Social Media: How Much Control Do You Give Franchisees?
Should franchisors keep a tight leash on the social media activity of their franchisees? And what is the right amount of monitoring and oversight? Or should franchisees, many of whom operate in areas and territories quite different from one another, have a say in the content meant to drive local awareness in their own backyard? And how much?
To achieve mutually beneficial success, both sides must develop social media usage guidelines that strike the right balance of appropriateness, relevance, and effectiveness.
By now most, if not all, franchisors know and understand the power, reach, and value of social media channels. Working with social media platforms is akin to working with radioactive material: they are extremely powerful and efficient, but if something goes wrong the initial damage and resulting fallout can produce the same damage to a brand as a nuclear incident.
In keeping with the standards of the franchise business model, franchisors should expect franchisees to follow the brand’s established guidelines and policies for social media usage. As part of their ongoing training and support, franchisees should be educated and familiar with the specific channels the corporate office uses, as well as with the type of content, messaging, and frequency used to drive brand authority and awareness.
At the same time, franchisors should consider how centralized messaging may not be ideal for franchisees at the local level. Direct competitors with more edgy social media strategies unconstrained by an overly watchful corporate eye can run circles around a franchisee’s local operation. While franchisees need the power and reach of social media, they also need the freedom to tailor content that levels the local playing field—within limits, of course, but what limits, and who sets them? How best to connect the two objectives? Through planning, communication, and collaboration.
Creating an advance calendar
For franchisors to maintain the brand’s social media standards while allowing enough leeway for local franchisees, a mutually beneficial plan is necessary. The franchisor should outline the common goals, KPIs, and strategies for social media outreach. Franchisees should set goals specific to their location, while providing insight and recommendations on what’s working in their specific areas. And both sides should work closely together to build out a social media content calendar one month in advance that identifies corporate messaging and includes the tailored approach of individual franchisees. Armed with social media content approved a month in advance eliminates the possibility of a misstep and manages the expectations of franchisor and franchisee alike.
To maintain the harmony necessary to ensure the ongoing success of a mutually beneficial social media campaign strategy, franchisors are best served by establishing a dedicated social media strategist. Ideally, the person in this role would maintain oversight of the brand’s standards for content, messaging, and strategy—but also provide an ombudsman-style concern for addressing the needs, concerns, and requests of franchisees at the local level. Additionally, to get a full grasp of what’s being said about the brand online it’s critical to incorporate social listening into your social media strategy
What’s at stake
For franchisors and franchisees alike, the lack of a clearly defined approach to social media usage can be extremely risky. And the outcome of a negative incident has added a new term to our lexicon: the phenomenon known as “cancel culture.” Franchisors and franchisees are very much aware that edgy or misguided social media content can result in an instant withdrawal of support, adverse publicity, and a steep decline in revenue. Even though this risk is clear, these incidents keep happening on a near-daily basis, with headlines trumpeting the fate of the latest victim facing a cultural boycott because of a perceived slight or blatant gaffe. For some, the episode may blow over in one 24-hour news cycle; for others, it can blow up on social media for weeks or more.
The success of a franchise’s social media strategy requires a mutually beneficial plan that balances the expectations of the centralized brand and the decentralized franchisees, as well as oversight that provides a thoughtful approach to balancing the needs of both sides—with most of the control of brand management and reputation in the hands of the franchisor.
Liane Caruso is a franchise marketing professional specializing in digital marketing, social media, sales and marketing alignment, and strategy. She launched helloCMO, a franchise marketing consultancy dedicated to fractional CMO or outsourced CMO engagements for franchise brands and suppliers. Find her on LinkedIn or contact her at 312-526-3996 or email@example.com.
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