Social Media and Franchisees – We Need You!
With a background in franchising spanning 19 years, I have seen an astounding amount of changes in how our businesses market their services.
In 1997, when I took my first full-time job answering the phone at the Jim’s Group, the power of drive-by signage (namely trailers) was so great that many customers often thought they had seen us on TV – even though Jim’s had never been on the telly at that point. That vehicle signage is still a massively powerful brand asset, but it’s also definitely competing more to be seen amongst billboards, shopfronts and thousands of other sign written vehicles.
In 1997 a small ad in the local paper was enough to get inquiries coming in, and dropping a DL flyer in local letterboxes got a reasonable response. There was no such thing as email, mobile phones or websites (ok, now I feel old) and very little opportunity to target a particular demographic other than by where they live.
In 2016, I now run a company called Elemental Solutions, and we specialise in helping franchises and small business with local and low-cost marketing. It’s all about digital now. Digital marketing is cheap(ish), fast, easy to change or try multiple ads at once, and you can often reach people by a whole range of criteria including age, interests and family status. Ads and flyers still have their place, but can often not deliver at the same cost per lead, and there’s a whole other world at the fingertips of businesses to reach people.
Digital Becomes Personal
Being online is being one with Google. In the past, a website was an ‘extended business card for your business, and those with the sexiest website often won the client.
But lucky for us, Google loves connecting people with the best, most local small business that can help the customer get what they need. Over the years they have geared their setup to support businesses that offer genuinely helpful information, are local and look after their clients. Franchises are inherently local, small and family-owned businesses. They just have the added backing of a franchisor.
In the two businesses I own and the ones I work with, I’m finding our marketing is increasingly less about throwing large budgets at media and more about harnessing the power of word of mouth and the local community. But that this word of mouth is massively amplified by the power of digital and social media.
Searching for a business online is no longer a one way street – customers won’t just look at your website and decide if they like you. They’ll be immediately presented with the actual experiences of past clients via online reviews, testimonials, social media and even website forums dedicated to this task.
People are gathering in tribes via social media and forums, by location, interests, passions, what food they eat, their kids, their pets and where they shop (Kmart Addicts is a real page, there’s a tribe of over 40,000 right there). And so it’s so much more than a sexy website now. What’s happening in the real world is being captured and amplified via the internet, and reaching new people who for whatever reason (they’re considering using your business, for instance) care about those happenings.
And this is where the franchisee comes in.
What You Leave to the Franchisor
The franchisor is in charge of building and protecting your brand, which is a very important job because that brand makes your business more valuable and makes customers want to trust you.
In modern times they’re also in charge of any marketing material that is universal across your franchise group, such as the website, social media accounts, artwork for brochures and stationery, etc. They might even work with other national companies to forge alliances that help you cross network to each other’s clients.
The one that is the most demanding of all these important tasks is managing social media. Most franchisors will now need to have someone dedicated to setting up social media accounts, getting followers, posting regularly and answering queries promptly (social media demands an almost instant response). They’ll also need to monitor reviews left or posts by the public to make sure that they don’t damage your reputation, or if they do that there is a fast rectification and reply so the online world knows you care.
Because this is all best in the hands of the franchisor, there’s a misconception out there that the franchisees don’t need to do anything with regards to digital marketing for their business. This is definitely not the case. Your franchisor is (probably already) screaming for help with social media, and the franchisee is the only one that can come to the rescue.
How Franchisees Contribute to Social Media
Firstly, be a team player. You’ve joined a franchise system which has team principles at its centre. Love your brand. Be proud of it. If you or your staff wear your uniform with disdain or embarrassment, you are damaging the very thing that makes your business succeed (or not). Your chosen system may have its flaws, but if you don’t focus on and spruik its benefits…. customers won’t come. They’ll be wise to your cynicism.
Once you love the brand and want it to do well, then you can start to help your team. The most important job of franchisees in relation to social media is to service customers so well they want to tell others. Raving Fans by Kenneth Blanchard is an excellent book to explain how to deliver just that one per cent more.
In this day and age they won’t just tell a friend, they’ll leave a glowing review for you online where hundreds of people they don’t even know will see it. You should actually say to clients who are happy “Hey thanks for the feedback, I’d love it if you left a review for us on Google or (insert name of your industry’s most popular review site)”. This will help your brand as a whole but will also directly impact new customers into your individual store. Your franchisor’s social media team will notice too, and you’ll be getting pats on the back from them very soon.
The second most important thing you can do – that your franchisor really, really needs you to do – is provide content. Lots of content. Lots of valuable, interesting, engaging and relevant content.
To gain followers and keep them on board, social media needs to give these followers information that helps them in their daily lives, without constantly pushing your product or service. Franchisees are 200 per cent the best people to provide this as they have the insight and opportunity to get this stuff together every single day.
To give you some examples, I’ve looked at what are the most popular types of content in both social media and online newsletters for my clients, some of whom are national brands with 250,000 subscribers (making it really easy to see slight changes in interaction depending on the type of content).
Here are some ideas of what types of things most people would find valuable, and most franchisors would be extremely grateful for;
• Home hints & tips – anything related to your business that gives away enough to be of value but not all your trade secrets. How to clean something, fix something, repurpose something, care for something etc.
• Advice – design advice, family advice, health advice, etc.
• Recipes (people literally cannot get enough of these).
• Five minute things – 5 min workout, brain training, meditation, etc.
• Translating stuff to the layperson – explaining how the financial system works, what’s going on with your computer, the new spam laws – anything you know that they don’t.
• ‘Good news stories’ or testimonials from clients.
• Photos of work that you’ve done that is awesome or interesting.
• Photos of interesting places you’re working.
• Pictures and news about community or charity events that your business is a part of.
• Stories and pictures of your team, especially helping clients.
• Industry news – repost an article from any bodies or suppliers that support your industry.
See how easy it would be for franchisees to flood their hardworking head offices with awesome content? To provide this stuff to your franchisor, send them an email with some words and at least one photo (a video is 1000x better). Keep it coming and your own personal business will be promoted constantly to thousands of online followers, so you will win. And this winning content will get more and more people engaged with your brand, which means your franchise group will win. Which also means you win.
Formerly in management at the Jim’s Group, Katherine has over 19 years’ experience in franchising. She has worked with many brands, been a successful ActionCOACHfranchisee (#14 in the world) and was runner-up Franchise Woman of the
Year in 2010.
Elemental Solutions offers marketing plans and affordable ongoing coaching to achieve your marketing goals. It is best suited to small businesses and franchisees who need help with the ideas but would be happy to do some of the work themselves or get their team involved, rather than facing a hefty bill to an advertising agency.