August 2010 Franchising World
The key to effective technology usage is developing an integrated plan, choosing the most complementary tools and implementing well-planned strategies.
By Paul Segreto
Social-media technology is evolving at a rapid pace. New tools enabling increased communication with various constituencies are being introduced on a frequent basis. While the franchising community is not yet embracing social media at the levels of the public-at-large, its members are beginning to understand the multi-tiered value that social-media participation can provide to their firms. This value includes:
• Creating or improving brand awareness that drives business to franchise locations,
• Creating interest in franchise opportunities or franchise-candidate lead generation, and
• Establishing or improving communications and information-sharing throughout the franchise organization.
A frequently-cited impediment to the franchising industry’s adoption of social media is the perceived time commitment required to achieve optimum results. There are many implementation methods and technology tools that can be utilized to execute a firm’s social-media program in a way that will maximize ROI, minimize time requirements and achieve complete integration into its overall marketing strategy, all of which will serve to achieve optimum results.
A big part of the challenge with building a substantial brand presence on social media is the need to ensure that a brand is reaching its target audiences on the various social platforms where it is participating, and since the number of social media platforms now numbers in the mid-hundreds, it’s obvious why this can be perceived as a daunting process. Participation on any platform necessitates building a profile there and then adding new content on a regular basis to keep the brand’s audience interested and engaged. While firms do exist that will concurrently build a company’s profile on up to several hundred sites (for a fee, of course), these tend to be very generic profiles that will not serve to attract the interest of a target audience and are therefore not recommended.
A better plan is to begin by identifying the top 10 socialmedia platforms where a franchise will find the audience it is seeking. Typically this will include one or more of the top three platforms: Twitter, a micro-blogging platform with wide and diverse appeal; LinkedIN, a networking platform for a business-oriented audience; and Facebook, which began as a way to communicate with friends and family, but has evolved into a leading marketing platform for brands large and small to communicate with a potential audience of over 400 million members.
Many other social-media platforms exist including those that are targeted to specific geographic areas and those that appeal to specific demographic targets. A good place to start reviewing platform options is the blog, “ Marketing with New Technology .” After a brand has been established and built a following on the originally selected platforms, then it can consider whether it wants to begin exploring additional social platforms to broaden its base of followers.
The second step will be to build the firm’s profile-corporate pages on each of the selected top 10 platforms and to concurrently authorize the development of any employee or franchisee-managed profiles that will be linked to the franchise account.
The third step is where the franchise will begin to achieve significant time-savings by using social media. This is to incorporate the use of a social-media aggregator into the socialmedia program (see list on Page 14 of the digital August Franchising World).
A social-media aggregator will allow a firm to attach the selected social platforms to one account and then upload content only once, but publish it to all of the selected platforms, thereby avoiding the need and the time to move from platform to platform to make posts.
The best aggregators will allow a firm to be very selective about which platform each piece of content publishes to, enable the attachment of multi-media content such as photos or video, permit the identification of a specific date and time that the item will actually post and finally, allow a franchise to incorporate multiple levels of authorized access so that several people can post content, but only certain ones can actually authorize it to post to the socialmedia platform.
This type of tool allows the workload to be distributed while ensuring compliance with franchisor branding and messaging guidelines. Aggregators are available at costs and functions ranging from free, with very basic services, to more than $25,000 per year for enterprise-level programs which provide the highest levels of functionality and security. Some of the aggregators even incorporate the ability to post blog entries, e-mails and text messaging.
Maximizing ROI for Total Integration
A critical element to effectively utilizing social media is understanding that it is not a stand-alone medium. Social media is most effective when it is a fully-integrated part of a comprehensive multi-media strategy. We, at franchisEssentials , recommend a concept we call “Integrated Franchise Marketing,” which is defined as “a comprehensive approach to achieving multiple goals and objectives within startup, emerging and mature franchise organizations. IFM directs its focus toward creating or improving brand awareness for the franchise organization at local, regional and national levels, driving revenue for franchisees, and generating genuine interest in the franchise concept itself.”
