7 steps to a killer franchise social media strategy

Nov 23, 2015

“To develop a sound and effective social media strategy there is no need to reinvent the wheel, simply follow what successful brands have been doing and apply the recipe to the franchise model”.

If you’ve heard this before, our advice to you is to seriously reconsider your view on how franchise online marketing actually works.

In fact, as you probably already know, creating a good social media strategy is no easy feat for single individuals, one-man operations and business consultants.

It gets even more complicated when doing the same work for a mid-size business, and yet even harder when dealing with multiple online points of presence and domains, especially if you are aiming at engaging your own employees to boost your social engagement on all fronts.

As for franchise marketers, crafting the perfect social media strategy can turn into a major headache and an endless preparatory process.

In fact, a franchise social strategy has to deal with just about every single aspect of social marketing: it must be B2B but also B2C, it has to take numerous extra parameters into account such as brand guidelines and requirements, it must fit in general marketing strategies and budgets, and it must deal with an outstanding number of vertical and horizontal interactions at all levels.

Here is what our 7-steps to a killer franchise marketing strategy looks like:

1. Set social media golden rules and guidelines at all levels

2. Integrate social media in your global marketing strategy

3. Develop specific social marketing channels

4. Setup your social media presence

5. Develop your franchise-wide social community

6. Track, measure and realign your social media strategies

7. Integrate social marketing strategy automation

1. Set social media golden rules and guidelines at all levels

We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to define the rules of engagement for social networking at every level, not just for your own social marketing team, but all the way every single employee in every single local franchise.

The simplest way to accomplish this is first to take your existing branding guidelines, procedures and policies, and transpose them to social media environment, defining general rules for all social networks and specific rules that may apply to specific networks.

For instance, you may decide that your brand “EasyFood Franchising Inc.” may be referred everywhere and everytime as “EasyFood” on social networks with an official hashtag “#easyfood” whenever applicable, and that all messages on Twitter should carry that hashtag but not on Facebook where hashtags are much less relevant.

Define as simply as you can some social media rules that all franchise employees and local franchisees must agree to, and a set of guidelines to help each and everyone communicate efficiently on social networks.

While this may sound restrictive at first glance, establishing clear - yet simple as possible - social media policies will set the ground for optimizing your social media strategy in the long run.

If you don’t, you will expose yourself to potentially tremendous trouble, such as the social disaster experienced by Domino’s when some of his employees thought it’d funny to shoot a backstage video where they did a whole lot of nasty things with food and dishes. These went viral and took literally took the company years of hard work to recover from, albeit never totally undoing the devastating damage to the brand.

2. Integrate social media in your global marketing strategy

You want to ensure that you are not going to run in all directions, so a bit of preparation or reorganizing is needed here before you kickstart your new social media strategy. As with any marketing strategy, you will need to define objectives and segment target audiences, while ensuring this always fit your own rules and guidelines as precedently defined.

But first things first, to get serious about social marketing you need to prep your marketing staff. If you feel you need to hire some specialists you should go ahead and do it. You could also budget training sessions and ongoing webinars with external social media consultants to ensure your staff is in line with the most up-to-date strategies.

It is hard to imagine not to have at the very least one person entirely dedicated to this hard work. Ideally, you should have one person implement all your social media campaigns and strategies, while another handles community management on your social networks for your employees, your local franchisees, their own employees and, of course, their end consumers.

Once this preparatory phase is complete, your staff will be able to start getting creative and get cranking on how you are actually use social networks, with what goal in mind and for which audience. This is when the fun begins.

3. Develop specific social marketing channels

There are valid reasons not to broadcast every single outgoing message on every available social network, and you will need to adapt your communication strategy and set specific goals for each social channel to achieve maximal effectiveness.

At this stage you need to allow yourself certain margins for trial and error, as only time will tell which specific network is the most efficient for specific marketing goals.

Of course you may not start from scratch: learn from the best, for instance by looking carefully at how your most socially skilled competitors are going about this, but here is one way you can go ahead and start segmenting your social networks by objectives/audience/activities:

At this point, things are much, much clearer and you know now where you’re heading which is a pretty good start compared to the majority of your competitors, who are too often letting untrained in-house marketers jump straight into the game by tweeting and posting and Facebook while basically not having a clue about what they’re doing.

Check out our blog Why even great franchises fail online to see some examples of how bad things can be when franchisors feel that their online presence is not that important for their business.

