Social media. Who knew such a simple concept could be so polarizing? While some of us love it and others hate it, there’s little room for debate - in today’s world, businesses need to have a social media presence.
Deb Evans of Deb Evans Consulting and Social Geek Radio recently met with us to discuss the power of social media, and how it can be used by both franchisees and franchisors. Let’s jump in to learn her tips and tricks.
Deb entered the world of franchising in 1996 as a franchise employee, and was given the opportunity to buy the franchise within the year. She did it, then became a multi-unit franchisee, and later became the franchise president.
One of Deb’s main responsibilities as president was managing the budget. When her marketing budget was cut to offset other costs, she started dabbling in social media because it was free. As she realized the power of social, Deb started implementing a social media strategy throughout her entire franchise system.
She loves all aspects of social media, but one of her favorite things is that there’s always something new to try and test. Recently, at the time of this recording, she has discovered that LinkedIn has launched video filters for users.
If you’re a franchisor, your business needs to be on social media. You don’t have to be excited about it, but it’s essential you have it as part of your marketing strategy.
The ways that people are buying has changed, and they’re doing more research than ever before making buying decisions. Where’s that research done? Online. So, if your business is not on social, you’re not going to get the lead flow you should be getting because you won’t have a presence.
Not only are potential customers looking for your product or service online, but prospective franchisees are also doing research online. If your business is not on social media, you could be missing major opportunities for growth.
Social media is also key for building local brand awareness. To do this, Deb recommends giving franchisees some freedom to create their own social media posts that tie them to the community - referencing local events, customers, or even nuances in language that set one local region apart from another. This will help humanize your brand and drive foot traffic into your franchise locations.
If you give this liberty to your franchisees, ensure they’re properly trained and that they understand your digital policy, color schemes, and branding guidelines. Every single post that’s published needs to fall within the lines of your brand’s operational manual.
Not so enthusiastic about social media? That’s fine. You can outsource it, but make sure the agency you hire understands your business inside and out, and always be aware of what’s being shared and said on your behalf.
If you’re a franchisee and your brand allows you to manage your own social media channels, it’s time to get to work! Your digital presence is a key piece of the trust-building process, and, when done correctly, can really benefit your business.
The first step in creating your social media strategy is determining the channels you’re going to focus on. Deb’s big three are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but others could be more appropriate for your specific brand. A more visual brand, like Woops for example, can really capitalize on their visual appeal on a network like Instagram.
Find out where your customers spend their time online, and focus on those channels first. Deb recommends adopting three channels to begin with, then adding or removing a channel as you figure out what’s working and what’s not.
She also suggests finding brand ambassadors and influencers. Do you have a coffee shop, and notice a customer regularly staging and taking photos of her cappuccino? She’s almost definitely sharing those on social, so find a way to reach out to her to make her feel special. If she feels valued by your brand, she’ll keep posting and helping you gain brand awareness.
What if you get a bad review on social media? This is a concern we’ve heard from many franchisees. First, don’t panic. Then, acknowledge the complaint. You don’t have to apologize for whatever happened, but acknowledge the customer had a bad experience and clearly articulate what you can do to make it better. If you focus on giving your customers great experiences, good reviews will soon push that bad review out of sight.
Not sure you have what it takes to be a social media whiz? You’ve got options.
First, you can find someone in-house (a manager, another employee) to manage your social channels for you. Or, you can reach out to a consultant like Deb who can do training or send video tutorials to teach you how to do it yourself. Lastly, you have the option to outsource.
Again, it’s essential outsourced agencies have a deep understanding of your brand and its product or service, as well as a good grasp of what makes your local franchise location different from the rest.
If you’re considering buying or investing in a franchise, you’ve probably heard over and over to research, research, research before diving into an opportunity.
Deb recommends taking a deep-dive research approach. First, do a Google search on brands within the industry you’re most interested in (food, cleaning, etc.).
When you discover a brand you may be interested in, look up as much as you can about the brand. Visit their website, paying particular attention to their “About Us” page and the page that introduces their leadership team.
Then, look up the individual leaders on LinkedIn. How long have they been at the brand? What other positions have they held within the brand? Have they worked for other franchise systems? Next, you can dig deeper into LinkedIn to find individual franchisees.
With all of this information, see if you can picture yourself as part of the organization, working with these people. Of course, you don’t have to like everyone, but you want to feel like you have an understanding of the brand, the people, and their products or services, and whether you’re comfortable buying into it. Learning as much as you can about the brand and everyone connected with it will give you an idea of whether it could be a good fit for you.
What if you’re interested in a brand, but it doesn’t have a social presence? Is this a red flag?
Deb says yes, because if you can’t research the brand yourself, you’re reliant on what you learn at Discovery Day alone. The more information you can find beforehand, the better. This isn’t to say you should unequivocally steer clear, but you should proceed with caution and ask as many questions as possible before arriving at Discovery Day.
If you see the brand does have a social media presence, it’s time to ask some questions. First, ask the brand who manages the social accounts. Is it the franchisor, or individual franchisees? Is it managed in-house or by an outside agency?
Then, think about whether their answers work for you, because the ideal answers vary from person to person. And, make sure you’re being honest in your answers. “Know yourself. Be upfront. Understand who you are. Don’t try to hide your personality to fit in. Be who you are and see if you align with the brand,” says Deb.
No matter whether you’re a franchisor, franchisee, or franchise candidate, social media will play a role in your business growth.
Any questions about the information Deb shared? Leave a comment below, or enter it into the chat window.