, and innovative ways in which they've embraced this technology.

Tasti D-Lite, the Franklin, Tenn.-based franchisor, has been mining the potential of social media for the past year and a half, according to B.J. Emerson, director of information and social technologies.

"As a company, we had no real online engagement with our customers," says Emerson. "Our fans are over-the-top brand evangelists for us, and we discovered many had created their own Facebook groups and were talking about Tasti D-Lite."

Emerson says the company quickly determined that a corporate Facebook page could play an important role in promoting brand awareness and "pushing down" information. And, as a Facebook member, Tasti D-Lite can monitor online comments and posts about the brand. It's a move that has given the brand more visibility, input, and opportunity for engagement.

"The viral nature of this technology allows us to get our message out there," he says. And the brand didn't stop with Facebook. It has also jumped onto Twitter and Yelp (a site that gathers customer reviews of businesses).

Emerson says he signed on to Twitter last year and loves the ability to "follow" Tasti D-Lite "fans." "Twitter is very instantaneous and I can send a coupon to one of our fans instantly at any time," he says.

When we spoke to Emerson in late July, Tasti D-Lite had more than 800 Facebook "fans" and more than 1,400 Twitter "followers." When you factor in the "friends" of the "friends" you can see how widespread the coverage can become.

As much as Tasti D-Lite is doing from a corporate perspective, the brand also is pushing its franchisees to embrace social media platforms. "We encourage our franchisees to set up their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. We can even help them get started and provide training," says Emerson. At the local level, he says, these tools can be used to build more personal relationships between the franchisees and their customers.

"Staying in touch with customers--and what customers are saying about you--is a critical function of social networking," he says.

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