Social Media: Looking Back to 2010 – Has Anything “Really” Changed?

Four years ago, I submitted an article for the International Franchise Association publication, Franchising World. The article was about capitalizing on what was then a relatively new but increasingly mainstream technology, social media. When looking back at the article I quickly realized that not much has really changed from my philosophy in effectively utilizing social media, and especially in a franchise environment. Sure, some of the platforms have changed and some social media have gone by the wayside while new ones have popped on the scene, but from a strategic standpoint, my philosophy remains in-tact as does the [potential] value social media brings to franchise organizations. But, I’ll let you decide for yourself as you read on and I look forward to your feedback…

Simplifying Social Media for Optimum Results
As published in Franchising World – August 2010

The key to effective technology usage is developing an integrated plan, choosing the most complementary tools and implementing well-planned strategies.

Integrated Franchise MarketingSocial media technology is evolving at a rapid pace. New tools enabling increased communication with various constituencies are being introduced on a frequent basis. While the franchising community is not yet embracing social media at the levels of the public-at-large, its members are beginning to understand the multi-tiered value that social media participation can provide to their firms. This value includes:

• Creating or improving brand awareness that drives business to franchise locations,

• Creating interest in franchise opportunities or franchise-candidate lead generation, and

• Establishing or improving communications and information-sharing throughout the franchise organization.

A frequently-cited impediment to the franchising industry’s adoption of social media is the perceived time commitment required to achieve optimum results. There are many implementation methods and technology tools that can be utilized to execute a firm’s social media program in a way that will maximize ROI, minimize time requirements and achieve complete integration into its overall marketing strategy, all of which will serve to achieve optimum results.

Saving Time

A big part of the challenge with building a substantial brand presence on social media is the need to ensure that a brand is reaching its target audiences on the various social platforms where it is participating, and since the number of social media platforms now numbers in the mid-hundreds, it’s obvious why this can be perceived as a daunting process. Participation on any platform necessitates building a profile there and then adding new content on a regular basis to keep the brand’s audience interested and engaged. While firms do exist that will concurrently build a company’s profile on up to several hundred sites (for a fee, of course), these tend to be very generic profiles that will not serve to attract the interest of a target audience and are therefore not recommended.

A better plan is to begin by identifying the top 10 social media platforms where a franchise will find the audience it is seeking. Typically this will include one or more of the top three platforms: Twitter, a micro-blogging platform with wide and diverse appeal; LinkedIn, a networking platform for a business-oriented audience; and Facebook, which began as a way to communicate with friends and family, but has evolved into a leading marketing platform for brands large and small to communicate with a potential audience of over 400 million members.

Many other social-media platforms exist including those that are targeted to specific geographic areas and those that appeal to specific demographic targets. A good place to start reviewing platform options is the blog, “Marketing with New Technology.” After a brand has been established and built a following on the originally selected platforms, then it can consider whether it wants to begin exploring additional social platforms to broaden its base of followers.

The second step will be to build the firm’s profile-corporate pages on each of the selected top 10 platforms and to concurrently authorize the development of any employee or franchisee-managed profiles that will be linked to the franchise account.

The third step is where the franchise will begin to achieve significant time-savings by using social media. This is to incorporate the use of a social-media aggregator into the social media program (see list on Page 14 of the digital August 2010 Franchising World).

A social media aggregator will allow a firm to attach the selected social platforms to one account and then upload content only once, but publish it to all of the selected platforms, thereby avoiding the need and the time to move from platform to platform to make posts.

The best aggregators will allow a firm to be very selective about which platform each piece of content publishes to, enable the attachment of multi-media content such as photos or video, permit the identification of a specific date and time that the item will actually post and finally, allow a franchise to incorporate multiple levels of authorized access so that several people can post content, but only certain ones can actually authorize it to post to the social media platform.

This type of tool allows the workload to be distributed while ensuring compliance with franchisor branding and messaging guidelines. Aggregators are available at costs and functions ranging from free, with very basic services, to more than $25,000 per year for enterprise-level programs which provide the highest levels of functionality and security. Some of the aggregators even incorporate the ability to post blog entries, e-mails and text messaging.

Read the complete article HERE.

Integrating Social Media with Traditional Marketing

The following is a discussion on a blog by Michelle Bonat originally posted in late 2008 but still very relevant today. Michelle discusses taking small steps towards integrating Social Media Marketing with classic (traditional) marketing programs.

Babysteps…How to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs

Social media marketing is most effective when it is an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts. But how do you jump into social media when you already have some really effective classic marketing programs in play? Here are a few ways you can babystep into the world of social media by leveraging the good stuff you already have.

1) Maintain a single consistent marketing strategy through classic and social media marketing.

