The Best Social Media Tools and Practices for Franchises
By, Andre Kay
As social media engagement and practices become more of a requirement for franchises, it's now more important than ever for franchise owners to adapt to the social media and location-based platforms, where their consumers are already creating conversations. The majority of locally owned franchises still don't know which platform would be most engaging and measurable, or which will justify the cost for taking the leap into social media.
So where are these conversations taking place? Facebook has over 500 million users; Twitter has 150 million, and Foursquare has 8 million. But those are just the main stream platforms, I thought I’d share a list of 5 platforms that local franchise owners can use to build their social media presence, engage their customers and grow their social media communities:
1) Facebook- According to a recent study released in January 2011 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, 71% of companies in the U.S used Facebook as a marketing tool in 2010, up from 61% in 2009, with only 9% of those being Restaurants and Franchises, which leads us to the first platform:
Facebook Places; As defined by Facebook, "Places is a Facebook feature that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location in the real world. When you use Places, you'll be able to see if any of your friends are currently checked in nearby and connect with them easily. You can check into nearby Places to tell your friends where you are, tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about the Places you visit. Use Places to experience connecting with people on Facebook in a completely new way."
But what does this mean for franchises, and why should you care? Simple. Having a Facebook Places page, (NOT to be confused with a regular Facebook fan page) will give you access to free word of mouth marketing of geographically targeted existing and new customers. When a customer checks-in via Facebook Places while visiting your establishment, the indication of that check-in will appear on your Place page, their friends' News Feed and their Wall. This will also be visible to their friends nearby, which will, in turn, drive more people through your doors. You can also up the ante by launching a Facebook deal on your places page. Deals gives your franchise the opportunity to reward customers when they check in on Facebook, and this helps generate awareness, encourage in-store traffic and build customer loyalty. Deals connects businesses with people and helps them become an even larger part of their customers’ conversations, as explained by Facebook.
2) Twitter- Also according to the recent study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, Only 59% of companies in the U.S used Twitter as a marketing tool in 2010, with only a fraction of that percentage being actual locally owned franchises.
Twitter, being not even close to the community size of Facebook, can still be as effective. Just keep these 3 critical rules in mind when launching a Twitter presence for your franchise:
I) The 80/20 Rule - It is very important to follow this rule. Tweeting is easier said than done, but when done correctly and consistently, you can create lifetime customers who will follow your brand and freely share your message with their friends. Now to start with the "80", tweeting consistently is not rocket science, so when you're updating your franchises' Twitter page, remember to focus on keeping your customers engaged. 80% of the your tweets should be about facts, menu, community information, current events, customer stories, tips, and tweets that your consumers find important and not intrusive. Now for the 20% rule, which we call the "Money Tweets", these tweets should be about your daily deals, specials, contest, and giveaways.
II) Listen - This is evenly as important as the 80/20 rule. Pay attention to what your customers are saying and genuinely respond if there are any complaints, or problems, and solve them immediately. You can also use it to retweet great things your customers are saying about you, for your other customers to see Twitter can serve as a medium to effectively enhance your customer service, so use it to your advantage and listen, listen, listen.
III) Engage - Your customers are already talking about you, it's your job to join in on the conversation. Use contests, trivia, and polls to create engagement, interaction and most importantly, to reward your customers.
3) Foursquare- Having a community of only 8 million members, Foursquare still accounts for 5% of the tools businesses use as a part of their social media strategy, with 75% of businesses viewing it as successful. Franchises use this to attract new customers or reward the loyal ones by offering Foursquare specials, such as mobile coupons, prizes or discounts, which are presented to users when they check in at their establishment.
Foursquare is what we refer to as a 'location-based social network.' As with Twitter and Facebook Places, the conversation has already started, because your customers are already checking in your establishment, even before you claim it. So it's important that you join in on the conversation, create specials and reward your customers.
4) Google Places - This is probably one the most powerful social platform, out of the 5 listed here. When a customer finds you on Google Places, its because they are searching for you, your products, your services or competitor. "More of your customers search for your business on Google than anywhere else, so it's important to make sure your business listing is up to date and can be easily found on Google.com", according to Google.
Google also make it easy to enhance your Google Places and overall online presence with Google Tags and Google Boost. Tag is used to promote your specials, while boost enable you to create online search ads from directly within your Google Places account. These ads will appear in the 'sponsored links' section of Google.com and in the maps.google.com results page. When these two products combined along with a creative campaign, the sky is the limit to the effectiveness, reach and return on the investment of your Google Places social media strategies.
5) Groupon - A collective buying Daily Deal platform. Each day, Groupon features an unbeatable deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in a particular city. Groupon is best when used to create a quick boost of consumers walking through your doors. Still many local franchises are scared to do it or if they do it, they don't completely understand it. What happens after the Groupon is sold is the most important aspect of the entire campaign. How do you keep those customers coming back and most importantly how do you connect with them after they leave your establishment? The answer is simple, put together an up-sell strategy and a retention plan. This can be anything from capturing data via a loyalty program, a mobile campaign , or even rewarding your Groupon customers for joining your Facebook Places page or Twitter account.
The social platforms listed above sound easy to execute, and sometimes they are. But if done incorrectly, it could backfire. Unlike other mediums, you do not need millions of dollars to execute a successful social media campaign and strategy. But, to stay above your competitors and stand out amongst all the social noise, always seek consultation from a professional social media marketing, management and advertising company. This will help you through the process of executing a dynamic social media plan, strategy and campaign, which will effectively build, engage and grow your social media presence and community.
About the Author
Andre Kay is the Ceo/Cmo for Sociallybuzz, Inc, which provides social media management, marketing, fan page management, event online digital marketing, and social media consultation. Sociallybuzz is designed to help all companies, brands and businesses with simple or advance social media development and marketing while delivering businesses and brands the greatest number of options in how they define and reach their relevant audiences. Kay is also the co-founder and Vice President of Go Media Marketing, Corp (GMM). http://www.sociallybuzz.com/