Today, Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich PR presented an interesting question on the company blog, F.A.D.S. (the Fight Against Destructive Spin), “Should CEOs Spend Time On Social Networking?” Of course, always having to add my two cents, I responded accordingly.
“I would be surprised if any CEO of a publicly-traded company had a social media presence. The reason I say this is because of the SEC and FTC.
The SEC has certain rules about information being presented and disclosed to the public and the CEO would need to be extremely careful as to what he or she communicates, even through his or her own personal social networking efforts. From a liability standpoint, I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the potential downside.
With respect to the FTC, the issue here is the marketing message and how it can and may be perceived. Currently, the FTC is considering guidelines and rules about marketing messages being conveyed through social media. Again, as the leader of a public company, the CEO must tread carefully and, even in conveying a marketing message, must be very careful not to break any SEC rules. Again, the benefits need to be weighed against potential consequences.
All that being said, I stongly believe public companies should have a major presence in social media, including social networking, letting the marketing experts spearhead the activity and content. While doing so, I do believe the CEO could, and should, participate strategically with key, well-defined content, more to enhance the overall effort as opposed to being front and center.
Now the flipside, private companies. I do believe CEOs of private companies need to be as transparent as possible. They’re usually the vision and drive behind the company. His or her thoughts and statements lend a great deal of credibility to the company, which ultimately may be defining factors in a customer, client, vendor or partner doing business with the company.
Often, the CEO, “is” the company which why we see companies named after the Founder and CEO. Many times, the CEO is actually the “commodity” being sold by the company. This is especially true with professional organizations, consulting companies, etc.
Service and product driven companies are different as there are usually consumers or clients as end-users. As such, they rely on the “personal guarantees” of the CEO and that message usually needs to be promoted to drive business. I’m thinking along the lines of George Zimmer, CEO of Men’s Wearhouse.
When it’s all said and done, there are few, more efficient ways of promoting a business, large or small, than through social media, and social networking. The messages are concise and clear, and often present the human side of the business. And, clients and customers alike, feel more confident “knowing” the CEO and his or her thoughts, feeling more comfortable with their decision to do business with the company or organization.
Here’s a simple, yet totally unscientific rule of thumb: If a business needs to have the CEO’s personal guarantee on loans and lines of credit, then the CEO should be very active in social media and social networking activities. If the company can enter into loan and credit agreements without any personal guarantees, it’s best to leave the social media and social networking efforts to the marketing experts.”
Please note: CEOs of franchise organizations also need to be careful not to present inadvertent earnings claims in any social media activities.
Social media is exciting, and is finally being embraced by franchise organizations. Many are beginning to test the waters, albeit very cautiously. Some have been pleasantly surprised and wonder why they didn’t venture in this direction sooner. Others, have been quite confused but are reluctant to give up. Perhaps if they could quantify and analyze their efforts, they would be more confident in their efforts. But where do they start?
First, they must understand some key factors regarding the metrics of social media in order to be able to plug in numbers that make sense. Certain elements of social media metrics need to be defined, that may ultimately convince them and the rest of their management team, there is value in creating “noise” online.
So, let’s take a look at key social media metrics as the first step towards quantifying and analyzing social media efforts. Once understood, it will be easier to track trends and results.
Volume – The number of comments, blogs, posts, tweets, links, etc., about the brand, the competition, and the industry segment.
Sentiment – The positive, negative, or indifferent consumer reaction to the brand or a topic, which can be measured by text analytics and natural-language processing.
Emotion – The reasons that a consumer felt, good, bad, or indifferent that point how the company can resolve his / her problem or how the business can change and improve.
Topic / Issue – The context (e.g., product, customer service, advertising, competitor, etc.) in which the brand is being discussed. Nielsen’s Brand Association Map helps visually associate the relationship between terms; a Google AdWords keyword-expansion tool helps improve the relevancy of the company’s selections.
Source – Where the conversation is occurring (e.g., Twitter, blog, discussion board).
Author (Influencer) – The people talking about the brand and their social media impact (e.g. number of followers, readers, commenters).
Virality – The reach of the brand and relevant topics around the brand (e.g., how many people are reading, posting, linking, and sharing).
Source: Alex Burmaster, Nielsen Online
I believe the most common local marketing challenges in a franchise organization are the typical franchisee’s lack of marketing 101 skills, their inability to develop a defined marketing strategy, and certainly their inability to execute any marketing plan. However, let’s be fair. They may not have learned about marketing and marketing strategies.