Your goals, objectives and messages should be consistent across all of your marketing. Sounds simple, but unless you define and enforce this it won’t happen.

The good news here is that you don’t have to re-figure this all out just for social media. It’s really just taking your existing marketing platform and extending it.

2) Extend your reach – Reach out to your influencers in ways that they like to communicate.

Use your existing marketing knowledge about who influences your product’s purchasing decisions, and use social media tools to create a discussion with them where they hang out.

Some specific examples: Are your influencers kids? Get on the social networks catering to the younger set. IT buyers? Figure out which bloggers are influencing this community. Mobile sales professionals? Deliver content in a mobile enabled way, such as Twitter.

3) Invite your customers into the process.

While you are planning your next product, refining your messaging, or even launching a marketing campaign, figure out a way to get your customers involved whenever possible as early as possible. When you do this they feel that they have been heard, feel more engaged and valued, which results in a tighter connection with your company and product. It also gives you the benefit of upfront input. A product that people actually want? Described in a manner that speaks to them? Wonderful!

A good way to on-ramp this customer involvement include online communities (public or private, even a public group on an existing social network). You can even ask them to deliver their thoughts in video form by way of a contest – “describe what our product means to you”.

4) Turn an online forum into a social media hub.

Make people feel more at home by adding profile information and allowing the posting of pictures (or pointers to a picture posting service like Flickr).

Recognize that you have to give to get. Start a genuine conversation with your audience by having company employees contribute to the forums in their own words. For example, instead of just asking for feature enhancements suggestions, tell them what direction you are headed and, if possible, the timing for these enhancements (without giving away too much info). Then ask them their opinion.

Try these few tips to help ease into a social media program that leverages your existing marketing – and you will soon be on your way!


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Social Media and Franchise Sales: Look Ahead Before Jumping in with Both Feet

As many franchise professionals continue to explore new methods of recruiting franchise candidates, there’s been a great deal of discussion on how to incorporate social media into the mix. Sure, social media could be used to generate franchise leads. And, quite effectively. That, I have no doubt. But, it’s what comes after generating the leads that concerns me more. So, let’s take a look ahead, before jumping in with both feet on the front end.

Just like integrating traditional marketing strategies with social media strategies, it’s necessary to integrate personal interaction as well. However, instead of an aggressive, focused sales approach, the interaction should be subtle and guiding. Social media tools should be used to make points while making the experience enjoyable and interesting. Candidates will most likely marvel at the use of technology and feel comfortable learning about the franchise concept. And yes, they’ll be more comfortable and be fully at ease working through disclosure and the finer points of the concept itself.

The rest comes down to guiding candidates towards making a decision as it will now fully be an informed decision that has been validated by the social media experience AND the franchisees the candidates have come in contact with. Your franchisees will actually feel more a part of the franchise sales process than ever before. Go ahead and smile as this makes the process easier than in the past. Yes, it’ll be very nice to achieve franchise development goals once again.

Fantasy or Reality? Achievable or Not? Easy or Hard? That’s up to you and your team. It comes down to personal accountability, diligent execution of strategy and plan, professional handling of franchise candidates at all times and above all, NO SHORTCUTS!

Personal accountability is necessary in managing and monitoring social media activity, updating blog content and keeping things fresh. Nobody will stay at a dull party, right? Putting off things for tomorrow that should be done today is just not acceptable. It becomes a reflection of how even the simplest things are handled. A lack of urgency and poor attention to detail will translate into how the franchise sales process is handled, and then withered away.

Diligent execution of strategy and plan is essential. Certainly, adjustments will need to be made along the way. But the plan is your road map. Follow it as closely as possible. Allow extra time and resources as necessary for roadblocks and detours, but stay on course. Monitor your progress. How fast did you get from point A to point B? How fast did a candidate get from point A to Point B? Is the process slowing down or speeding up? Why? Do you need to do some system maintenance to the social media vehicle? Maybe your videos aren’t playing correctly? Maybe the photos aren’t loading fast enough? Maybe it’s time to bring in a “technician” so you can get back on the road as quickly as possible?

Professional handling of candidates means working with each candidate as you would want to be treated if you were the one on the verge of making a substantial investment, maybe putting your life savings on the line! It means conveying a sense of urgency when asked for information. It means paying attention to detail in something as simple as pronouncing their name correctly all the way to something complex such as full disclosure of the franchise concept. And, it means having the right attitude and conveying the same at every moment of working with the candidate at every point of “contact” including by email, on the phone, in-person, and yes, in the virtual world. Keep in mind, at all points of contact, your attitude will shine through so make sure it shines bright and your franchise future will shine bright as well!


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