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Social Media and Franchising

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Social media continues to grow in popularity and is being employed as a marketing strategy by an increased numbers of franchisors. I wrote an article for FLAME® the publication of the Burger King National Franchise Association. It provides an overview of the franchise restaurant sector and its use of social media.

There is little doubt that social media is the most innovative and dramatic marketing vehicle to come on the scene since TV. According to the National Restaurant Association, 80 percent of restaurant operators say they now see social media as a key marketing tool. In addition, social media users eat out more frequently than the general public.

Included in social media are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube as well as mobile web sites.

Social media is appealing because it allows people to communicate for free while sharing their experiences as well as their likes and dislikes with each other. Anyone that is in the restaurant business whether a QSR or traditional format should take heed of another statistic from the NRA:

“These individuals dine out more frequently than the general public: 92 percent eat a meal at a sit-down restaurant at least once a month (compared with 84 percent of all adults) and 87 percent purchase a meal or snack from a quick service restaurant or carryout venue at least once a month (versus 83 percent of all adults). “In addition, 51 percent of social media savvy individuals say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle, while among all consumers that number is 43 percent.”

Social Media Continues Growing:

Restaurants can target consumers with mobile coupons and discounts.

According to Forrester Research: “ For small and medium size businesses, social media tied with display media are the areas of largest budget growth in the past year, and 17% plan to increase their social budget for 2010 to 2011.”

Another component of social media is the mobile website. These websites that can be viewed on a mobile phone are completely different from those that we see on the internet; they are built in a different kind of language and have to be presented so that they can easily be viewed on the smaller screens of mobile phones.

Some aspects of mobile websites:

  • Mobile websites need screen adjustment
  • Mobile websites have fewer pages and images
  • The content must be brief and direct
  • The mobile website pages must be easy to navigate

The US is the second largest market globally in terms of mobile advertising spending behind Japan. It will close the gap next year with a forecast of $1.24 billion and will grow up to $5 billion in 2015. It is predicted that by the year 2013 over 1.7 billion mobile users will be accessing the internet via their mobile phones according to Smaato.

Social Media and Franchisees

Franchisors generally control the use of social media by its franchisees. Although, some franchisors may allow franchisees to have a local Facebook page as part of the franchisor controlled site.

Reasons franchisors control social media under the franchise brand include:

  • Allows for a consistent and single message to be communicated from one source, the franchisor.
  • Because some social media sites can disperse negative news rapidly.
  • Monitor and respond to customer feedback on an as needed basis with the right response.
  • The franchisor can have a media crisis plan to respond to serious threats.
  • Concern that some franchisees may not effectively monitor their individual sites especially as pertains to negative customer feedback.
  • In the event of a dispute, a franchisee could use the site to disparage the franchisor and or franchise program.

Some social media sites ought to be monitored in order to be aware of positive and negative feedback.

These sites include:

  • Yelp –Most of the reviews are based on the service industry and focused on restaurants. If you have a fairly active restaurant then you probably have a listing created on the site.
  • Foursquare – Mostly a smart phone app (but you can access it online) allows people to check a restaurant or bar. Members can see “reviews” and comments others have made.
  • OpenTable – A that takes online reservations but also has reviews. Some suggest joining the site in order to track any feedback about your location.

How Effective is Your Social Media?

One way to tell if your Facebook posts are drawing a response is simply by checking the comments. What are people saying? What’s the buzz? And while a few comments or “likes” may not seem significant, don’t forget the old restaurant rule of thumb – each comment, good or bad, represents five to seven similar comments. Studies also show that unhappy people tend to express themselves vocally to restaurant staff about 25% more often than satisfied customers.

If taking a look at the comments on Facebook, just move over to Twitter and do brands search to see what people are saying about you. The key here is ReTweets – every time some re-posts one of your Tweets to their friends. This can mean reaching exponentially greater numbers.

A bit more advanced are the Insights offered by Facebook for a company page that gauges interactions to specific posts and third party Twitter applications, such as HootSuite, which do the same thing. The best method would be one tool that brought all of this information together in one place and combined it with a survey of you online reviews which would break down the metrics into keywords.

I viewed the Facebook and Twitter sites for each of the ten top restaurant sites. This information is presented in the table below:

Company Facebook “Likes” Twitter Followers
McDonalds 7,800,000 121,000
Subway 5,300,000 47,000
Burger King 1,045,000 9,000
Wendys 940,000 18,300
Star Bucks 21,000,000 1,400,000
Taco Bell 6,200,000 122,400
Dunkin Donuts 3,200,000 77,000
Pizza Hut 3,200,000 52,500
KFC 3,000,000 30,000
Sonic Drive 577,000 12,000

*Rankings from QSR Magazine

The increased use of social media will lead to more applications and new and creative marketing programs on the part of franchisors.

© 2011 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC

Ed Teixeira is the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He can be reached at franchiseknowhow@gmail.com

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