At their core, franchises are local businesses and, therefore, need a social media strategy.

Incorporating social media into your franchise’s marketing plan gives you the ability to execute three strategies simultaneously:

  1. Promotion: deals and specials
  2. Relationship building: keep an open dialog with your customers
  3. Customer service: respond to questions and get feedback

Talking to your existing customers and keeping them engaged, while also reaching new ones, is a lot easier in-person — and social media mimics that experience in an online setting.

The hardest part about social media is actually getting your business set-up and running on the different networks. Keep reading for a five-point checklist that you can use to integrate social media into your franchise’s overall online marketing plan quickly and easily.

1. Franchisor (corporate) marketing guidelines

Before you head down the social media road of creating and managing your franchise’s local profiles, you need to check with your franchisor to see what guidelines are in place for franchisees. Your franchisor may have existing social media guidelines in place, such as tone and overall brand messaging, that you will need to incorporate into your franchise’s social strategy.

If your franchisor has existing social media guidelines in place, follow through with them and contact the corporate marketing team with any questions. If there aren’t guidelines in place, present your ideas to the marketing department at corporate. You will want to receive signoff from your franchisor before you move forward (even if just for a trial), so that you don’t put your business at risk of not complying with the overall marketing strategy of the franchise.

There is a chance that your franchisor might not allow franchisee’s to use social media marketing. In this case, what should you do?

You have two options:

  1. Share the social accounts of your franchisor with your customers (vs. local accounts). Encourage your customers to sign-up for your emails so that you can keep them up-to-date on all your deals and promotions.
  2. Propose a social media action plan to corporate. By presenting an action plan to your franchisor (and positioning it as a low-cost marketing program that you are willing to test out at your location), you are being proactive and demonstrating to corporate your ability to spearhead a new marketing initiative for the whole franchise (but, no pressure –you will still only be doing it for your location).

Once you find out the social media guidelines that your franchise uses, you can move to next steps.

2. Determine your strategy

Before you set-up any profiles for your business, you need to develop a local social media strategy.

You might think that a comprehensive local social media strategy is a huge task that will consume hours of your time; however, it actually takes about 15 minutes.
social media strategy

When you use our social media template, you can create a strategy that will last you an entire year in about 15 minutes! Simply follow the three steps outlined in our article, “How to Create a Local Social Media Strategy Template,” and you’ll be on your way.

3. Set-up accounts on major networks

There are four  major social networks that you need to evaluate when setting up your business’s accounts:

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Google+

Depending on which networks your audience uses, you should go ahead and create accounts for your business. The networks you choose will be dependent on where your existing and prospective customers are. To help you decide what networks make most sense for your business, we have included brief audience descriptions and the capabilities of each network below.

FACEBOOK

Facebook allows your business to have a Facebook Page, separate from your personal profile, where you can add “friends.” Your Business Page will allow you to link to your business website (can be your dedicated franchise location page on your franchisor’s website or simply your franchisor’s main homepage) and install applications such as “Menus” and “Reviews.”

Below are some stats about Facebook’s audience:

  • Average user age: 41 years old
  • 62% of social channel users go to Facebook in order to find out more about a local business
  • 59% of users who Like a brand Business Page do so because they have purchased/used the product/service
  • 1.35 billion monthly active users (worldwide)
  • 703 million users access Facebook daily on a mobile device

To set up a Facebook Business Page, you must already have a personal Facebook Profile. Facebook provides a helpful walk-through of how to setup your business’s Facebook Page, so you don’t have to worry about missing any crucial information.
Facebook page set-up

One thing that you will want to do, is to differentiate your Business’s Page from your Franchisor’s Company Page (if they have one), by including the local area you serve.

An example of a franchise location that does this well is Mathnasium. As you can see below, Mathnasium of Acton has done this by adding “of Acton” to their Business Page name.
Mathnasium of Acton Facebook Page

For more strategies, tips and insights about how to become a Facebook marketing expert, check out our SlideShare presentation.

TWITTER

Twitter is a real-time information network where people discover what’s happening in the world right now, share information instantly and connect with people/businesses.

When setting up Twitter for your franchise, the profile you create is no different from a personal Twitter account — except the information you will include will be about your business. Again, you can link to your website and location by completing all the necessary information when setting up your account.

