How franchise brands crush competition on social media

Oct 23, 2015

Although we’ve all been using social media for a while on a personal level, leveraging social networks for marketing purposes remains a challenge for most businesses, big or small.

For franchise networks who already struggle with brand consistency, lead generation and onboarding issues, using social networks effectively is even more challenging as the smallest mistake can affect every single franchisee and profoundly damage their brand reputation and commercial success.

With that in mind, franchise networks have been wary to move full speed into the social game, leaving local franchisees to themselves in struggling with hardcore local competition who have long been more active, aggressive and proficient at turning social media in powerful marketing machines.

However, this sluggish adoption rate from the franchising industry is actually a huge opportunity for those franchisors who can turn social networks in cost-effective lead generating and onboarding channels.

Looking at the latest franchise marketing trends, we will uncover several easy tactics to turn social media platforms in powerful marketing channels to build brand awareness while ensuring brand consistency, acquire more leads for your franchisees, turn social networks into an effective recruitment tool, improve customer service, turn followers into brand advocates, and generally take your franchise marketing to a whole new level.

Leverage social networks as specialized marketing channels

“Franchise recruiters have just about given up on using social media to generate leads for franchise buyers just when social media has evolved enough to really aid in the discovery process”, says Joe Mat​hews, renowned author of several books about franchise development.

Indeed, as franchises engaged early in social media they first found it ineffective as an online marketing tool, which is only logical since it’s not what social networks were initially built for. In truth, the reason for this disenchantment wasn’t so much the networks themselves as the inability for franchise marketers to measure their ROI with hard conversion numbers.

As social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and now Twitter offered more statistics, paid ads and conversion tracking tools, many realized that social networks could indeed prove quite effective both as a brand building and as a lead generation and recruiting tool.

Facebook is the number one choice for franchisors because “it works in so many ways, not just in building awareness, but in its ability to drive interested parties back to the corporate franchise information sites," told social media strategist Nick Powills to franchising.c​om.

One of the key findings here is that because franchisors consider Facebook as the most effective social channel, they often ignore other social networks, a trend much less pronounced for brands as a whole.

This emphasis on Facebook leaves your franchise with a wide array of opportunities to exploit this flaw on other social networks, as long as you use each channel for what it’s best for.

Twitter is a great social media to post short updates on new locations, products and services, give shortcuts to franchising opportunities and general information, and help build brand awareness with meaningful hashtags.

LinkedIn is a powerful platform to build a large pool of qualified prospects and develop a soft sell strategy to draw potential franchisees in requiring and finding more information about your program.

Pinterest can help create a positive buzz around your brand, share your business values and build a community around your name. A Pi​q​ora study on ROI showed that half Pinterest-originating traffic happens after three and a half months of pin creation! And while a tweet on Twitter is 24 minutes and a Facebook post will get you 90 minutes of interaction in the Newsfeed, Pinterest will bring traffic to your website for a whole quarter (151.200 minutes)!

Additionally, and maybe surprisingly for many, Pinterest attracts 41% of the ecommerce traffic while Facebook tops at 37% according to the CMO C​ouncil, another solid reason not to scoff at this social network which is clearly underused by franchisors as of today.

There are many ways to leverage social medias for franchisors, but trying to fit all marketing objectives (brand reputation, lead generation, onboarding, etc.) in one single network (Facebook) means missing bundles of opportunities in all areas.

Therefore, smart franchisors might want to lend your ear to Debra Vilchis (COO of Fishman Public Relations) who rightfully said that "social media networks are like channels". Turn your channels on and specify marketing goals for each one of them accordingly to what they’re best for.

By doing so, you will leave most of your competition in social media dust and will enjoy long lasting benefits ranging from better search engines rankings to improved reputation, and subsequently more traffic, more qualified prospects, and more sales at every level.

Build your social networks as two-way streets

As online marketing become more and more customer-centric, any brand that manages social marketing as another PR tool is doomed to suffer severe backdraft from its consumer base sooner than later.

Notwithstanding the 10% of franchisors that basically seem to not have a clue about the power of Facebook advertising, polls also show that they while franchisors seem satisfied with their social media strategy, they mainly use it as a top-down brand reputation and community building tool.

According to the FranConnect’s 2015 Franchise Marketing Report, only one out of five franchises use social media in a directly effective and measurable way, and do so by focusing on what customers say about their brand without necessarily acting upon it, hence passing out on promotional onboarding opportunities.

Even more shockingly, the report points out that “none of the survey participants say that they primarily use social media to attain customer feedback”.

In this area lies an enormous opportunity for proactive franchises to stand out from competition by providing a powerful channel for customer service. “Customers – especially millennials – expect an online customer service experience to be as productive as a face-to-face interaction,” said Mark Gurley from trampoline arena franchise Rebounderz to Forbes.c​om, insisting that “consumers want a fast, friendly, informative and authoritative response.”

In fact, according to a study by Ediso​n Research, “42% of customers complaining in social media expect a 60 minute response time.” But while you’d expect a solid, well-rounded franchise to communicate daily with their customers, nearly 60% of them just aren’t doing so.

The need for brands to proactively monitor and respond to consumer inquiries on social networks is corroborated by a ClickSoftware ​study, outlining that nearly 3 customers out 4 recommend a brand after receiving positive customer service on social media.

Yet, all these researches agree that nearly one out of two brands generally ignore the need to formalize social media monitoring and customer service.

