Winning at Social Media in Franchising: A Blended Approach
Winning at Social Media in Franchising: A Blended Approach

Experts suggest providing franchisees with a roadmap for success and the freedom to add local flavor

The beauty of the franchise model is that it provides a roadmap for franchisees to run a successful business while granting them the freedom to build upon and personalize their businesses. One aspect of franchising that is top of mind in the industry is how franchisors should approach social media within their franchise system. Should a franchisor keep complete control to ensure adherence to brand standards? Or should the franchisor grant control to the franchisee to manage the social media footprint for their individual location?

Most experts say that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to social media in franchising but point to a blended approach as a starting point. One such expert, Deb Evans, a franchise coach and consultant, who has been both on both the franchisee and franchisor side, points out the positives in a model where the franchisor creates social media content for the system, but gives franchisees the freedom to add to it as they see fit.

“The blended approach really works for franchise brands,” Evans said. “If you have a franchisee that isn’t a good marketer, the content is available for them to use. At the same time, corporate doesn’t always know about local events -- the franchisee can add that extra local flair to it that corporate never could.”

What Evans touches on is a cornerstone of social media: authenticity. Franchise brands sometimes get saddled with the reputation of being corporate entities, but in reality, franchise locations are owned by members of the community, just like any other small business. When a franchisor keeps social media under their control, the channels lose that authenticity that only someone on the local level can add.

To strike a balance between maintaining brand standards and authentic local content, Evans suggests that franchisors create a playbook or resource guide that lays out all the policies, approved hashtags and verbiage.

Michael Mohammed, CEO of Chronic Tacos, a 40-unit, California-inspired, fast casual Mexican grill franchise, agrees, adding that solid social media marketing starts on the franchisor level. “Consistency is key. The strongest brands on social media are the ones with consistent tones brand-wide. Having clear ‘dos and don’ts’ for social media is imperative for franchisees to still have creative freedom while staying on-brand. Franchisees will look to the brand’s social media for examples of content and brand voice. Having content available for the franchisees to share gives them the confidence they need to begin their social journey.”

After providing franchisees with the tools and roadmap for success, Evans suggests franchisees learn by doing.

“Once the franchisee has access to the guidebook and is trained properly, they should be let loose to try it. They’re not going to kill the brand. With social media, corporate can monitor it closely and always take a post down if it falls outside of standards,” Evans said.

Successful social media practices don’t stop after the guidebook is finished. Simone L. Kelly, President and Founder of Grasons Co. Estate Sale Services, encourages continued education among its 15 franchisees and utilizes a company intranet, video conferencing and Facebook groups to do so.

“We coordinate all of these efforts in our quarterly meetings. We often do video conferences and we have a Facebook Exclusives group – where we group all of our franchisees,” Kelly said. “This is another hub where we talk about market changes, changes in legislation, industry news, new marketing solutions, acquiring new business and more. For the most part, franchisees operate on their own and set up their own sales --- we simply provide the resources to keep them on top of their game.”

Regardless of the size of the brand and the marketing acumen of its franchisees, franchisors should develop a solid social media strategy and resource guide for the system. This creates unity across franchisees, helps to ensure adherence to brand standards and provides a solid baseline and educational path for franchisees to build on.