How to Use Social Media Marketing to Promote a Franchise Business
Social Media Marketing has been described as the sure fire solution for promoting your business, but just how does one use it to get closer to your Franchise Customer? How can Social Media Marketing get you to interact with your Franchise’s Customer Base?
Chances are, your Franchise Business is already a part of the Social Media Conversation. A simple Internet search will probably reveal that your franchise brand has been part of many online social media conversation, so all you need to come to terms with is how to start promoting your franchise, and of course, where.
In recent years, digital media tools have exploded onto the marketing scene, including social networks, blogs, video sites, discussion forums and review sites. As a result, consumers have migrated from traditional means of sharing and receiving information to using social media as their main platform for communication.
Social Media should now be part of any Franchise’s Communications Mix
‘Social media marketing’ is now an integral tool in the marketing mix and many franchise companies are leveraging it to varying degrees, ranging from monitoring their brand’s online reputation, to cultivating and nurturing a loyal online community.
More and more consumers now do online research before purchasing a product or service. Although they often start their research on the company’s website, it doesn’t end there. They also visit websites where franchise companies are reviewed, as well as online discussion forums. Here they read reviews, ask questions and receive feedback from other consumers before making contact with a specific franchise outlet.
This paradigm shift has resulted in consumers thinking differently about businesses. In the new marketing milieu, you are not only competing against your competitors on product and service, but also in one-on-one technology and interactivity.
The Social Media Benefits:
- Affordable marketing: you don’t need a large budget for social media marketing.
- Viral nature: consumers can easily share messages with friends through the click of a button.
- Brand enhancement: You can build and enhance your franchise outlet’s reputation.
- Build credibility: Endorsements generated by social media users are more credible than traditional advertising.
- Increased traffic: A social media strategy that is well-planned will generate more traffic for your individual website.
- Engages customers: A franchisee can connect with customers and respond to feedback in real-time.
Because social media is instantaneous, you are able to expand the reach of your company’s message, while attracting and holding the attention of a large demographic of consumers, who may have grown numb to traditional media.
However, like any form of marketing, you have to actively manage and stay on top of it to get the best results. Many franchise companies have no idea how to measure social media marketing once they start using it, or how to integrate it into their marketing mix and take it to the next level.
The Social Media Business Plan
Social media must be approached with the same level of commitment and resources as the rest of your marketing strategies. Before introducing a social media marketing plan, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Who are my product’s typical consumers? Are your franchise outlet’s consumers likely to use social media?
- How is my brand structured and the marketing managed?
- Are franchisees restricted to exclusive areas? Are most of the marketing decisions made and implemented centrally, or are franchisees empowered to run their own marketing initiatives?
- What is the nature of the business? Does your franchise brand operate in a regulated industry? Does your business include handling of proprietary information, either your own or that of your customers? Is there potential risk of real damage to your company or your customer by inadvertent sharing of confidential information? These restrictions may apply to franchise businesses in the fields of health, law, insurance or government-related fields. You must then consider whether you are able to put adequate controls in place to permit real-time social media interaction.
- Is a close relationship with the customer vital to my franchise business? It may be really important for the customer to cultivate a personal relationship with the franchisee in the service industry. Social media can facilitate this process, ensuring that strong customer relations are built.
- Am I willing to invest in resources? Are you willing to invest in resources to ensure that your key staff members are educated in social media monitoring, management, response strategies, content generation, interaction and measurement?
- As a franchisee, can I realistically manage my own social media platforms? It is important to consider the resources available to you. Social media takes time, education and constant management.
Guides to Getting Started on Social Media
Here are 10 guidelines to get your social media marketing strategy off the ground:
1. Define your purpose. You have to establish whether you want to engage in social media marketing because you want to reach as many potential customers as you can, or want to increase your share of customers? The latter is more important, and refers to how you keep customers for longer and make them ‘bigger’ customers.
2. Define your voice. To define your voice, you have to establish exactly ‘who’ you are, this includes your core values, your competitive advantage, etc. (but also knowing what makes your competitors better than you).
3. Create a vision. Map out exactly how you will go about bringing the purpose and voice of your franchise outlet to life. This ‘road map’ should also encompass the voice and purpose of your customers and employees themselves.
4. Establish a plan. It is important to determine which platforms are best suited to the nature of your franchise outlet; which profile name you will use to introduce yourself to the online community; the voice behind the profile (is it a single person or multiple people); where do most of your customers ‘hang out’? On which platforms don’t they like to be reached? Which ‘listening stations’ will you create to monitor your franchise, the industry, and even local mentions?
5. Develop platform profiles. Build your identity on platforms by introducing your corporate identity. Determine which aspect of your business is best and focus on that. Cross-check all platforms to ensure that your profile name is available on all of them. Carefully check for consistency and attention to detail so that any confusion is avoided.
6. Learn how to use platforms effectively. How does your target market engage? How do they want to be contacted (for example, direct communications or responding to questions)?
7. Be there. Your online presence is not only limited to monitoring and responding to brand mentions. You have to answer questions, concerns and complaints, and support the local community. You also have to consistently provide customers who connect online, with a user experience that reassures them that you are not just there to promote the business. Showing customers that you really care and respond to their concerns, etc. will go a long way towards social media marketing success.
8. Be relevant and timely. Some franchises generate automated updates or do not give their social media accounts the proper attention, resulting in information being out of date. The credibility of your franchise will suffer when you have such lapses in your attention to detail.
9. Avoid overexposure. When creating your social media marketing plan, ensure that you are well aware of your limitations. You have to take the time and manpower available to support the social media efforts into consideration. Are you able to be represented on every social media platform and be an active community member? Also, keep your employees updated on all your profiles and how customers respond on all of these. In addition, they must at all times be aware of any special offers, events, etc.
10. Avoid over-discounting or couponing. Discounting and the use of coupons have always been very viable marketing techniques, except when they are overdone and become confusing. With social media, it becomes an attractive option to offer customers ‘something’ to increase traffic. However, offering a discount with every marketing campaign sends a message to customer that your regular prices are inflated and that they should not have to pay regular prices. This does not create loyalty to the brand; it creates loyalty to the discount.
Social Media Marketing offers instantaneous, interactive, and effective mechanisms for reaching potential customers for your franchise business. This therefore, offers additional and enhanced marketing opportunities for your business at a minimal cost, provided you constantly monitor and update your profiles.