Using Social Media to Promote Franchise Development
Social media is about making a connection and providing content that engages the consumer and the franchise prospect community.
By Ashley Betzendahl
Social media for business generation is not “one size fits all.” It is not the silver bullet, cure-all or magic elixir. It is, nevertheless, imperative to the livelihood of franchise brands. Social media is every brand’s voice, its microphone and an extension of its customer service arm. How can social media promote franchise development? There isn’t an easy answer. Perceptions and goals for social media vary from business to business. Like any other facet of a franchise model, the avenues taken and platforms used should strategically align with business goals, philosophy and core values. In the most basic terms, creating a strong interactive and digital consumer presence can be a franchise lead generator. This makes sense because a successful consumer social media presence can have a direct effect on franchise prospects; they hear about customers’ experiences firsthand. It provides the ultimate testimonial to the business model. Accordingly, social media is a huge factor in the due diligence process and often part of the discovery phase. Prospective franchisees want to know what customers say about their prospective franchise brand, how the franchisor interacts with consumers, if customers are being listened to and if the brand is pushing out engaging, informative content. So where should a franchisor begin? Listen to customers first, and then provide value.
Listen Before You Speak
Just like prospective customers, prospective franchisees want to know what they can expect when making a purchasing decision (a hefty, life-changing one at that). Prospects research online and scour forums, review sites and social media sites. These customers aren’t looking for a restaurant where they can eat a meal; they are looking for a business to open. They perform more due diligence online than the average consumer. And they should. Franchisors need to be aware of public conversations about their franchise organization. Don’t be caught off guard when dealing with prospective franchisees; franchisors need to know what currently exists online. Take UnhappyFranchisee.com for example − every franchisor needs to know what is written on this and every other public forum or social site. If the franchisor can find it, prospective franchisees are almost guaranteed to find it.
Provide Value Where Value Matters
A strong interactive and digital presence is an important franchise lead generator. Consumers are often also franchise prospects; sometimes they do not yet know it. To attract those customers who also fall within a prospective franchisee demographic, it is important to determine the social platforms where they are interacting, and incorporate franchise development messaging. Because customers can also be prospects, a development presence separate from a consumer presence is not always necessary. Consumers can and willbecome franchisees; make them aware of the opportunities. At a minimum, franchisors should have a visible lead generation tab on the company’s national consumer Facebook page and drive advertising within Facebook. This type of advertising can hyper-target prospective franchisees and produce results. Facebook allows franchisors to harness the power of referrals, which is imperative in any industry, by targeting prospects who have friends who are already connected to the franchisor’s national Facebook page. The more advertising brands conduct on Facebook, the more organic reach Facebook will provide to that franchisor’s Facebook page. To take it to the next level, and reach a wider audience, franchisors should:
- begin a corporate blog,
- secure a development Twitter handle,
- use an existing franchise brand YouTube channel and,
- integrate a digital advertising plan.
Prospective franchisees search online, therefore, franchisors need to make it as easy as possible for prospects to find the right information. Many times this involves increasing search engine optimization and committing to a digital advertising plan via search engine marketing and digital ads via behavioral, demographic and geographic targeting. Don’t forget the importance of video. YouTube is the second largest search engine; use it to sell franchises. Exploit the impact of testimonials and real-life stories of successful franchisees. Remember, it is not always necessary to separate the franchise development social media presence from the consumer. A successful consumer online reputation equals successful prospective franchisee engagement and awareness.
What is Social Media Success?
Success with social media can’t be defined by the number of people connected to Facebook, followers on Twitter or even the leads generated from social media as a whole. Social media is about making a connection and providing content that engages the consumer and the franchise prospect community. Social media is also about awareness, engagement and customer service. It is one touch point to the prospect. Social media, like public relations and customer service, is tough to measure and not always quantifiable to lead generation. But you can classify return on investment by analyzing return on engagement. ROI can be justified by ROE.
Trial and Error is Okay
Social media is new and developing. Marketing and advertising have existed since the 1700s; social media for business has been available since late 2007. This means that social media needs to be tested. There are no experts, gurus or social media ninjas. To succeed in social media and franchise development, brands need to be real and human. Learn from trial and error and create something that consumers, and prospective franchisees, can become passionate about.
10 Tips for Engaging Prospects
- Determine goals in social media − awareness, education, increase sales and so on.
- Listen before speaking. Franchisors should know what is being said before joining the conversation.
- Franchisors should join social networks that align with the brand. Don’t join “just because.”
- Listen (and speak) on the networks where consumers are. Franchise prospects are listening where consumers are speaking.
- Provide value.
- It’s not about the number of people connected, it’s about engagement.
- Use video. Video sells. Amplify existing testimonials.
- Social media is not successful on its own – use an integrated interactive approach. Combine social and digital.
- ROE is the new ROI.
- Trial and error is okay.
Ashley Betzendahl is manager of interactive media at Goddard Systems Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School.