What Do Franchises and Franchising Experts Do On Social Media?

franchisenote-logoHere’s an article that was posted on Franchise Note on October 2, 2009, by Business Blogger and Webpreneur, Ivan Widjaya. Thank you, Ivan, for including some very flattering comments about my social media activity within franchising.

What Do Franchises and Franchise Experts Do On Social Media?
by Ivan Widjaya

Franchises are getting along well with social media. Although I cannot present you with analytical data and stats, I can see that franchises are taking benefit from the social media, in term of brand awareness and franchise information (including promos, events, polls, etc.) Eventually, all of those will be translated into more customers and revenue.

With various strategies, plans and purposes, it’s enlightening to learn and observe what franchising people are doing in major social media. Let’s do our brief exploration in three social media behemoths – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Franchising on Facebook

Facebook offers franchises and franchise experts opportunities to build and engage network that will buzz your franchise businesses and services, creating a strong awareness on the Net that could very well get franchises more business.

Let’s take the people I connect with (a.k.a. friends) from Franchise Note’s Facebook account.

As for franchises, I consider WingZone Franchise as one of the better franchisors’ account on Facebook (WingZone also has other Web 2.0 presence, namely Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.) It is full of interesting updates, giving us the example of what franchises can do with Facebook.

For example, WingZone post a notification of free chicken wings in a certain area of operation – Of course, this will create buzz, as well as brand awareness, and eventually send people to Wing’s store to get some free wings (and buy some other stuffs.)

As for franchising experts, I consider Paul Segreto’s Facebook account to be interesting. He is using a mixture of updates, ranging from personal updates (e.g. posting a video about a dog helping one of his canine friends in need) to professional updates (e.g. informing about his another webinar series in October.)

Franchising on Twitter

Twitter is the fastest growing social media that is predicted to exceed Facebook in popularity. The appeal is on the 140-character ‘tweet’ that allow Twitter users – Including those in franchising – to share info quickly.

From my Twitter account, I usually follow those that I know, was recommended or think they are interesting. I read those I follow (for franchising topic, I recommend Joel Libava’s) for several times in a day (in fact, I check and re-check my Twitter account dozens of times a day.) The updates are basically a comment with a link to the source or reference (and yes, about 50 to 60 percent of the tweets I received are either for Internet marketing purposes or promotional efforts.)

If I can’t seem to follow the updates I like, I read franchising updates in the form of Twitter’s search widget from Franchise Note sidebar (somewhere in FranchiseNote.com’s right column.)

Similar to Facebook, but in 140 characters or less, Twitter updates you with short blurbs (That’s why Twitter is called a micro-blogging platform) of those you follow. It’s nice to see those franchises and franchise experts are having a chit-chat, allowing you to see a hint of their focus, vision and characters.

Franchising on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is pretty similar to Facebook, but to highlight, the ability to present a resume-like profile page and endorse your contact is what making LinkedIn stands out. Professional recommendations are powerful tools in getting you the buzz and new clients, especially if you are providing professional advices (i.e. franchise consultant)

If you are into franchising (or at least, want to learn about franchising) I suggest you to join one of the LinkedIn group for franchises, Franchise Networking (more than 2,800 members), where you can read articles and follow/participate in discussions on franchising topic.

You can learn more about the background of the franchise owners and experts you know or follow from the profile page – Take Paul Segreto’s profile as an example: You can learn that he attended college at Wagner College and 12 people have recommended him so far. If you are interested in his services, reading his profile page is pretty much giving you an idea or two why he is one of the authoritative voices in US franchising.

And yes, reading through Paul’s LinkedIn profile makes what’s inside my LinkedIn profile looks insignificant.

Any thoughts to share? Please share yours by commenting to this article.