So there you have it. One out of two brands do not monitor properly their social activities, neither do they respond timely to customers inquiries, and the proportion is even worse when talking specifically about franchise brands.

Clearly, this is another area where proactive franchise marketing can really make a difference. While keeping in mind that each social network is a marketing channel on its own as we’ve seen earlier, make sure you devise a formal customer service strategy on social medias.

Not only will you establish a solid consumer-friendly reputation for your business, but you will also have a much better understanding of your audience’s needs.

Recent studies have shown that customers just want to be heard: a well-handled, timely customer service - even one that does not actually solve problems - make people happier than intermittent interactions, regardless of how effective they may be.

Bet it kudos, griefs, or simple queries, handling every single social media request will set you apart from the majority of your competitors. As an added benefit, you will be much better prepared for any upcoming buzz - good or bad - whenever it will happen. Many businesses are not there anymore to stress how crucial it is to be ready when social disasters strike.

Franchise brands are well aware that their franchisees communicate locally-produced content on their own social accounts, but many of them simply do not know if those franchisees have local social media policies in place and monitor their brand reputation at a local level.

Put your franchisees to work with social media

Given that their bread and butter comes from their local franchisees, you’d think marketing VPs at the franchise headquarters are closely monitoring any local social activity to ensure its compliance with their own global strategies and branding requirements.

Well, not quite. In fact, while an overwhelming majority of franchisors know full well that local store owners tells their own story on their own social channels, almost half of franchise brands simply have no idea what it is they’re saying!

Conclusion, many a franchisor ignore the vast pool of opportunity that their own franchisees represent. Consequently, while they make efforts to monitor the brand reputation on a global level for main franchise websites, they fail to do so for franchisees social interactions at a local level.

To set yourself apart while boosting your social media power, you need to put your franchisees to work, and social networks are the perfect place to get started.

First you want to get a clear picture of how franchisees communicate on social media. Do they use the marketing material you provide them? Do you have any budget for social media paid advertising at the local level? Do franchisees refer prospects to your sales staff? What do they post, where and how often?

Once you have a good understanding of how franchisees represent your brand on social media, you can craft a global strategy that will get them more involved, more motivated and more able to fulfill your global objectives.

To speed things up, you could for instance devise a franchise-wide time-limited offer and devise a series of messages to promote it your social networks that can be used and repurposed by your franchisees. Observing, measuring and interacting with your franchisees on social media will give you a pretty good idea of how things could get streamlined in the long run.

This may sound like a lot of work, and it might very well be, but every journey starts with a small step and it will be long before you can reap the first benefits of a well-prepared social media strategy that puts franchisees, and by extension their customers, at the core of your global marketing game plan.

Use social media automation to crush less-proactive competition

Online marketing columnist for Forbes.com, Ste​ve Olenski outlines what franchise need to do to truly leverage the power of social media: “There are three strategies vital for any successful social media campaign; creating a community, optimal localization, and listening to your customers”.

But as all statistics and polls show, one franchise out of two fail in each one, meaning only a small percentage of them actually manage to accomplish all three. Consequently, organizing and streamlining social media management will let any motivated franchisor crush its competition simply by doing what’s right.

Of course, once a franchisor understands what needs to be done and rolls up its sleeves to do it a long-term and effective manner, the question remains: how can they do it?

As if it wasn’t hard enough to monitor, manage and interact on a slew of social networks, each in constant functional and behavioral evolution, for a single brand and/or website, franchise networks need to do so for several global, regional and even local sites, but also for countless local franchisee’s social accounts.

Let’s cut to the chase, you’d need a whole army of well-trained community managers to do so, and social marketing automation is the only effective answer to this conundrum. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 88% of big brands surveyed by Kit​ewheel last year believe in social media automation as the the way to go to streamline social media communications.

“Social media automation is a good idea, particularly for businesses with multiple accounts” says Jess​ica Davis of jeffbullas.com, which means it could be an even better idea for a business with multiple accounts of their own plus those of countless local franchisees.

“Automation helps you achieve consistency in your social media marketing efforts, it gives you greater control over the content you share, and how you share it, and it helps you save time, which you can then use to grow your business” she says.

If that does not sound like what a franchisor would need to unfold a sound multi-level social media strategy, we don’t know what does.

As long as you know what to automate (scheduled posts, cross-channel campaigns, blog promotion, PRs, and of course metrics) and what NOT to automate (personal interactions, direct messages, conversations with customers and franchisees…), a social media automation tool will give you the much needed horsepower to do right what most franchisors do wrong.

SeoSamba, the smart way to crush competing franchisors on social media

If you’ve read our recent blog post where we pointed out to you the elephant in the franchise digital marketing room, you already know that to be successful online as a franchisor, you need more than a global website and an intermittent social media strategy.

Build upon its patent-pending “hub & spokes” technology, SeoSamba’s open source and out-of-the-box is a solution to build, manage and market entire franchise networks.

SeoSamba let franchisors manage any number of franchisee's local websites through a centralized, cloud-based and white-label all-in-one franchise marketing platform that lets franchise networks deploy franchisees’ websites out of the box.

In terms of social media automation, with SeoSamba you can:

If you are looking for a tool to automate your social media strategies for all you social networks from a centralized, multi-sites and multi-tenants interface, give SeoSamba a try or ask for your demo and we’ll be happy to help!

SeoSamba also offers complete social marketing and community management services to help you streamline your marketing strategies and integrate them with your CRM solution, contact us for pricing and info!


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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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