4. Setup your social media presence

Once you have well-defined goals, clear strategies and the right people to make it happen, you need to make sure your brand is as visible as possible on all your social networks.

There isn’t many valid arguments to support the idea of a limited online social presence. As most franchisors seem to mainly focus on Facebook as a do-it-all social network, you can easily set yourself apart by creating a professional profile in all the most popular networks.

If you have proficient designers on staff, you can create good looking professional social profiles without too much hassle. If you have an established relationship with a web designer or are already using a marketing agency, ask them to create good looking pages for you. If you have none of the above, there are specialized people out there that can help you set up your social profiles for all the major networks for reasonable prices.

Of course, you’ll want to connect all those social profiles to your website(s) with the help of whomever is in charge of that department.

At the very least, you should have a social networks navigation readily available on your website(s) so people can go there easily, and make sure as well to have all your information (website url, address, contact info etc.) leading back from your social networks.

One great side benefit of being everywhere is that it goes both ways for your franchise and your local franchisees.

One one hand, even if you are not so active on any given network, your local franchisees might be, and they might update and populate your networks with local stories and pictures, and even interact between each other through this unified social account.

On the other hand, even the least active of your local franchisees can connect their own local websites to your social profiles whenever they don’t have one for themselves, hence making them look good with a professional global social presence even when they are limited at the local level.

Here is a summary what you can do to set up your franchise social presence across the board:

As of now, your social media strategy is on good rails and you can move full speed ahead with the most visible part of this process: community building, engagement and management.

5. Develop your franchise-wide social community

You may have heard of these armies of little hands from overseas who promise you gazillion of likes and shares, versus a fee that is, to improve your brand image and ranking in search results.

Please, do not think social giants like Facebook or Twitter - let alone Google - get fooled so easily. The potential positive impact on your online success is close to zero. They might however hurt your online reputation and destroy years of SEO efforts should you ignore this warning.

That being said, if needed there are easy and cheap ways to gently kickstart your social networks with a few hundred or thousand followers so your social profiles don’t look so much like they just got off the ground.

Ask any social marketing specialist to give you a hand but besides this initial boost, you should only focus on actual social engagement: your ability to run social metrics and evaluate your social ROI will be all the most accurate.

With committed efforts, all your communities will grow in time but there are quick and easy ways to get a solid contingent of actual fans and followers, starting with your own franchisees.

In fact, a key area where you can really make a huge difference in terms in ROI, as well as standing out from competition, is your local franchisees’ engagement through social media. Too often franchisors vastly ignore the immense possibilities of a sound social strategy that fully includes local franchisees as opposed to let global and local strategies coexist in a less interactive way.

Local stories are much more enticing to end consumers than global marketing messages, however crafty they may be. Besides, what looks like a typical fan might actually turn out to be a potential franchisee looking out for franchisee-friendly operations. Here are a few things you could do to get socially cozy with your franchisees and enjoy a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

At this point, you’ve already paved the way to a social success for you franchise. To the outside observer, your online presence on social networks does not look so different from any serious global business.

Every part of your audience gets relevant messages, your franchisees are included in the process, you have solid guidelines in place and a well-trained staff that only gets better at finding a meaningful, distinctive voice for your brand.

As each franchise is unique, you are now able to refine your strategies as they unfold,

6. Track, measure and realign your social media strategies

While there is no universal magic recipe to achieve social media success for your franchise, all your efforts will be reduced to nil if you don’t perform regular analysis of your social media metrics.

As franchisors are clearly not investing enough time and resources in social media analytics, they are not able to measure how effective their social efforts really are, and consequently powerless in optimizing their strategies in the long run.

If you’ve followed our recommended process so far, then all your social networks should already be connected to your website, meaning your web analytics software should give you some KPIs (key performance indicators) on how effective each social media and campaign actually is.

That being said, you will most likely need to perform additional tweaking on your web analytics dashboard to analyze meaningful data such as leads, conversions, and goals fulfilment. Popular web analytics software such as Piwik or Google Analytics allow for such customization, but in this area requiring some specialized help might speed up this process along with giving you a solid head start to avoid wasting time or getting impaired metrics.

As you will soon find out though, getting accurate and detailed social metrics can be cumbersome even with those otherwise great software and tools. The solution here is to perform additional analytics provided by social networks themselves.