Top Five Social Media Tips For Small Business

The following article was written by Guest Author, Linda Daichendt. Linda is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses, and a Strategic Partner of franchisEssentials. She is a recognized expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Top 5 Social Media Tips for Small Business
by Linda Daichendt
as posted on Marketing With New Technology July 16, 2009
(Please Note: some content in this posting is from an article by Mya Frazier for Bankrate.com)

A few years ago, using the Internet to market a small business simply meant to create a presence online with a simple, informational Web site. Then came the demands of search engine optimization to ensure Google and Yahoo searches yielded top-ranked results for your company. Was your business’s Web site chock full of the key search terms that would bring it to the attention of customers?

social-media-trendsToday, social media is transforming the small-business marketing landscape. Social media are Web- or mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. It’s not just for seeing who your high school sweetheart married. Businesses can tap into powerful networking sites and other social media to drive customers to their shops or companies.

If done right, small-business owners might even be able to slash their traditional marketing spending to zero. Writing blogs (short for “Web logs”) or on-going online commentary using social-networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, can provide inexpensive but powerful online marketing.

Because it’s free, people think it’s easy to create a social media presence. But this attitude can lead to missteps. So before you dive headlong into social media, take some time to observe the customs and social norms of these new forms of communications, says David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies tell their story through social media. “Also think about your strategy for effectively utilizing social media before you jump in,” says Linda Daichendt, CEO/Managing Consultant of Strategic Growth Concepts. “It’s easier to avoid costly mistakes before you begin than to correct them after they’ve done damage to your company’s reputation.”

New_rules_of_marketing_and_PR“Think of social media as a cocktail party,” says, David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online. “You don’t go into the cocktail party and go into the middle room and scream at the top of your lungs and say, ‘Buy my products.’ … What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”

If you decide to take the social-networking plunge, here are five ways to harness social media to help your business.

1. Use free sites. Use free online services, such as the mobile short-message site Twitter, and popular networking sites Facebook and MySpace, to post significant news, specials or events. For example, you run a small Italian restaurant with a loyal following. You could create a Twitter account and upload the lunch or dinner specials via “tweets,” or short messages of up to 140 characters, daily to customers’ smart phones or to other Web sites.

“All you have to do is give a (Twitter) handle and start a conversation. You could put the Twitter handle on the menu or in the restaurant,” says Chris Abraham, Abraham Harrison LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based digital public relations agency. Granted, social networking sites are still for early adopters. “You aren’t going to get Aunt Matilda to tweet about the experience she had at dinner,” Abraham says.

Abraham considers Twitter one of the easiest ways for a newbie to social media to get started. “It’s more challenging to do Facebook,” Abraham says. “You have to create a personal profile, create a page and so on. With Twitter, if you’re Joe Smith with Motorcycle Emporium, you don’t have to create a page. And you can create Twitter updates via a phone or mobile device easily.”

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “There are lots of people sold on really expensive solutions, but two of the best investments for reaching out to people and engaging with them are free on Twitter and Facebook.”

2. Shift marketing costs to social media. After learning how social networking operates, use social media to free up traditional marketing dollars for your small business by putting it online. You can quickly learn which of your Facebook or MySpace “friends” or online “group” members received and responded to your message.

Stanya Doty has cut her print marketing budget to zero. As owner of Simple Indulgences, a wine and high-end gift shop in Delaware, Ohio, she began using Facebook in December 2008 to communicate with her brother but quickly realized the online marketing possibilities.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there are so many people here,’ ” she says. Indeed, Facebook boasts 200 million users worldwide. In April 2009, she began promoting monthly wine tastings via a Facebook page for the shop that quickly attracted 100 members. Combined with an e-newsletter created using the do-it-yourself, e-mail marketing Web site Constant Contact, she keeps enough buzz going about her shop that her advertising budget for local print ads no longer seemed necessary. She usually sends out about 700 e-mails, with the response rate sometimes reaching nearly 50 percent. It sure beats a postal mailing. “If I sent out a postcard with postage and paid for all that, I’d still have no idea who read it and who threw it away,” she says.

Indeed, unlike a print ad, Doty gets instant, measurable results. “On Facebook, you can see who has responded to invites,” she says. “It’s easy, it’s cheap and I’m actually appealing to people that at first know me from the store and then hopefully … pass the word along throughout their networks.”

google-yahoo-thumb23. Do your own social-media optimization project. Learn about the competition in your industry and geographic region that are tapping social networking. Spark recommends starting by researching the competition in the major search engines — Google and Yahoo.

