Social Media, a Two-Edged Sword For Franchisor's
While franchisors continue to look for ways to utilize the ever-expanding world of social media as a way to gr
ow their brands, a new challenge has arisen with the usage of social media by their franchisees.
The vast majority of franchise companies do not permit franchisees to have their own websites. Most have web pages that are ‘sub’ pages of the company’s main website; or, in some cases, the main company page will offer only a location finder in regards to their other ‘storefronts.’ This particular scenario is done to make sure that all the content associated with the company is consistent with the brand and image of the franchisor.
But IS a social media profile a web page? A great number of franchisors say they are one in the same. There exists potential challenges with franchisees having individual social media profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. With social media profiles popping up all over the place, not to mention the blogs and review sites, the number of “venues” where people can talk about you and your brand – both good and bad – continues to grow at an alarming rate.
One of the great facets when it comes to social media platforms is that anyone has access to them andcan talk about your brand…which is also the pitfall. Hence, the ‘Doubled-Edged Sword’ comes into play. Every profile on Facebook, and other social media sites, is a place for franchisees to promote the brand and grow their social following. Unfortunately, it’s also a 24 hour/7 day-a-week “complaint box” for anything and everything.
The reach of social media continues to grow. Many people share their experiences – positive and negative – with all
of their online groups. Additionally, companies are able to offer specials and incentives to groups in their local area. This makes a great case for allowing franchisees to have their own social presence. There is no other really good and effective way for a franchisor to claim the kind of ‘local’ following that their franchisee can build. The local franchise owner is a member of that community; they are the ones that are known by their neighbors. From sponsoring sports teams to being involved with church groups, they can represent the franchisor locally to the best of their ability. In addition, they are responsible for managing their own reputation as well as that of the brand. Unfortunately, many either don’t know what to do or are too busy running their businesses in order to pay social media adequate attention. This is one reason that many franchisors have chosen to disallow their franchisees from putting up any social media profiles whatsoever.
So, the question remains:
Can franchisees effectively manage their own social media profiles?
If Buffalo Wild Wings is any indication, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” With only 835 locations compared to over 33,000 for Subway – Buffalo Wild Wings, to date, has over 7 million likes, whereas Subway – with its massive number of stores – has only been able to muster 14 million.
There is no doubt that the number of profiles of Buffalo Wild Wings’ franchisees has contributed significantly to the size of their following. Take into account that over 1/3rd of the locations are company-owned, and Buffalo Wild Wings has grown a following half the size of Subway with less than two percent of the number of franchised locations. This fact alone should give other franchisors – that are not allowing their franchise owners to use social media – pause to reconsider.
Buffalo Wild Wings has incorporated a system that allows their franchisees to manage their own profiles that consistently promote the brand in a way that is paying big dividends. There is no way the company could gather this number of fans without the local franchisee strategy. It allows them to offer national marketing incentives, promotions, contests and all the things that loyal customers have grown to know and love.
Companies are deploying more powerful and flexible tools to manage their social media efforts. Some of these platforms can not only monitor and manage the corporate profiles, but they also have the capacity to monitor what’s being said on other profiles, even those that the company does not have administrative access to. In addition to the right tools, it’s important for a franchisor to have a solid, well-thought-out social media policy and training program for its franchisees. This way, the franchisee knows what is expected of them and what the consequences are for noncompliance.
While there are some inherent dangers in allowing franchise location owners to manage their social media campaigns – with the right monitoring tools and social media policy, franchisors can reap the benefits of franchisee-managed media without incurring the liabilities.
Bottom Line: The more profiles, the more places for people to talk about the brand.
You can bet that as technology continues to improve, so will the size and scope of social media and its effect on our lives both personally and professionally. Getting on board now will increase business, and bring your company name and brand to the masses!
That’s what being social is all about!