For instance, Facebook has plenty data for you to review with their online tool Facebook Insights for your professional franchise pages. There you can review numbers for likes and shares, as well as fanbase profiles and demographics, actual effectiveness your social posts, and much more.

For many years, Twitter did not have much to offer in terms of analytics and you had to rely on 3rd party apps, but in mid-2014 they released their own platform Twitter Analytics featuring a user-friendly interface and lots of valuable data about followers profiles and demographics, overall engagement and campaign effectiveness. Though only available to paid advertisers at first, it is now available to all users so make sure your social marketing people take a good look at what is has to offer.

Facebook and Twitter are leading the pack as far as social media analytics, and competition is clearly lagging behind. Google+ for instance does not offer much in this area, but you can build custom KPIs using Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and of course Adwords.

Now part of the Google galaxy, YouTube also has quite a bit metrics available on Youtube Analytics which is actually just a Google Analytics clone, but unless you are investing big dollars in video budgets your efforts and time are probably better spent elsewhere.

While not as detailed as Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn Analytics module will give you enough valuable data to integrate findings in your periodic social data report. Among other things It features impressions, clicks, audience segmentation data, reach, and engagement, as well as some usual info about visitors and followers.

Pinterest also features a social analytics tool, albeit quite basic, plus you will need a professional account to access it. 

In conclusion on the social metrics chapter, make sure to invest in a system or service that will at least give you relevant insight at least on the following data relevant to subjects like brand awareness, franchise onboarding and conversions :

You’re now basically all set and officially a great franchise on the social media front. But as you will soon find out, managing and optimizing social activities for a large multi-units or multi-sites organization can quickly become overwhelming.

On the other hand, skipping all or any of the mandatory tasks to achieve social greatness might seriously derail your overall social strategy, let your direct competitors overdo you, hinder your overall franchisee onboarding and otherwise create dangerous loopholes that may eventually lead to social media disaster.

To alleviate these concerns, relieve your marketing staff of tedious menial tasks and keep your franchise on top of competition, we strongly encourage you to call upon the atomic weapon of social media: marketing automation.

7. Integrate social marketing strategy automation

As you are all ready to develop a sound and effective social marketing strategy to a meaningful and targeted audience, now you need to set it in motion in a cost-effective way.

To do this, there is no way around implementing social media automation so you can achieve a maximal outreach with minimum efforts and costs.

Besides being much more productive and creative, there are quite a number of immediately enjoyable benefits to social marketing automation you should know about.

First, as you start posting content left and right to specific audiences, automation will help you create and manage efficiently a full-fledge content marketing calendar, without which you may soon find your efforts diminished by an unorganized, ineffective way of working.

As you may or may not know, nowadays timing is everything for great social marketing, so that you will seriously hamper your effectiveness (by 5 to 10 times and even more) by limiting your social activities to your business opening hours. While you can’t expect your staff to be on call 24/7, the obvious solution is to call upon social posts automated scheduling.

Among others, an immediate benefit of automated scheduling is that you will greatly extend your global reach, suddenly being able to connect with individuals in any given time zone at the most efficient times. This can be invaluable even for US-only operations as you’ll be able for instance to post during wee hours to people on the West Coast while it’s still the dead of night on the East Coast.

Another great benefit of this automated social media planning is that you will be able to review, and correct, any forthcoming mistakes before posts actually go out, and save you tons of potential public embarrassment.

The best social media automation tools will be huge time savers. They allow you to post one single message to every social network, at the global and local levels.

Instead of requesting shares and likes from every single entity and person in your franchise network, you can simply require for them to allow you to post on their networks once and for all, then publish on all profiles each every single update. Not only is it much, much more effective and proactive, but it will literally saves you hours of time-consuming requests and social tasks.

Social marketing automation is the killer tool that will give you an immense edge on 99% of your competition if you implement it once you’ve completed all the above steps. There are tools out there, starting with our own all-in-one marketing platform SambaSaaS, that will give you all the social firepower you need for your multi-sites franchise network.

To choose the best social marketing automation solution, select one that can accomplish all of the following:


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About the author

Michel Leconte
Michel Leconte

Omnivorous mammal & SEO Samba CEO, I'm a regular speaker at search engine marketing conferences around the world, including Search Engine Strategies London & New York, and a contributor to a number of publications, including Website Magazine, and Feedfront Magazine. I enjoy strategy, coaching, and motivating both customers & staff.

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