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How to do social media well as a franchisee

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Inside Franchise Business: how social media works in franchisingIf you’re like 79 per cent of the population, you’ve got a Facebook page, Instagram account or are active on some other social media platform.

If you’re in the other 21 per cent, you will be familiar with these communication channels, if only through the heavily reported tweets of Donald Trump!

Depending on how far along you are on your journey to becoming a franchisee, you’ll be aware of the important role that marketing plays in the success or failure of a business. Marketing is simply communicating a message to your existing and potential customers. And these days, there’s no faster or cost-effective way to communicate than through social media.

With more than 10 million Australians with active Facebook accounts, it's often the first place potential customers start when looking for a product or service, so it’s important to get it right.

How is social media different from advertising?

We get this question a lot. The short answer is that advertising promotes your business, while social media promotes arguably the biggest asset your business has - you.

You are what injects personality into your business. Your potential customers aren’t interested in what you got up to on the weekend or cute snaps of the grandkids, but they do want to know what kind of business operator you are – what’s your attitude to customer service and after-sales service? Are you passionate about the industry you’re in or are you just watching the clock? Do you engage with your community and are you here for the long-haul?

If customers like you, they’ll like your business – both literally and with one a thumbs-up button.

Social media shouldn’t replace advertising but it should complement, reinforce and enhance your other marketing activities. When done thoughtfully, the old and the new ways of communicating work wonderfully well together.

OK so how can I do social media well?

There’s a short answer to this one as well – don’t use it to hard sell. Leave that to your advertising, sales people and letterbox drops. The first rule of social media is that it must be interesting to your potential customers. The fact that one of your new sales team made budget this month might be of enormous interest to you and your employees but it’s of zero interest to the general population. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Now if your new sales person just won Australian of the Year and has recently returned from the first manned mission to Mars – well that IS interesting. To everyone. Post it. But don’t bog it down with constant mentions of your business. Give yourself a plug but do it with a feather duster, not a sledge hammer.

To work for franchises, social media posts must be one of four things:

  • Interesting (We’re moving so it’s 50 per cent off everything for one day only!)
  • Educational (New product in store is 30 per cent more energy efficient than previous models)
  • Relevant to locals (Due to flooding from the recent heavy rains Smith Road is closed, however you can still get to us via Jones Street)
  • Fun (Funny memes or pics from a school fete your business is supporting).

Get the mix right and you’ll enjoy a healthy and robust social media following that will potentially convert into increased sales and greater brand recognition.

How does social media work in a franchise?

All franchises have different rules and different levels of support when it comes to social media. It’s important to check your obligations and limitations before you sign your franchisee contract.

In most franchises that utilise social media, it is compulsory for a franchisee to establish his or her own local social media presence. Head office will usually support you in this by providing templates and material of a general nature to get you started but the expectation is that you’ll also contribute regular posts that are much more relevant to your local market.

Social media is about engaging often in real time and with hundreds of franchisees around the country this can be hard to manage so a franchisor will often provide policies and guidelines to work within.  

These guidelines may relate to:

  • Use of templates
  • Acceptable use of terminology
  • Acceptable use of images
  • Online competitions.
  • Correct use of the company brand
  • Prohibited topics or images.

Some of the restrictions placed on franchisees’ social media use may seem overly prohibitive to some at first however it’s important to remember that the franchise has a hard-won reputation to protect. What you post on social media not only represents you and your business, it also reflects on all the other franchisees in the group. What might be entertaining for you and your customers may produce a different response from a different demographic in a different market.

Rule of thumb: If it would offend your Granny, don’t put it up.

Getting the most from your social media accounts

You may have noticed that most of what we’ve outlined so far relates to Facebook. That’s because Facebook is the most utilised form of social media in the world and the one that suits the communications needs of business the best. Facebook enables franchises to build awareness, communicate with customers and direct people back to company sites and information.   

However there are many other platforms - Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn – the list is long and depending on your industry, none, some or maybe all, may be of value to you. Take a little time to research what they might have to offer you.

While most franchises require a certain level of social media activity from their franchisees, often this is forsaken after the first few months of business and opportunity goes begging.

If your social media engagement stops with what head office supplies you’ll quickly notice your followers drop off or plateau as they realise your Facebook page is simply part of a greater, faceless, corporate machine.

Social media relies on engagement – the engagement of you - to be truly effective as a marketing tool but this cannot be achieved without consistent use. Two or three times a week is the ideal number of posts you should aim for when starting a new business.

Getting started

Before you launch your business’ social media account, look at what other businesses are doing and how they are using this channel for their marketing. Pay particular attention to your opposition. You don’t want to copy what they’re doing but you do want to be aware of what they’re up to. What’s the angle they’re taking on a local issue?

If you don’t already have a Facebook page, start a personal one and become familiar with what it can do. This will help when you transition to a business page for your new venture. Most social media platforms are very user-friendly and will provide step-by-step guidance on how to get started and make the most of their channel.

However, how you use Facebook to keep family and friends abreast of the hilarious antics of your cat is very different to how you use Facebook as a business marketing tool. You will need to learn and develop new skills. Most franchises will help you navigate this as part of your training however there are many helpful websites you can visit regularly to gain more insight and knowledge. Pop online and take a look at: www.jonloomer.com; www.socialmediaexaminer.com; socialmediaexplorer.com.

What’s the cost?

Algorithms may be what Al Gore does when the music starts however the term can also apply to a complicated set of mathematical equations. Algorithms are what Facebook employs to determine what information is shared with who on their platform. Where once upon a time everyone saw your post and you could easily grow a following, there are now a lot of factors at play affecting who sees your posts and the ways in which a brand can engage with its existing and potential audience. 

As the algorithms continue to get more discerning and sophisticated, the consequence for you, as a business owner is that social media, in particular Facebook, has become a paid media. Therefore, to ensure this channel performs and helps you reach customers and achieve your marketing goals you will need to dedicate some budget towards it.

Facebook will ask if you want to ‘Boost’ a post. Do this. It will instantly guarantee you a far greater reach and can cost as little as $20 a pop. Well worth the investment.

Trina McColl

Trina McColl is the managing director of Brisbane-based Ignite PR & Marketing, an integrated communication agency specialising in public relations, content development and marketing communications. The business is experienced in the franchise sector, counting award-winning brands Poolwerx and HIre A Hubby among its clients. View More...
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