I posted this question across various Linkedin Franchise Groups, Social Media and E-marketing groups, and within the LinkedIn Q & A section.
Of course, I shared my initial thoughts…
“In my opinion, there is no such thing as a social media expert. How can one be an expert within something that is changing every day?
Besides, social media is a communications tool and as such, must be integrated within traditional processes and methods. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. At best, an individual can be considered an expert in utilizing social media within a specific industry segment or for a particular purpose (ie – fund raising).”
…and also provided some additional clarification.
“I do profess to be quite proficient in franchising and I just happen to have focused my attention on utilizing social media within the franchise environment.
To me, while it’s important to continue to hone my skills within social media, my real focus, and expertise if you will, is in integrating social technology within traditional marketing and development processes within franchising, and in accordance with the legal parameters of franchising including disclosure and FPRs, and in keeping the franchise relationship in mind.
The same can be said of email and mobile technology. The key is in how these technologies can be integrated within traditional processes, and sometimes with each other, to enhance messages, improve reach, and increase marketing efficiencies… and within franchising.”
Care to share your thoughts?
Social Media has definitely gone mainstream and many franchise organizations have embraced it for a variety of reasons. Some are utilizing it to create or improve brand awareness. Others are using it to drive business to franchise locations and/or to create interest in their franchise opportunity. And many have embraced it just because they believe they must, or feel they may miss the proverbial boat.
In any event, there are questions that franchise executives should be realistic about in answering as they continue their social media efforts and work towards effectively integrating the same with traditional marketing.
* What are the objectives for using social media within our franchise system?
* Has a comprehensive social media strategy been developed consistent with our goals?
* Are our social media efforts integrated with our overall marketing strategy?
* Are our social media efforts specifically targeted for optimum effectiveness?
* Are we effective in our social media efforts?
* What are our bottom line results?
Although all six questions listed above are important in evaluating your social media strategy and efforts, the last two questions may be the most important. Truly knowing and understanding the level of effectiveness of your social media efforts, and it’s affect on your bottom line, is essential to achieving your franchise marketing and development goals and objectives.
This is the last segment in the Franchise Social Media series leading up to our upcoming Webinar, Franchise Social Media – Beyond the Basics, and addresses the last step in franchisEssentials e-IDEA, Analyze.
Certainly, metrics are important in gauging the effectiveness of any online strategy. And, it’s vitally important to analyze and quantify results on a regular basis. However, the key metrics are actually simpler than that of algorithms, click-through rates, and impressions. It’s what I refer to as a Social Media P&L.
This P&L takes the objectives, expectations and desired results, as established in earlier planning stages, and quantifies them into hard numbers. Then, these numbers are analyzed against actual results. This should be done weekly, monthly and quarterly in order to view development and progression of trends which then creates the opportunity to tweak and revise the plan much like turning a ship at sea. As you know, turning a ship at sea is done in a very slow, deliberate manner as a quick turn could easily capsize the vessel.
Ultimately, the results achieved within the plan must line up with the initial objectives of getting involved in social media in the first place. Therefore, it’s imperative the initial planning stages include specifying desired results and defined numbers. It’s not enough to just say, “We want to increase business and franchise sales.” Well, how much of sales increase? And, where? What particular market(s)? Over what period of time? And, for franchise sales purposes the same holds true but from its’ own unique perspective.
Keep in mind the operational aspect that needs to be considered in the process, and in evaluating plan effectiveness. It’s not uncommon to drive leads to franchise locations and to franchise sales departments, only to result in poor conversion rates. Obviously, the poor results in this situation are not the result of a poor social media plan as much as it stems from a poor sales effort. It is essential to take into consideration all aspects of daily operations, at the appropriate levels of the organization. It’s imperative the information pulled from these various levels be accurate and timely to accurately evaluate potential issues, and to be able to quickly resolve problems.
Erik Qualman, Author of Socialnomics and the person behind the infamous Social Media Revolutions videos states that Social Media ROI is still being in business five years from now. A powerful statement, indeed! But one that I highly value and believe in as social media continues to gain momentum and becomes even more valuable, and essential, than it is today.
Expanding social media beyond its basic elements and utilizing it with specific intent and purpose can prove quite effective in generating multiple benefits at all levels of a franchise organization including increasing traffic at the unit level, creating brand awareness, generating interest in franchise opportunity and improving communications throughout the system. Understanding how social media need to operate in a franchise environment is critical to future success, and a primary reason for referring to it as Franchise Social Media, complete with functionality unique to franchising.
Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, April 20th at 12 PM CDT, for our complimentary webinar, Franchise Social Media – Beyond the Basics.
Today in the third segment leading into the Franchise Social Media – Beyond the Basics webinar, we’ll discuss the next steps in the franchisEssentials e-IDEA concept, Develop and Execute.
The results of the two previous stages provide the foundation for which the Franchise Social Media strategy should be built. Without the proper foundation, the strategy structure would be flat, lineal and two-dimensional. With a firm, well-defined foundation, the strategy will rise to a cross-platform, multi-tiered structure with communications lines running across the structure, to and from different points.
Basically, it can be looked at as the difference between a simple tic-tac-toe diagram drawn on a piece of paper, to a Rubik’s Cube that has many sides and angles, and is three-dimensional. Taking it a step further, when attempting to solve the tic-tac-toe challenge, there are only a handful of options before success or failure is imminent. Not so with a Rubik’s Cube as there are many, many options to succeed. In fact, the only way to fail at solving the Rubik’s Cube challenge is to give up and stop trying.
The Develop stage must address key components to the program including resources available AND dedicated to the effort. Resources include both human and financial resources. As social media has no time limitation or barrier, it can be considered a 24/7 plan of managing and monitoring. The various defined objectives must overlap for the three-dimensional structure to remain upright. The strategy must resemble blueprints similar to those developed when building an office building complete with common infrastructure and utilities, but where various floors will be designed for different tasks, and will be occupied by different people.
An effective Franchise Social Media strategy has some commonality built into it through the use of the basic social media channels. However, it should never be considered a one-size-fits-all solution as there are just too many variables from one franchise organization to another. These variables must be individually addressed and include, but are not limited to franchisees already using social media, percentage of effort to be dedicated to consumer proposition and lead development, coordination of timed events, content development for daily activity, responsibility for response both at the franchisee and franchisor levels and timeliness of the same, and transition from the virtual to the real world whether it be at the unit level face-to-face with customers, or within the franchise sales process with a candidate.
Development of the Franchise Social Media strategy is not much different than the development of an operation manual for a franchise system. It must be thought-out and planned for every aspect of the business at-hand. It must be comprehensive to handle the “what ifs?” It must be well-defined to work seamlessly from one individual to another. From 30,000 feet it could look not much different than a franchise system.
Now, the fun part kicks in and execution of plan is put into action. If the strategy is well-developed and communicated throughout the organization, including to and with franchisees, execution of plan should run smoothly, and should actually be an enjoyable experience. The strategy, defined in a living document, must be in the hands of all involved in the effort. Guidelines must be followed for optimum results. Policies and procedures must be in place for reference as needed.
The key to executing the plan lies within engagement and monitoring. It’s imperative to share content and information that is pertinent and relevant to the target audience. That does not, and should not mean the constant regurgitation of brand messages. The opposite is actually more effective and will actually attract and retain individuals within the online community. Many will return again and again seeking new information. If done effectively, the online community becomes a portal of sorts with followers returning almost daily for new information they may be able use that day.
From a lead generation standpoint it’s imperative to share information beyond the brand message and certainly of the franchise opportunity itself. Information pertaining to entrepreneurship and small business ownership along with links to articles about transitioning executives, establishing goals and objectives, family role in business ownership, and small business finance are popular topics. Sharing this type of information with occasional posts about the brand and franchise ownership will keep this target audience returning day after day, looking forward to new information that will assist them in achieving their goals and objectives. As a valuable resource, a relationship begins to form; a key component of the franchise sales process.
Monitoring the activity is vital to further developing the relationship regardless of whether it’s with consumers or candidates. Timely response to questions and comments go a long way in common courtesy. More importantly, interacting when the consumer or candidate is “hot” typically spurs conversation. It’s that conversation that establishes the personal interaction that potentially moves the process along. It’s the backbone of the “people buy from people” theory. It’s also at this point where the virtual to in-person transition begins to happen. It’s also where the relationship is most prone to unravel.
It is essential that front-line staff and franchise sales personnel fully understand and are aware of the information being shared with consumers and candidates alike. They should also be aware of online activity, especially the activity leading towards “buying” activity. As the transition to the in-person setting, which includes a visit to a franchise location and a telephone call with a franchise sales representative, the professionalism established online must continue. The online message must be consistent and continue to be conveyed.
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