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The Truth About Social Media

Just the facts, ma'am--and how to use them

There are tweets and pokes, posts and check-ins, mayors, fans, friends, and likes. It seems as though every social media network has its own language and users--yet all of them are grouped together as the "shining light" of marketing for the year to come. Well, here's the truth. While social media is now a cornerstone for branding, sales growth, and PR, for franchisees to successfully use social media to drive business into stores, you need to get the facts.

Facebook

The Facts:
Facebook has more than 400 million active users, 50 percent of whom log in to their account on any given day. More than 45 percent of Facebook's audience is over the age of 26. According to Quantcast analytics, 30 percent of the Facebook audience earns between $60,000 and $100,000, and nearly a third earn more than $100,000. And most important, a 2010 survey by Morpace found that 41 percent of Facebook users join fan pages to let their network know what products they support.

What It Means:
If you're looking for a way to interact with customers and fans of your franchise locations, in the words of Julie Andrews, Facebook is a very good place to start. By the audience demographics, it's clear that the people who hold the purse strings are there, logging in on a daily basis. And they actually want to interact with your brand. Here's another fact: in addition to the word-of-mouth marketing that customers who "like" your brand on Facebook give you, studies have shown that Facebook fans are more likely to buy a brand's products than non-fans. So if it's sales and positive word-of-mouth you're after, the facts speak for themselves.

Twitter

The Facts:
Today, there are 75 million Twitter accounts, about one quarter of the U.S. population. That's comparable to the number of adults who owned a cell phone in 1999 (and just consider how that number has risen!). Twitter is also on the rise: Website-Monitoring.com has estimated that the number of Twitter users grows by 300,000 per day.

What It Means:
It's clear that Twitter has a lot of people--many of whom probably are your current or potential customers. In fact, a recent study by Sysomos found that nearly half of the Twitter population is within four steps from one other, so you may be closer to your customers than you think! Seventy-five million accounts equates to a lot of people. This means it's essential that you do the heavy lifting and start following people who frequent (or could frequent) your franchise locations. Odds are they'll follow you back. And this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Blogs

The Facts:
According to eMarketer, 96.6 million U.S. Internet users, almost half of the nation's Internet population, were reading blogs last year. And that number has only gone up. Blogs receive the highest percentage of visits from Facebook and Twitter, compared with other pages of interest (like your website).

What It Means:
Obviously, people like reading blogs. They're personal, sincere, and are updated with all the latest news and information. For multi-unit franchisees, this means you can easily let your customers know about upcoming events and promotions without having to go through the hassle of having to edit a website. With your own blog, you can get the information out about your local franchises to your loyal customers.

YouTube

The Facts:
YouTube is one of the web's most trafficked sites. It receives a higher percentage of searches than both Yahoo! and Bing. And the average person spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube--five to 10 times as long as people spend on a website.

What It Means:
People want to watch and interact with brand videos. And while your footage of the perfect gyro may not receive as many hits as quickly as a crazy cat video, this doesn't mean it's not working. This type of rich content matures over time. Plus, to drive traffic and increase exposure to your brand, you can embed videos into Facebook, post links on Twitter, embed them on your blogs, and more. And the more that people see positive things about your franchise brand, the more likely they are to visit your brick-and-mortar locations.

Integration

As you can see, social media has great potential for increasing exposure to your franchise locations and, ultimately, drive business through your doors. However, it typically can't do it on its own. Social media is most successful (I hazard to say "only" successful) when it's part of a larger marketing campaign. Use SEO and PPC to draw potential customers in; continue the conversation with them using social media; give them the facts with your website; and make the sale the moment they walk in the door.

By using each medium to build on the next, you're ensuring that your customers keep coming back to your franchise locations time and again. And when you see your bottom line start to rise as a result of your online efforts, that's a fact you can't ignore.

Lisa Wehr is CEO and founder of Oneupweb, a leading digital marketing agency. To contact her, visit OneUpWeb.com, email info@oneupweb.com or send her a tweet @LisaWehr.

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