The social media craze has boxed many franchisors into a corner. To date, lots of time and money has spent with mixed results.   

No longer is the importance of social media marketing in question. Today, most franchisors are focused on choosing the right tactics from the evolving list of options.

FIRST, BUILD THE ROADMAP
When going on a vacation, you don’t leave without a roadmap for how to reach the final destination or without plans for specific vacation activities. The same is true for a social media marketing program. It should come as no surprise that social media success begins with creating a strategy and clearly defining measurable results.

The strategy should include phases for listening, planning, execution, ongoing monitoring and measurement:

  • Begin with a period for “listening.” See where prospects and customers are most active and likely to engage online. Adopt tools to monitor mentions about your brand, the competition and other relevant discussions, and continue listening. The importance of monitoring will only grow as activity increases.
  • Evaluate each prospective social media channel based on expected reach, cost, and technical feasibility. Consider whether or not franchisees have the bandwidth and desire to use each channel, if there is a solid cost/benefit, and how aligned each channel is with overall goals. Understand that not every channel will work, despite mainstream popularity.
  • Prioritize social media channels and create an action plan for each. Channel strategies must be seamlessly linked and support the end goals, but used according to their distinct personalities. Communication on Twitter is far different than on Facebook, YouTube or Google+. Additionally, franchise brands often require “a plan within the plan.” For example, there may be a Twitter strategy to reach end users and another to reach brokers and potential franchisees.
  • Define what “results” means for each campaign and channel. Determine which hard and soft results to measure: web traffic, social mentions, leads for franchisees, social conversions or other key performance indicators. Set goals accordingly. Measurement of online efforts for franchise sales will differ from those reaching end-users.

THEN COME THE TACTICS
If you follow social media news or are active in certain channels, you know it is easy to get overwhelmed by the deluge of ideas from “social media gurus”, blogs, books, and even your own experiences. Rather than throwing things to the wall to see what sticks or succumbing to “shiny object syndrome”, assess how each tactic pairs with the overall strategy. With that in mind, there are some social media tactics that have been validated with multiple franchisors:

  • Franchisee Education – Franchisor and franchisee efforts should build on one another; this shared approach provides more effective and authentic utilization of reach. Make internal or external resources accessible to franchisees. Provide training, best practices and continuous encouragement. Set social media usage guidelines that are consistent and enforced. The 80/20 rule applies; there will be a small but mighty percentage of franchisees that are active on social media, so consider offering tiers of support.
  • Story trumps product. Integrate PR with social media. – In social media, it’s about sharing, not selling, so integrating PR and social media makes perfect sense. The brands getting the most out of social media have figured out that it’s not about the concept or what they sell. It’s about the story; it’s what people do with their product and the role it plays in their lives that drives results. Capture those stories and share them online through prioritized channels.

  • LinkedIn for espionage – A recent study from HubSpot found that LinkedIn generates a 277% higher visitor-to-lead conversion than Twitter or Facebook. It’s a great channel for sharing content, and is the ideal place to monitor competitors, potential franchisees and influencers. It’s likely that potential franchisees are also going here to scope out franchise concepts, key leaders and franchisees. Keep a thorough company page optimized to appeal to brokers or future franchisees and be sure executives have complete profile pages.
  • Blog, blog, blog – Blogging, one of the oldest forms of social media, is widely used because blogs are an online home for original content and have serious SEO mojo. Many franchises, such as Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Inc., are using blogs to give their franchisees a louder voice and local market thought leadership.
  • Review sites – Negative reviews are inevitable. The longer they sit with no response, the worse they become. It is also important for your brand reputation to acknowledge the positive reviews. Guide franchisees in creating and monitoring their local Google business profile, Yelp page and other review sites. At the very least, provide documentation for responding to all reviews.

  • Photo Content Strategies – Look no further than the meteoric rise of Pinterest, a pin-board style photo sharing website, to see the importance of photos in social media. Research shows that as we age, our brains prefer images over words. To engage with Internet users over the age of 40, include a photo content strategy in channel plans. This may be as simple as including photos in posts or as complex as creating custom infographics.

  • Use segmentation features on Facebook – Increase efficiency and engagement on Facebook by creating posts targeted to specific user groups by age, geography, interests, relationship status and educational status. For example, page administrators can now share posts only to fans near a local franchisee event. As consumers come to expect brands to deliver personalized content, this level of customization will become the norm.

  • Diversify with video – By 2013, videos are estimated to be 90% of all web traffic*. They aid SEO programs, and are proven to drive end user confidence and increase conversions. For internal purposes, they can be repurposed in other channels and presentations. Start by showcasing testimonials and “a day in the life” of a successful franchisee. Introduce key executives, and show how end users interact with your product or service. Ask the most active franchisees to contribute stories and unique content.
  • Reward Activity – Consumers have more choices than ever, so reward them for engagement. Rewards aren’t just offers or deals, but gestures by a business to make members of their online community feel appreciated. These “rewards” include access to exclusive content, providing useful information, a “thank you” message for social interactions, and gamification options.
  • Contests – Whether it’s through blogger giveaways, photo contests or sweepstakes, contests are one of the most popular social media tactics because they increase following and engagement. However, contests are also the most susceptible to failure. Those that get results have a prize the target audience finds exciting, are promoted across platforms, and of course, are planned with overall marketing objectives in mind.

Choosing the right tactics to boost your social media success isn’t nearly as challenging when a comprehensive strategy is in place and “one version of the truth” filters down through the entire organization. In the end, remember that sound tactics are based on bedrock of sound strategy.