Consumers don’t just bond with high-level brands, they also form attachments to their local brick-and-mortar service providers.
This means creating real connection with customers that feels consistent on both a corporate and unit level is imperative to franchise success.
However, in franchising, consistency is a two-way street.
While franchisors must create a profitable brand and business model that can be easily replicated, franchisees must help maintain brand reputation in order for it to retain its value.
Few things are worse for franchisors than franchisees who damage public perception of their brand. Yet protecting against this is increasingly difficult in today’s digital world.
Forty-two percent of franchise professionals no longer feel traditional marketing channels, including advertising, direct marketing and public relations, are worth the investment.
At the same time, 55% of franchise pros cited social media as the most effective channel for acquiring new leads and customers, easily beating out television, radio, billboards and print media.
Franchisors have read the writing on the wall, and they’ve decided to make social a priority for their brands. But unlike traditional marketing channels, social opens the door to franchisees engaging in off-brand messaging, unproven strategies and potentially brand-damaging actions.
The question now is: How do franchisors tap into the benefits of social while protecting brand reputation at the franchisee level?
The answer comes down to oversight.
A Lack of Visibility
While 77% of franchisees post their own content to social, nearly half of franchisors said they’re unable or unsure if they’re able to monitor franchisees’ social interactions at a local level.
Put simply, too many franchise brands have no idea what’s occurring on their franchisees’ social accounts, and it could be costing them business.
Sixty-two percent of consumers said they’re likely or somewhat likely to buy from a brand they follow on social, illustrating the importance of generating brand awareness on social channels through publishing. Additionally, social is the second-most popular channel for addressing customer service issues (47%), second only to in-person visits (55%). Clearly social should be a key component of any customer service strategy.
Yet without the ability to monitor franchisee social activity, how can franchisors ensure best practices are being followed for publishing and customer service?
Selecting a Strategy
There’s no one-size-fits-all social strategy for franchises. What works best for each brand depends on its goals and market positioning. That said, there are three primary options to choose from:
- Corporate: This approach involves total control at the corporate level, and often takes the form of a single social account on each network acting as the primary voice of the brand. While this arrangement may make sense for smaller or newer franchise brands that don’t require individual social accounts for different locations, it also eliminates the opportunity to connect with local customers and build brand loyalty regionally. All content stays on brand, but is also less targeted, and potentially less effective.
- Autonomous: This approach is the simplest for franchisors, and arguably also the riskiest. Franchisees have full control over their social activities, reducing the need for franchisor input and resources. However, unless the franchisees in question are social experts, franchise brands may encounter poor results and mistakes that damage brand reputation. Providing franchisees with a formal social media policy can help, but is not a comprehensive solution.
- Monitored: This approach is the best of both worlds. Franchisors provide oversight and support while franchisees personalize and localize content for better customer targeting. It creates a framework for collaboration between franchisors and franchisees, providing the former with a full view of all social activity and the latter with the opportunity to put local expertise to work. Franchisors act as brand stewards, ensuring publishing and customer service efforts are in accordance with established guidelines. Meanwhile, franchisees provide content suggestions and field local customer service inquiries.
Making it Work
The idea of monitoring all franchisee social activity may seem overwhelming, especially for larger franchise brands with a significant number of units. However, Sprout Social empowers brands to do just that through easy-to-use features that cater directly to the franchise business model, including:
- Groups: Customizable group structures empower franchisors to organize and oversee all connected franchisee social profiles in one place, providing a comprehensive view of activity from all unit locations.
- User Permissions: Personalized safeguards enable franchisors to set precise authorization criteria for who can publish content and respond to customer service messages, ensuring no action is taken unless approved by designated users.
- Smart Inbox: A single dashboard that captures and filters all relevant social activity supports real-time communication and efficient collaboration between corporate stakeholders and franchisees. Custom tags and live activity updates simplify the delegation of tasks and prevent duplicative efforts.
- Reports: Ready-made and customizable reports equip franchisors with total visibility of social performance. Essential metrics such as social followers, impressions and link clicks are complemented by internal team KPIs, such as how often and how quickly franchisees respond to customer inquiries.
- Asset Library: A shared library provides franchisees with franchisor-approved imagery and on-brand replies for quick customer service responses, ensuring brand standards are maintained without slowing down publishing schedules or increasing response times.
- Bulk Scheduling: Scalable scheduling tools support company-wide social publishing, allowing franchisors to schedule and post content across all franchisee social profiles simultaneously to support national campaigns and other marketing initiatives.
- Chatbots: Easy-to-use bot builders enable brands to create automated customer service chatbots to answer frequently asked questions and alert live representatives to incoming customer messages.
Obtaining Franchisee Buyin
Some franchisees may chafe at the idea of relinquishing total social freedom in favor of a monitored approach. Fortunately, selling the value of this strategy isn’t difficult. In fact, the benefits may act as a potential selling point for new franchisees considering a system. Some of the most powerful franchisee advantages are:
- Marketing expertise: Seventy-six percent of small business owners report facing marketing challenges. Franchisees don’t take on the full responsibility of product sourcing and brand management, why should they take on all of social marketing? A monitored approach provides corporate support while giving franchisees the freedom to add local customization where appropriate.
- Improved ROI: It costs less than $3 to reach 1,000 people using social media, compared to $57 for direct mail, $28 for television and $10 for radio. Social is the most cost-efficient way to engage large audiences today, and corporate support will enable franchisees to reap the benefits of digital marketing’s unparalleled effectiveness.
- Increased sales: Seventy percent of Gen Xers, 60% of Millennials and 51% of Baby Boomers are likely to purchase from a brand they follow on social. Additionally, 44% of consumers spend more with brands that interact with them on social. A monitored approach means more effective management of social publishing and customer engagement, translating to more revenue.
- Time savings: Fifty-three percent of small business owners said having to cover multiple jobs is the most difficult part of owning and managing a small business. A monitored social strategy saves franchisees precious time on determining what to publish and when, freeing them up to focus on their other day-to-day responsibilities.
- Social simplicity: Thirty-eight percent of small business owners cited time as their most valuable asset, beating out computers and even storefronts. Social media management software replaces tedious and time-consuming log-in processes for multiple social channels and swaps confusing, complicated native interfaces for an intuitive, easy-to-use tool.