Originally published in The Franchise Voice Vol. 16 Issue 3, published by the Canadian Franchise Association.
Learn how to Manage Your Franchise Social Media
While more and more franchises are coming to recognize that they have to “do” social media these days, there is still very little understanding of how to manage a franchise social media strategy that benefits franchisees and the franchise brand overall. This an important part of franchise internet marketing, and unfortunately, this lack of understanding can lead to widespread online chaos, including inconsistent branding and poor customer service.
Exploring a few key elements of franchise social media management could make the difference between brand chaos and business growth. Here are a few thoughts to get you started:
Brand vs. Local
First, it’s important to consider whether you want your franchise to be represented on social as one brand identity or as many local identities under one brand. There is not a “right way” but rather a right way for you. This is the first decision you need to make because it will guide how you communicate online and how your franchisees may or may not communicate online.
If you communicate as one singular brand identify, you would have one page on each relevant social channel: one Facebook page, one Twitter profile, one Instagram account, etc. You would communicate everything to your audience and build relationships with your audience through those singular brand pages.
The downside to this is that your online communication may not represent the local personalities of each of your locations. The upside is that everything is controlled at the corporate level, and the franchisor can ensure that brand communication and customer service are consistent.
If you choose a local identity approach, you can communicate in a more personal way and potentially build stronger relationships with audiences in each community you serve. However, this approach could potentially lead to online chaos if it is not well-managed. In many cases, this is what happens when franchisors do not take a pro-active approach to social media: their franchisees just setup all their own social pages and there is a lot of clean up to be done.
However, the solution to this is simple if the corporate team still has management access to all the social properties. This is the next element to consider.
Corporate vs. Franchisee Control
After the decision is made to take a brand or local identity approach, you must determine who will actually manage the social accounts. One option is to have everything solely managed by the corporate team with no access available to franchisees. Another is for the corporate team to take a hands-off approach and leave everything to the franchisees (this is an option we never recommend as it leads to the previously mentioned chaos that can occur). Then there is the shared approach, which is often most beneficial for everyone.
Ensuring that the corporate team at minimum has access to all accounts is really essential in order to maintain brand consistency and deliver superior customer service. However, providing franchisees with the ability to create and submit their own locally related content to be approved and then distributed or to post their own content and engage with the audience allows for locally targeted conversations to happen on an ongoing basis. It also allows the audience to communicate directly with the individuals they meet when they connect with you in person. This shared approach to social media management ensures consistent branding and customer service but also creates a forum for unique localized communication.
However, this only works if you have solid guidelines in place for communication.
Policies and Procedures
One essential policy that every franchise needs is a Social Media Usage Policy. This document will outline how franchisees and employees can and cannot communicate on social media. However, beyond that it can be a great tool for empowering franchisees to be social media franchise ambassadors. Many want to use social media effectively but they simply do not know how. This policy can provide them with guidelines to use social media effectively. Think of it as an empowerment tool that also keeps you protected.
Another important procedural policy to have in place is a Social Care Policy (an online customer service policy). More and more customers are turning to social media to get their customer concerns resolved. They’re not picking up the phone or emailing. They’re tweeting about their issues. It’s absolutely crucial to identify who is responsible for monitoring social channels for customer concerns and who is responsible for responding to them. On top of that, it is essential to define what responses are appropriate in what situations. You want to take the conversation offline as soon as possible so that it does not escalate in a public online forum.
When social care is delivered well, it reflects well on your franchise overall. Every organization at one point or another has negative customer issues to deal with. The important thing is how you deal with them, and when those conversations are happening in the public eye, how you deal with them is even more important.
Build a Strategy
It’s not enough just to setup social media channels and have occasional communication here and there. Once you’ve defined how you want to setup your social media presence, you need to build a strategy that guides your communication and allows you to measure what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some things to consider as you design your social media communication strategy:
- What types of content can you share that will resonate with your audience (tips, articles, entertainment, etc.)?
- What forms will this content take (text, video, images, etc.)?
- Who is responsible for creating the content?
- Who is responsible for ensuring that the content adheres to brand standards?
- Who is responsible for ensuring that content is distributed on a consistent basis?
- What tools will you use to make creating and distributing content an efficient process?
2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT
- How will you reach out and proactively start conversations with your audience?
- What is your strategy to increase your audience numbers and participation?
- Whose responsibility is it to engage proactively with your audience every day?
3. CUSTOMER SERVICE via SOCIALCARE
- How will you monitor channels to ensure you are aware of any customer service issues that arise?
- Who will deliver the necessary customer service (following the guidelines outlined in the social care policy)?
- How will you ensure customers are responded to in a timely manner (even after hours)?
- What metrics will you put in place to analyze your efforts and determine what is working and what isn’t?
- Who will be responsible for measuring results and adapting the strategies to improve them?
So often, franchises will get as far as building a strategy only to see it die a quick death when there is no follow-through. Social media is a long-term commitment. It’s an investment in your franchisees and in the growth of your franchise overall. When you invest the resources to get it right, you’ll experience serious growth. When you don’t, you’ll never reap the benefits and what began with good intentions could end up as online chaos after all.