“Type in keywords and phrases that people would use to find you, like ‘plumber’ and ‘San Francisco.’ If you don’t appear in the top percentage of pages, take a look at the Website of those plumbers that do show up,” says Spark. “Look at their pages, and usually they will have a lot of content on their sites.”

To increase a business’s presence on the Internet, Spark advocates companies create blogs, newsletters and other articles on their sites to bolster the number of keywords — terms that search engines recognize — to boost their ranking in all-important Web searches.

“That’s the way people discover you,” he says. “Take that plumber in San Francisco. The right search terms might just be ‘clogged toilet and San Francisco.’” “That tells me I should write … in my blog about how to fix a clogged toilet and mention that I am a plumber in San Francisco,” he says.

4. Take social-network marketing to the next level. Create and post richer content about what your customers would expect from someone in your business. Don’t view social media sites as a place to simply hype your wares. It’s a place for conversation.

“Social media is about earning attention,” says David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online. “What’s most important is to forget about what your company does. Instead, think about the people who are buying your products. Simply hyping products and services online and in social media sites completely backfires. People are not looking for products but for something fun. They are looking to make connections,” Scott says.

So it’s all about having something interesting to say or show. It could be a blog, or a video on the video-sharing Website YouTube.

For example, if you’re a caterer, instead of talking about your service, create engaging culinary content. Imagine positioning yourself as a gourmet magazine on the Web, complete with links to a video you uploaded to YouTube.

“A caterer could create a blog with information about how to create a fantastic party, and each blog post or YouTube video could be another installment,” Scott says. “On the Web, you are what you publish and being on the Web is about publishing information.”

So back to that plumber faced with the prospect of dropping an expensive Yellow Pages listing but worried about customers not finding him if they have a burst pipe or a misfiring shower head. Scott recommends the plumber post a list of “the 100 home fixes for common plumbing problems.”

“All of a sudden you are going to get indexed very highly in the search engines, and people are going to share that content with their friends,” he says. “When someone puts an update on Facebook asking if anyone knows a good plumber in Boston, a friend might point to your content.”

blogging5. Use blogging to drive search results and help new customers find you. Lately, blogging has gained greater attention, with the advent of “micro-blogging” on Twitter. But consider the time commitment and strategy before launching an account.

Even with the spread of micro-blogging, Abraham remains a big fan of traditional blogs, which are lengthier and show up on Web sites. In general, no matter what form the blog takes, it should be consistent over time.

“If you can’t keep up one (blog) post a day or 12 tweets a day, do one tweet every Thursday. Consistency in blogging or tweeting will create a relationship of trust with your followers or readers. Do it once a week, but for the next two years,” Abraham says.

And don’t spend extra money on blogging software, technical help, or a ghost writer for your blog. To get started, sign up with WordPress.com or Blogger – both are free blogging platforms which are easy to use for beginners.

Additional opportunities within the social media environment include: online radio shows on platforms such as BlogTalkRadio, social networking sites such as LinkedIN, Plaxo, and FriendFeed, and a wide variety of additional tools as well depending on your type of business.

Following these social media basics for small business will get your company started on the right road to gaining new customers and increased revenue via social media.

Social Media ROI: Is It Worth The Effort?

Many of our readers and clients have asked about quantifying social media results and determining a return on investement. The following article by Julie Keyser-Squires, APR provides a great perspective of the subject along with some suggestions that can be utilized in various franchise businesses. Ultimately, social media can improve the bottom line for franchisors and franchisees, alike.

Franchisors, Owners, Operators: Questions You Always Wanted to Ask | By Julie Keyser-Squires, APR
as posted June 3, 2009 on HospitalityNet.org

If you are a franchisor, owner or operator, you may be asking these four questions about social media:

ROI1.What is the ROI of social marketing?
2.How aggressively do we want to play on the social media front?
3.Is it enough for the brand to communicate on behalf of hotels or do franchisees want their hotels to provide individual promotions and unique offerings?
4.What kind of manpower does it take to stay in touch with “followers”? Can hotels feasibly dedicate the resources individually, or should the responsibility be with a brand marketing and eBusiness effort?