Now, here’s something that franchisees do know something about, and that’s making things happen. Unfortunately, many franchisees don’t have the drive to do whatever it takes to make it happen as it sometimes means integrating their local marketing efforts with grassroots, guerilla, word-of-mouth, or as I like to refer to it as “get off your ass” marketing.
Many franchisees find it necessary to stand behind the counter and serve the customer when they would better serve the business by getting out from behind the counter and mingling with the customers, visiting other businesses, participating in community events, etc.
The major challenge is that most franchisees refuse to take this approach, feeling they’ve made a large investment and the business should come to them, or put the responsibility on the franchisor, or are just lazy and would rather wait for tomorrow. Well, as Garth Brooks sings, “if tomorrow never comes…” Instead, they need to make it happen today and forget tomorrow, as if there is no tomorrow!
I was recently asked to share my point of view on how a franchise brand can — or even should — wrest control of their brand on social media destinations when franchise holders have been early entrants.
Here are my initial thoughts:
As is typical in most franchise agreements, there’s most likely a clause regarding use of the brand name and trademark. It may need some interpretation to Web 2.0 usage, but there should be no problem applying the language in this regard. Also, online branding falls into marketing, and ultimately, advertising. I’m certain franchise agreements provide typical clauses that prohibit franchisees from utilizing non-authorized ads, etc.
All that being said, it’s always best to convince rather than demand. If the organization is large, it may be more effective to work through advertising cooperatives and franchisee advisory councils in pushing anything regarding social media. One strategy could see the franchisor contributing financially to a social media strategy. (Much cheaper than legal expense to enforce clauses in franchise agreement; not to mention “expense” of diminished morale) As incentive to initiate the same, franchisees would need to voluntarily relinquish their online identities so the parent company may establish one facebook page, one twitter id and one website.
I would recommend developing a template for franchisees to use that would piggyback off the national identity. For example, if corporate identity is Zippy Lube, the franchisee could use Zippy Lube NY or Zippy Lube NY 101 or Zippy Lube Jamaica NY and so on. Each franchisee could have their own web page linked to company website. It’s important to maintain uniformity and a sense of organization when attached to company brand or when linked together.
Please share your thoughts below. Thank you.
Recently, in one of the franchise groups on LinkedIn, there was some discussion about the Wall Street Journal article, “Franchise Sales Pull Back During the Recession.” Several franchise professionals posted their comments and, of course, I added my “two cents” as well. Okay, I was definitely long-winded compared to the others, but as most of you who read my articles are well aware, I have a passion for franchising and franchise success and tend to go on and on to share the same with all who will “listen.”
“I too, believe there are many well-qualified candidates exploring franchising. Some as a career alternative, and also, in the case of already being a small busines owner, as a business expansion strategy and/or an income diversification plan.
No doubt, the number of overall franchise leads has diminished quite a bit. But I believe many of the “tire kickers” have gone by the wayside while the more qualified candidates continue to search, inquire and ultimately decide franchising is right for them to achieve their goals and objectives. However, in order to fully realize this trend, one must realize that the candidates’ approach has evolved.
Today’s qualified franchise candidate is more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced than we have ever seen before. Add to the mix, a sense of extreme caution, and their process in exploring franchising and specifc franchise opportunities has become more of a detailed, well-thought out strategy.
Always understanding that there is risk in any entrepreneurial endeavor, today’s candidates explore franchising because it may provide even the slightest edge against failure. Their mantra has become, “failure is not an option” and they now live it by doing everything humanly possible to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then rechecking only to do it over and over again until they have full, complete confidence in their decision.
To that end, the overall process from initial inquiry to franchise award is much longer than in years’ past and that is something franchisors must be prepared to effectively handle. It’s a primary reason I believe social media works so well in the new era of franchise sales as it creates an environment for today’s candidates to research organizations, share information, communicate with individuals at all levels of the franchise organization from franchisees to corporate executives, view photos, audio and video, etc. And, they can do so at their own pace and to their full understanding. That is the key.
Understanding and adapting to today’s qualified franchise candidate will help franchisors ride out this current economic downturn. Putting their heads in the sand and just complaining about the poor economy and the franchise candidate pool drying up will only incorrectly prove true that their negative thoughts are correct.
All that being said, certainly there are challenges in securing financing and other variables that must be contended with and addressed accordingly. But as the franchise candidate pool diminishes and many of the tire kickers aren’t around to waste our time, we should now have more time to explore all options, use our creativity and innovation, network beyond our comfort zones and seek out alternative solutions. I believe those solutions are out there and many are capitalizing on them as we speak. They will not only survive, they will thrive as others have done in other recessionary periods.”
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