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Getting Your Franchise to Be Social

Help on how franchises can crack the code of the social media market

By Glenn Romanelli

Managing social media can be difficult and time consuming, whether it’s a Facebook page or Twitter account. For a franchisor and its franchisees, these challenges can be even greater and much more difficult to manage. Learn how to keep social media content fresh while engaging your customers.

 

As a franchisor, you may have franchisees that have been asking about creating their own Facebook and Twitter pages but have been worried about them adhering to your brand guidelines and practices. Luckily there are social media programs out there specifically designed for the franchise model that can take the sting out of implementation and get your franchisees posting.

Companies like Valuevine, (now Venuelabs), Expion and Awareness have developed enterprise platforms that will help franchises manage their social media content and conversations. Most offer features that enable brand managers and franchisors to manage the social outposts of hundreds of locations. Some allow for the creation of custom coupons, complete with branded landing pages. Others allow you to publish blog posts, videos, images, tweets, and wall posts to multiple outposts simultaneously. Pricing for these platforms vary from $50 per month per location up to $1,000 per month all included. However, these solutions can help any franchise (or franchisees) spread its brand across the Internet.

But even with one of these enterprise solutions that still leaves you with the challenge of where to post, what to post, and when to post.

Where to Post

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare – the list goes on and on. Everyone has an opinion on which social media platforms are worthwhile and relevant, and all of them have something unique to offer users. Facebook helps facilitate conversations between businesses and their customers, while Foursqaure is more reward oriented (giving your customer a coupon after “checking in” at a location for instance).

How can you tell which platforms are right for you? Well, a good place to start is to take a look at what other franchisors are doing and how they are leveraging these channels. What does McDonalds post on their Facebook page? How does H&R Block use Twitter? Chances are when you were crafting your business plan you used a few established franchises as your model, so you might want to also model your franchise’s social media strategy after one of these companies as well.

Once you’ve made your choice, setting up your business pages on these platforms can be done either in-house by your marketing department or by a marketing Internet or public relations firm.

What to Post

Now that your company has their social media presence set up, it’s time to start posting. There are several types of posts, but posts that get your customer’s attention and engage them in conversation are the best.

Promotional Posts

This is the most common post you will see. These posts take the form of press releases and announcements of new products or happenings at your company. It’s good to say, “Look at me” some of the time, but a heavy concentration of these kinds of self-centered posts can really bore followers and fans.

Industry News and Information

If your franchise is part of a specific industry, it may be a good idea to post links to related and relevant news or other articles. Roto-Rooter recently posted links on their Facebook page to an article on WebMd about bathroom germs and a news story on NationalGeographic.com on the overuse of river water. Most blogs or news websites will allow you to sign up to receive emails when new articles are posted based on keywords of your choosing which can help keep your social media posts current.

Questions and Polls

They’re your customers, so reach out to them. If you’re thinking of releasing a new product or offering a new service ask your followers for their opinion. Facebook even allows you to set up polls with multiple choices for answers. The good news is that your customers will appreciate you asking them what they think which can only help to bolster your brand.

Contests and Coupons

Who doesn’t like to win a prize or save money? If your customers start to expect an occasional “freebie” they will likely visit your page more often. Ask a trivia question and explain that the first fan with the correct answer will receive a gift card or coupon. Ask your customers to submit entries for a new company tagline or photos of them using your product or service and pick winners to receive a prize or special gift.

When to Post

To post or not to post is often the big question. How much is overkill and how little is not enough? Is there a better time during the day to post?

Post quantity can be tricky, but you should at least be posting between 1-5 items daily. It’s okay to post more frequently - or even repeat some of the same posts - just make sure your posts are spread out and try not to post more frequently than once an hour.

Studies have shown that the best times to post are 12 noon or between 5PM and 6 PM – when most people naturally break or stop work for the day. For Facebook, Saturdays are the best and for Twitter midweek and during the weekend are best. Why? Saturday’s the first day of the weekend for most of us, and that’s when people who don’t have time to check in with Facebook during the work week will want to catch up with their networks. For Twitter, midweek is the time when the productivity starts to fade, making a social media distraction more likely. Since you can get information on Twitter quicker than you can get it from Facebook, more people can check it during the workday without wasting too much time.

It’s also important to be responsive to any customer service related posts especially complaints. If a dissatisfied customer posts to your Facebook wall, always respond quickly and courteously to guide them to a satisfactory resolution of their problem. Also make sure you’re consistent by treating every complaint in the same polite and timely manner.

Making It Easier

We covered quite a bit of social media strategy, but don’t get overwhelmed.You can always start small, say with just Facebook and Twitter, and then once you’ve settled into a rhythm, add more social media platforms to your portfolio.

Most enterprise platforms or third party social media management tools like Tweet Adder and HootSuite will also allow you to schedule posts to happen automatically and even repeat posts so that followers in different time zones, or with different work schedules, don’t get left behind.

There are even ways to “link up” your social media pages so that a post to one will automatically post to all. You can even hook up your company’s blog so that anything posted there will post throughout your social network.

Just remember that with social media – and like almost anything else – you reap what you sow. Social media is an excellent way to reinforce your brand, provide solid feedback to your customers, and join in conversations with the community. Use it well and wisely.

Glenn Romanelli is the owner and creative director of Lighthaus Design, a website development and marketing firm based in Smithtown, New York. Glenn helps small and mid-size businesses get the most from their advertising budgets through the development of unique websites, bold corporate identities, creative social media programs, and other marketing initiatives that get real results. He can be contacted at 631-240-6315 or Glenn@lighthausdesign.com

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