Social media is a big part of my life these days, as it is for many entrepreneurs. Whether you’re already actively involved in social media or just wondering how to start using it, social networking sites are becoming an essential part of business life.
And no wonder. Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter offer an unprecedented ability for franchise brands to connect with current and potential customers, spread the word about their brands and get immediate feedback on problems with their systems or ideas for new products and services.
In a recent survey by Franchise Business Review, reported on the IFA’s Web site, nearly 75 percent of franchise companies said they were using social media tools. Some 45 percent of those said they use social media to increase brand awareness, 24 percent use it to attract new customers and 11 percent use social media to recruit new franchisees.
But despite the prevalence of social media in the franchise industry, the same survey showed that just half of franchisors had a social media policy in place.
For a franchise company, harnessing social media is a little more complicated than for the average small business. Not only do you have a corporate office but you also have a network of franchisees. Some of them may want to use social media or may be already using it without your knowledge; others have no idea how to get started. If it’s not properly managed, social media can harm the brand you’ve worked so hard to develop by diluting the brand message and image.
Franchising World recently interviewed executives from AAMCO Transmissions, Tasti D-Lite and ComForCare Senior services about how they handle social media policy. Here are some of the key takeaways:
o Involve franchisees in developing your policy. If you incorporate their suggestions, franchisees are less likely to “bend the rules” later on since they helped create them. And chances are you’ve already got some franchisees using social media; learn from their experience.
o Hire an outside expert if needed. A neutral “third party” can help smooth disagreements between corporate and franchisees over an effective social media policy.
o Establish primary corporate accounts, then assign each franchisee a social “page” within that site. This helps prevent misuse of trademarks and makes it easy to oversee all pages.
o Provide adequate training on your policy. Franchisees are eager to learn the ropes of social media.
o Discourage over-reliance on social media. Social media can seem like an “easier” option compared to cold calling or face-to-face sales. Franchisees need to use the full arsenal of sales tools available.
Does your company already have a social media strategy? What’s worked for you?
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva on Twitter at Twitter.com/Rieva. Visit SmallBizDaily.com to read more of Rieva’s insights on small business and to buy her newest book, Marketing 101: Quick Tips for Marketing Your Business