Every franchisor knows that the steps of awareness, interest, and evaluation in the customer buying cycle are today carried out over digital channels before a customer ever sets foot in a retail location. Despite that fundamental landscape change, many franchise networks still have not organized their social media strategy to take full advantage the corporate and local participation needed to address buyer concerns in the discovery stage. Franchise networks that do not have corporate and local participation roles defined in their overarching social media strategy are not just at risk of a weak social media presence that chokes the customer buying cycle but also:
- Discovery questions going unanswered
- Loss of corporate franchise branding message that should underpin communications
- Poor reviews going unaddressed
- Loss of insights that can be gleaned about how customers interact with the product / service
Obviously as the franchisor you are the brand steward so you will decide on whether you want strictly corporate social media, local social media, or a blend of the two. I am advocating blended here because when properly managed it is just plain more powerful and locally relevant, however, it does require a greater degree of coordination. No pain no gain guys…but as most franchisors are in the “pain” process of amplifying their strictly corporate social media presence to include participation by their franchisees, I will speak to easing the pain of that transition with some good strategy.
The blended model still must define who (corporate or local) is responsible for content creation, posting, discussion moderation, and reporting, etc. Depending on your product / service and the type of relationship the brand and franchisees have with customers one of the following models will fit best.
Central Model – Franchisor has absolute control over all postings made through all channels, all discussions are moderated by the franchisor, and any local franchisee posts pass through and are approved by the franchisor.
Disseminated Model – Franchisor supplies branded digital assets / content, guidelines, policies, and training, but leaves the franchisees to deploy social media how they see fit with little oversight.
Cooperative Model – Franchisor communicates central brand message (delivered through corporate and local channels) and franchisees contribute additional local content through their local channels.
Because ideally any franchise network is already very collaborative, a Cooperative model for a Blended social media strategy among franchisor and franchisees should piggyback on the already existent communications structure in the network.
Plan and Execute Social Media Campagins
Now it is time to take that corporate social media presence and convert it to the Blended-Cooperative model:
- Your franchisees already live and breathe your brand, but for them to deploy it in a localized yet consistent way they need approved content and digital image assets, social channel set-up, and a shared editorial calendar – ideally – all in one place.
- Hash out roles and duties of both franchisor and franchisee, who does what and when.
- To go along with the shared editorial plan the franchisor must create a universal editorial policy to govern posting objectives, discussion moderation practice, crisis management, etc.
- Develop a reporting system to evaluate corporate and local social channel engagement. Set overall KPIs and make sure to have a proper mechanism for reporting to flow upstream to corporate.
At risk of self-promoting, I can’t emphasize enough how greatly having everything I just talked about happen on one marketing automation platform that also addresses co-op marketing fund management. All the social media strategy in the world won’t do you any good unless you get franchisees to adopt and participate. With a turn-key program housed on one platform and financial co-op incentive you could be well on your way to developing a social media strategy that accelerates the customer buying cycle instead of stifling it.