Why the Opt-In Local Social Media Model Is Best
Editor’s Note: This is the beginning of a longer, 5-part article on how the opt-in local social media model can benefit franchise brands. The complete article, with graphics, footnotes, and links for diving more deeply into the topic, is available online on re:group’s website. The five parts are:
- The Temptation Is Real: Well-Done Social Media Really Is Sunshine & Rainbows
- Why Mandating a Local Social Media Program for Your Franchise Brand Is a Bad Idea
- The Cost of Local Social Media Value: Why Cutting Corners Won’t Cut It
- If You’re Going Local, Go “Opt-In”: Empowering & Equipping Opt-In Franchisees
- Not Mandating a Local Social Media Program? You’re Not Done Yet
Should you or should you not pursue a local social media program for your franchise? In other words, should your individual units maintain business pages on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?
The lure of local social media
We understand the instinctual desire to localize franchise brands; it sounds picturesque. Think about it. If you were to pull the trigger and all went right, your program infrastructure would be like uncorking champagne: so much local goodness would spring forth, with your bubbly — your brand — intact.
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.
But there’s an operative word here…
The plague of “if”
As a general rule, never make a business decision on a conditional. In all of the blue-sky scenarios above, “if” rears its ugly head. your franchisees manage their pages in accordance with your program guidelines, customer relationships will be created and leads will be generated.
The “if” means there inevitably will be franchisees who don’t meet these standards for a myriad of legitimate reasons.
The opt-in local social media model solution
While zees are capable of managing their own social media pages, they’re also resource-strapped. In place of a system-wide local social media mandate, re:group recommends the opt-in local social media model instead.
This allows the franchisees who have the expertise and resources to manage local social media effectively to do so, while mitigating the brand reputation risk from those who do not.
Why opt for opt-in?
We did not come to this recommendation lightly. We’re big fans of franchisees. They are one of the main reasons we love the franchise industry so much. If you were to pit multi-unit business models against one another, the franchise model is positioned to be the most uniquely local.
At their core, franchise systems succeed when a collection of small-business owners pour their hearts, souls, and investment into a brand they can see flourishing in local communities. That takes risk, drive, passion, and skill. Franchisees have grit.
Business management expertise limitations
Unfortunately, the one thing zees have working against them is their lack of depth in resources. They come to the table with a diversity of experience — some previously in sales, operations, the military, or marketing — but most often, they leverage expertise in maybe one to two of these categories, not the whole shebang.
That’s why buying a franchise makes so much sense. Instead of going it alone, franchisees get access to brand equity, training, help with the cultivation of a professional vision, unit economics consulting, and marketing and operations support.
More often than not, franchisees don’t have a wealth of experience as professional marketers. That’s not to say they don’t have the capacity, but as the leaders of small businesses, they’re resource-strapped. They have only so many hours in the day to devote to critically important things like hiring, training, management, inventory maintenance, customer service, customer satisfaction, marketing, and advertising.
And let’s be honest: Most franchisees don’t have the budget to hire a full-time marketer.
So, if a franchisor (zor) were to insist or encourage a franchisee to manage, for instance, a local Twitter page, as a function of time alone, it probably wouldn’t be possible for it to get the attention, strategy, or sustenance needed for it to be effective.
Franchisor support doesn’t equate to full-time management
Recognizing this, some franchisors try to circumvent this resource challenge by providing support. This might include setting up the new local social media pages with consistent creative, training their zees on social technology and content strategy, providing expectations for posting frequency and some best practices for social care. Some zors take it a step further and regularly provide and/or publish pre-packaged posts to the franchisees’ local pages.
Even with the extra hand, the fact is that professional social media networks are living, breathing entities that require constant community management, customer service, marketing, public relations, and sales acumen for successful maintenance.
How much time does that take? The “2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report” by Social Media Examiner, the world’s largest social media marketing resource, revealed that 64% of marketers are spending more than six hours per week on social. That time commitment increases among marketers with more years in the field as they begin to deeply experience social media’s benefits, such as increased exposure, increased website traffic, development of loyal fans, the capture of marketplace insights, and generation of leads.
The proof of neglect is on Facebook
With these resource deficits in mind, what happens when a franchisor disregards these red flags in pursuit of the unobstructed vision?
When franchise prospects and clients come to re:group, one of their largest and most consistent pain points is establishing, managing, and measuring a local social media program. So, when we’re performing a competitive social media audit, we always pay close attention to:
- If local social media pages have been created.
- If they have a representative amount of followers or fans relative to the local customer base.
- If the static creative (e.g., profile photo and cover art) across the different entities is consistent and adheres to brand standards.
- If the page is regularly updated with content.
- If that content appears to be created locally or by the franchisor.
- If the page administrator is responding to customer comments, posts to the page, @mentions, and reviews.
- Whether those responses are done tactfully and with regard to customer service best practices and empathy.
Taylor Hulyksmith is the social media director at re:group, an integrated marketing agency in Ann Arbor, where she manages brand storytelling through social content, reputation, and community management. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Twitter handle is @taylorhulyk.
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