Nick Strong, managing director of Franchise Intelligence, details the dos and don’ts of promoting your business online
Franchising and social media are not easy bedfellows. Few people entering franchising do so because they are or want to be social media experts. This is a challenge, as social media publishing is now part of local and national business building on multiple levels.
What are the options for the new and existing franchisee when it comes to building business via social media? And what are the obstacles and how can these be overcome?
Franchising is all about following a system that’s proven, profitable and can be replicated in a sustainable market. The challenge for franchising is that social media is all about the moment.
There is no historical or replaceable formula for conversation. So what are your options for using social media effectively in business building?
First of all, a warning. What you say and show on social media remains there forever. Once it’s shared your control is lost. What goes online stays online. This means we have entered the era of ‘living our lives on the rooftops’. What happens in Vegas, stays on YouTube.
As a result, the basic rule of thumb when it comes to social media publishing is: if you wouldn’t say it or show it to your mum, don’t say it or show it on social media.
First of all, think about the reader and what they want. Traditional advertising is all about sellers pushing their message into the world of the wouldbe new customer. The essence of the advertising message is always along the lines of ‘We are the best - We have what you want. Buy from us now!’
Social media is about ‘them’ - it’s ‘social’. It’s not about messaging per se. It’s about people and conversation. The mantra is, show interest in others and they will show interest in you. Give first and get second.
When it comes to building your business, you’re going to need more contacts than just your friends and family contacts on Facebook.
Key here is to know the profile of the ideal client. This is where the franchisor comes in. The franchisor has detailed information about client profiling. This insight will be used to substantiate the territory you receive and the advertising provided.
How can this be useful to you when it comes to business building through social media? This is an important question to ask any franchisor of interest to you and at an early stage.
Any business worth its salt will have a detailed marketing strategy that’s planned out for central and local action. The plan should be clearly defined, with roles, responsibilities and expected outcomes specified.
Within this plan, it’s important for you to identify the place of social media and how it will work to support your business. Ideally, a franchisor will provide you with a social media content plan outline, not for you to copy verbatim, but for a guideline for you to follow.
It’s important that a franchisor puts you in a place of personal confidence in all areas of your business building - and that includes the use of social media.
Some franchisors have developed their intranet systems to send content packages to franchisees. Others focus on central sharing for all franchisees to ‘like’ and share. Others do little or nothing.
New for the sector is our system, socialHANDLER.online. This content management system enables a franchisor to send content packages to all franchisees. The franchisee is then free to use the franchisor’s carefully crafted content in a way that represents the franchisee and the brand effectively on a local level.
Be careful to use wording and graphics that belong to the brand and to you. Google images are not free to use. They all belong to someone. If you use someone else’s images in your posts, you may have trouble with letters from lawyers.
If you use snippets of other people’s content or you quote individuals, always make sure you attribute what you post to the original source. This way, you’re saying thank you for the inspiration, so they get the benefit of signposting and recommendation.
Many franchisors will instruct an agency to do the hard yards when it comes to branded content that creates a PR footprint. Agencies are often centrally instructed to manage pay per click budgets to this end.
These are ‘pay to be seen’ ways that are available to you through a franchisor or through your own local marketing budget. It’s important to establish what’s in place and who needs to do what, how and when.
Pay to be seen advertising is rarely conversational, however it can be effective in creating brand awareness and interest on a national and local level.
Once the brand is seen and you’re associated with the brand, it can be a springboard into conversation with your local social media contacts. The more contacts and brand awareness on a local level, the better.
When it comes to local social media connections and publishing, it’s mostly about you and what you do.
Encouraging recommendations via social media through clients and friends is a great way of ‘electronic leaflet dropping’ on a local level. Ask any franchise that’s of interest to you what it has trialled in this area of promotion. It’s important for you to identify how what the franchisor has developed can be used by you to get effective promotion and sales for your business.
Be clear from the start how you will portray yourself and your business via social media. If you want your personal life to be separate from your business life, make sure you keep your personal social media accounts private in settings.
The franchisor my stipulate settings as part of its operational guidelines. When it comes to personal social media accounts, it’s important to find out what is expected by the franchisor and how they will be managed in practise.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, effective franchising is all about proven and replicable ways of building a local business under the umbrella of central support and a known or growing brand.
Make sure you find out where social media fits into the mix. Be clear what your part is when it comes to building your franchise through social media.
Nick Strong is a British Franchise Association accredited adviser to franchisors and franchisees. Nick and his team provide a range of services that promote know-how and business growth in the franchise sector.
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