Using the Power of Social Media to Grow a Franchise

Communication is powerful. Whether it’s through social media, speaking engagements, media relations, or contributed columns, the way we interact with one another to build and maintain relationships is an extremely powerful skill to master. To help franchiseees master the art of communication and relationships, I am writing a series of articles on how you can use the power of different communication strategies to boost your brand and your bottom line.

Let’s begin by striking while the iron is hot and discuss using the power of social media. Immensely powerful right now, social media tools are changing the ways franchisees communicate with customers and the ways customers communicate with brands. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Google Wave, Wikipedia, Slideshare, FriendFeed, Posterous, Delicious, WordPress, oh my!, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and wonder how in the world you’re going to keep them all straight, let alone start using them.

But take a step back for one second. I’ll help you get a grip. There are 10 advantages to using social media. It:

  1. Provides international exposure
  2. Attracts like-minded people
  3. Speaks directly to audiences thousands of miles away
  4. Helps put out fires
  5. Helps start fires
  6. Beefs up your knowledge
  7. Enhances partnerships
  8. Exposes you to different ideas
  9. Allows you to test or get feedback
  10. Lets you meet and converse with new audiences

As if those reasons weren’t enough, according to the Cone Business in Social Media Study, 93 percent of Americans expect companies they do business with to have a social media presence. And 85 percent believe a company should not only be present, but also interact with its customers via social media.

The one secret about mastering communication that no one ever tells you is you must spend most of your time listening. Great communicators ask a lot of questions. They really listen to what you have to say. They inquire deeply into the answers you provide.

Social media offers another way to engage in conversation. To be a master at social media communication, you must spend most of your time listening.

Following are some tools to do just that so you can get started today.

  • Go to Twitter Search and enter your name, your franchise name, any of your brand names, even your competitor’s names. You can subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t have to do a search every day.
  • Or, if you’d prefer e-mail alerts, go to TweetBeep, enter the search terms, and set up your account that way.
  • Part of your listening should always include monitoring blog posts. But sometimes that’s not enough. What if someone is writing about your franchise (positive or negative) in a blog’s comments? Use BackType to search the comments and to search for specific people who might always try to bring you down. For instance, if “IMAJERK” always comments about you, you can set up BackType to track them.
  • BoardReader lets you monitor discussion groups and forums. This is great for knowing when a new group or discussion about your franchise begins. Likewise, if someone were to create an “I Hate Your Company” page or discussion group, you’d know it immediately through BoardReader.
  • I love Trendrr because it provides great charts and graphs. Trendrr allows you to track and compare the trend of any keyword, including your franchise, yourself, or your competition. You can then compare them to other keywords to figure out where the trends are and what you should be including in your communication strategy.
  • But if you do only one thing, use TweetDeck. This easy-to-download and free desktop application allows you to create searches. Just like you would do with Twitter search, this gives you real-time results right where you tweet. Anytime anyone tweets about anything you search, it automatically aggregates the tweets into columns in TweetDeck.

There is no right way or wrong way to get started using social media. If your corporate brand has already started a social media program, make sure you understand the company’s policies and determine whether or not they want you populating your social networks with corporate information. If you’ve already started using social media on the local level, keep doing what you’re doing, but see if you can get your franchisor involved.

Get started and let me know how it’s going for you. I’m available for questions, issues, concerns, challenges, and opportunities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, via email, or on Skype at gini.dietrich.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. Gini is not only a communication professional, but also a business owner who understands how results affect the bottom line and year-over-year growth. She takes this expertise and combines it with traditional and new media to brand and revamp a company’s image, network, develop new business, and grow the company. To encourage dialogue about the use of communication through leadership, business growth, and social media, Gini founded a blog, The Fight Against Destructive Spin.