The key to IFM, and therefore to maximizing social-media effectiveness, is the development of a comprehensive marketing strategy that benefits the entire franchise organization, and is in line with the goals and objectives of all parties to the franchise agreement. It includes coordination at all levels to deliver concise, consistent messages that ultimately ensure positive results at franchisee and franchisor levels. In other words:
• Define the goals and objectives of all parties who are subject to the franchise agreement (franchisor and franchisee).
• Develop a comprehensive multimedia marketing strategy for local, regional and national implementation that consistently reinforces the message, keeping in mind that a consumer will need to see or hear your message at least five to seven times before they will recall it, and typically more to act on it.
• Coordinate media activities that will generate a higher impact when combined.
The concept includes utilizing online and offline marketing channels. Online marketing channels may include e-marketing campaigns or programs, from search engine optimization, pay-per-click, e-mail and web banners to the latest social media channels including webinars, blogging, micro-blogging, RSS, podcast, bookmarking and Internet radio and television. Offline marketing channels could encompass traditional print, such as newspapers and magazines, mobile and mail order ads, public relations, industry relations, billboards and broadcast outlets (radio and television).
Of particular importance to integrated franchise marketing are three channels that comprise what we call “the holy trinity of integrated marketing”: social media, mobile and e-mail marketing, which are particularly complementary to each other and very cost-effective to use.
The strength of social media is its ability to share a multitude of information to a wide and diverse audience; the strength of mobile marketing is its ability to specifically target a particular audience and to deliver that message with an average open rate of 97 percent usually within 15 minutes of receipt; the strength of e-mail is the ability to direct your audience to specific content via links included in the message.
Since most social media platforms are typically free or have a nominal cost, the following discussion will focus on mobile and e-mail marketing.
In today’s business environment you can’t really think about social-media marketing without also considering mobile marketing. All new “apps” for social media seem to be driven by smart phone platforms such as Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and others. If you’re participating in any of these social media, you’re already engaging in mobile marketing because an ever-increasing number of users are accessing these socialmedia platforms via their cell phones, therefore they are seeing your content via a mobile platform.
Costly? Not necessarily
One assumption that most franchises make about mobile marketing is assuming that it is cost-prohibitive. While there is a variety of mobile-marketing methods available that do require a substantial investment, the most effective method by far is SMS or text messaging, which coincidentally, is also the least expensive method of mobile marketing.
There are a large number of mobilemarketing service providers available with a wide diversity of pricing models, from flat monthly fees for unlimited messaging starting at $25 per month to models which charge from four cents to 20 cents for every message sent. And many of them have user-friendly platforms that enable a franchisor or franchisee to implement a mobile campaign, at will, with very little training and no technical knowledge required.
Since more than 80 percent of today’s consumers rarely leave their cell phone more than 10 feet away and response rates to SMS messages average between 8 percent to 15 percent, mobile marketing has proven itself to be an extremely costeffective medium that has been successfully employed by many firms within the franchising industry including McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, as well as many smaller firms.
Another marketing technology that is quite cost-effective is e-mail. Again, this is a technology that has evolved to the point where there are a large number of userfriendly platforms that enable a franchisor or franchisee to implement a “ Can-Spam ”- compliant e-mail program, at will, for as little as $30 per month. For firms having an e-mail list of less than 500, there are even free programs available.
Technology developments have made a wide variety of marketing tools available that franchise firms can use to develop and implement their marketing campaigns. The key to optimizing the effectiveness of these tools, particularly social media, is developing an integrated plan, choosing the tools which will most effectively complement each other to effectively reach specified target groups, and then implementing marketing strategies according to the plan developed. Proceeding in this manner will allow any franchise organization to effectively utilize social media and other marketing technologies to achieve optimum results leading to increased revenue.
Paul Segreto is founder and CEO of franchisEssentials, a franchise marketing and development firm focusing on the integration of Web 2.0 technology with traditional strategies to facilitate franchise growth for the firm’s clients. The company is a division of 21st Century CEO. He can be contacted at paulsegreto@FMDpro.com.