Here are the answers, with a focus on social media sites Twitter and Facebook. First, however, would you consider one more question that could jump start your participation in social media:

“How did you create your revenue management strategy and processes?”

1.What is the ROI on your revenue management program?
2.How aggressively do you deploy it?
3.Is it owned at the brand level, the property level, or both?
4.What are the manpower commitments? 100% to 25% of one — or more – person’s time?

Revenue management and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Both are integral to every area of the enterprise; each requires internal consensus and a cultural shift; and both can positively impact top line revenue. You might be able to leverage an earlier learning curve as you consider these questions about your social media involvement.

1. What is the ROI of social media (or “Want a cheap hotel? Just give up the bed.”)

In social marketing, is Return on Investment becoming Return on Engagement? Possibly. Although among franchisors, owners and operators it is still in the early adoption phase, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and luxury resort The Rancho Bernardo Inn already realize measurable success.

•Since engaging in social media in 1Q ’09, visits to the Kimpton website have increased 500 percent and 600 percent (year over year) from its Facebook fan page and Twitter, respectively. Look for the goldfish icon.

· General Manager John Gates (@GMGoneMad on Twitter) at the luxury destination resort Rancho Bernardo Inn realizes two to three responses per offering of his pop up specials on Twitter, including the Inn’s exciting “Survivor Packages” below:

o Posted 8:50 AM May 15th . “Check out our new “Survivor” Package: Just $219 per night,including deluxe accommodations and breakfast for 2. Stay tuned for details…”

o And eight posts later with each “tweet” shaving $20 to $30 off the rate:

o Posted 7:30 PM May 15th. “My FINAL offer: Stay for $19 without breakfast, honor bar, A/C, heat, pillows, sheets, lights, linens, toiletries or bed!”

· Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is on both Twitter and Facebook to create a greater awareness and understanding of its brand.

A quick search on Twitter.com reveals that companies like Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Inc., Hilton Hotels Corporation, Best Western International, Inc., and InterContinental Hotels Group are starting to have a presence as well.

2. How aggressively do we want to play on the social media front?

•Depends on your business. A personality driven sales approach like Kimpton’s, which is not a hard sell, may be a good fit.
•• Consider a balance between exploring social marketing venues and executing on your existing marketing and Internet public relations plan.

3. Is it enough for the brand to communicate on behalf of hotels or do franchisees want their hotels to provide individual promotions and unique offerings?

•Both.
•Facebook lets individual hotels share tips about their cities and local promotions.
•On Facebook, people post interesting content three to four times a week, which is manageable for most hotels (Twitter posts can stream into Facebook, too, which lets you repurpose content.).
•Twitter, where the norm is three posts per day, could be a better fit for corporate communications teams, although many properties are on Twitter as well.
•Franchisors, owners and operators that allow any employee to start a Twitter account might consider instituting corporate social computing guidelines. IBM’s social marketing guide is a good example and may be modified [http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html].

4. What kind of manpower does it take to stay in touch with “followers”? Can hotels feasibly dedicate the resources individually, or should the responsibility be with a brand marketing and eBusiness effort?

•Consider carving resources out of your existing communications — or revenue management — team.
•During the learning curve, maintaining a presence on Facebook and Twitter can take from 15 to 30% of one person’s time for a brand the size of Kimpton. Tools like TweetDeck, which let you categorize the people you follow on Twitter, can streamline tracking “followers.”
•Some brands, like Fairmont, have a different individual dedicated to each social media touch point. Team members can spend from 30 to 50% of their time on social media and the remainder on traditional marketing.

If you are a franchisor, owner or operator, you may be guiding your team to tighten the relationship between revenue management and marketing. You know that promotions which include precisely targeted incentives can drive incremental revenue to the top line; social media gives you tools to serve them up in engaging ways.

Julie Keyser-Squires, APR, and CFO, vice president of Softscribe Inc., is passionate about using technology to connect people and ideas. You can give her a shout at Julie@softscribeinc.com, on twitter @Juliesquires, make a comment on her business blog, “First Light, and sign up for her free quarterly video email snack at www.marketingsnacks.com.