Here’s some info you should know about the Twitter audience:

  • They are faster-paced and younger than Facebook’s audience
  • 72% of active Twitter users are between 18-49 years old
  • There are 284 million active users
  • 30% of users see tweets from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) every time they login
  • 90% of users have engaged in a conversation with an SMB on Twitter
  • 60% of users have made a purchase from an SMB based on something they saw on Twitter

Again, you’ll want to differentiate your business’s Twitter account from your franchisor’s main Twitter account by adding the local area you serve to your name. In the example below, you can see how Edge Body Boot Camp in Richmond, VA abbreviated their name to be @EBBCRich to distinguish themselves from corporate (and save characters).
Edge Body Boot Camp Richmond Twitter

If you want to learn more about how to use Twitter to grow your franchise, you can view our SlideShare presentation here.

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn is a unique social media network — it is used by professionals looking to network.

If your franchisor has a presence on LinkedIn already, you most likely won’t want to create a separate one for your business. Why? Because LinkedIn reaches a professional business audience, your franchisor probably uses the network to sell more franchisee licenses — not to drive new customers for its franchisees.

However, if you are spearheading the franchise social media efforts, creating a Company Page can help you prove your point that social media is an essential part of any franchise marketing strategy.

You can learn more about using LinkedIn to build your business in this SlideShare presentation. We also have an article about image optimization that will help your audience identify and connect with your business.
LinkedIn optimized image size

GOOGLE+

Most likely, the corporate marketing team at your franchisor will be managing Google+. However, with the roll-out of Google My Business and changes to Google Places, Google has made it is easier than ever to manage your own location (and is inherently encouraging local businesses to do this via the design of their apps).

The benefit of managing your Google+ presence is you can react and respond to customer reviews, as well as market to new customers searching for your business on Google.

If your location has not been claimed yet, you can set it up on the Google My Business and begin responding to customer reviews quickly!
google my business

4. Follow a calendar

To have a powerful impact with social media, you need to be consistently engaging your fans and followers — and you cannot effectively do this without a calendar to guide your efforts.

A social media content calendar will help you organize your posts by topic, time and network. Whether it’s a standard tweet or a Facebook post about a recent event, it is important to know when and what you are posting; it will also help you make sure your daily social media activities sync up with your overall marketing plans.

Social-Media-Content-Calendar

Getting started with your own calendar doesn’t have to be a huge project with a physical calendar and Post-Its everywhere – it can be as simple as downloading our social media calendar template.

5. Track engagement, analyze and improve

Whether you are forging ahead with your own social media strategy or working with your franchisor’s corporate marketing team, you should always track the engagement of your followers so you can learn what works and what doesn’t (nobody is perfect).

Track engagement by sitting down at the end of the week and counting up Likes, retweets and +’s — or use software, such as LocalCast’s Social Inbox that does this for you. You just need to be able to analyze the numbers.
Social-Media-Metrics

Tops social metrics to track are:

  • Engagement on posts: retweets, favorites, likes, shares, replies and comments
  • Top engagement times: what times do people engage the most on your social posts
  • Top engagement network: which network do you see the most engagement on
  • Sentiment: when you post a deal, a funny image or an inspiring quote, how do people react?

Once you track engagement, you can build and learn from it. Identify posts that receive the highest engagement so you can create similar content. When you see 11:00 am posts receive more engagement than 2:00 pm posts, reorganize your calendar to reflect the time that works better. If you see that you get more engagement on Twitter, focus more of your efforts on that network.


Conclusion

Get up-and-running on social media easily and effectively right from the start! From working with your franchisor’s corporate marketing team to tracking your results, your franchise social media strategy should seamlessly integrate into your overall marketing and business plan.

Make social media even easier by using our Social Inbox, which can help you streamline the actual execution of your posts. Not only does our Social Inbox give you the power to schedule social posts, it also provides you with a social to-do list that will prompt you to respond to unanswered messages and reviews. On top of all of that, the Social Inbox provides you with metrics that will help you track your activities, so you can see what works (and what doesn’t) over time.

What aspect of social media has been a challenge for your franchise? Let us know in the comments below!