Today in the third segment leading into the Franchise Social Media – Beyond the Basics webinar, we’ll discuss the next steps in the franchisEssentials e-IDEA concept, Develop and Execute.
The results of the two previous stages provide the foundation for which the Franchise Social Media strategy should be built. Without the proper foundation, the strategy structure would be flat, lineal and two-dimensional. With a firm, well-defined foundation, the strategy will rise to a cross-platform, multi-tiered structure with communications lines running across the structure, to and from different points.
Basically, it can be looked at as the difference between a simple tic-tac-toe diagram drawn on a piece of paper, to a Rubik’s Cube that has many sides and angles, and is three-dimensional. Taking it a step further, when attempting to solve the tic-tac-toe challenge, there are only a handful of options before success or failure is imminent. Not so with a Rubik’s Cube as there are many, many options to succeed. In fact, the only way to fail at solving the Rubik’s Cube challenge is to give up and stop trying.
The Develop stage must address key components to the program including resources available AND dedicated to the effort. Resources include both human and financial resources. As social media has no time limitation or barrier, it can be considered a 24/7 plan of managing and monitoring. The various defined objectives must overlap for the three-dimensional structure to remain upright. The strategy must resemble blueprints similar to those developed when building an office building complete with common infrastructure and utilities, but where various floors will be designed for different tasks, and will be occupied by different people.
An effective Franchise Social Media strategy has some commonality built into it through the use of the basic social media channels. However, it should never be considered a one-size-fits-all solution as there are just too many variables from one franchise organization to another. These variables must be individually addressed and include, but are not limited to franchisees already using social media, percentage of effort to be dedicated to consumer proposition and lead development, coordination of timed events, content development for daily activity, responsibility for response both at the franchisee and franchisor levels and timeliness of the same, and transition from the virtual to the real world whether it be at the unit level face-to-face with customers, or within the franchise sales process with a candidate.
Development of the Franchise Social Media strategy is not much different than the development of an operation manual for a franchise system. It must be thought-out and planned for every aspect of the business at-hand. It must be comprehensive to handle the “what ifs?” It must be well-defined to work seamlessly from one individual to another. From 30,000 feet it could look not much different than a franchise system.
Now, the fun part kicks in and execution of plan is put into action. If the strategy is well-developed and communicated throughout the organization, including to and with franchisees, execution of plan should run smoothly, and should actually be an enjoyable experience. The strategy, defined in a living document, must be in the hands of all involved in the effort. Guidelines must be followed for optimum results. Policies and procedures must be in place for reference as needed.
The key to executing the plan lies within engagement and monitoring. It’s imperative to share content and information that is pertinent and relevant to the target audience. That does not, and should not mean the constant regurgitation of brand messages. The opposite is actually more effective and will actually attract and retain individuals within the online community. Many will return again and again seeking new information. If done effectively, the online community becomes a portal of sorts with followers returning almost daily for new information they may be able use that day.
From a lead generation standpoint it’s imperative to share information beyond the brand message and certainly of the franchise opportunity itself. Information pertaining to entrepreneurship and small business ownership along with links to articles about transitioning executives, establishing goals and objectives, family role in business ownership, and small business finance are popular topics. Sharing this type of information with occasional posts about the brand and franchise ownership will keep this target audience returning day after day, looking forward to new information that will assist them in achieving their goals and objectives. As a valuable resource, a relationship begins to form; a key component of the franchise sales process.
Monitoring the activity is vital to further developing the relationship regardless of whether it’s with consumers or candidates. Timely response to questions and comments go a long way in common courtesy. More importantly, interacting when the consumer or candidate is “hot” typically spurs conversation. It’s that conversation that establishes the personal interaction that potentially moves the process along. It’s the backbone of the “people buy from people” theory. It’s also at this point where the virtual to in-person transition begins to happen. It’s also where the relationship is most prone to unravel.
It is essential that front-line staff and franchise sales personnel fully understand and are aware of the information being shared with consumers and candidates alike. They should also be aware of online activity, especially the activity leading towards “buying” activity. As the transition to the in-person setting, which includes a visit to a franchise location and a telephone call with a franchise sales representative, the professionalism established online must continue. The online message must be consistent and continue to be conveyed.