For franchisors and franchisees social media is a double-edged sword. It’s something of a mixed blessing at best and for many, arguably, a complete irritation and distraction.
A significant issue is that neither franchisors or franchisees signed up to be social media users or experts
Franchisors have built proven, profitable and replicable systems. Franchisees have invested into following those systems. The ‘sun shines’ on all involved when the franchisor’s system is robust, and the franchisees follow the system enthusiastically and effectively. This is the presumption on which franchising is built. A weakness may found where there is a presumption that the past will always effectively ‘echo’ into the future.
Social Media is here and now. There is no past practice to easily formulate for replication
Social media is such a big challenge as it does not fit easily into replication of what has been done successfully in the past. It does not sit still. It is everywhere. It cannot be easily controlled. Most concerningly, it is being used in a way that is starting to influence buyers. This means that where there is no plan for leading and engagement in the social media space, the brand and its franchisees are at risk.
Control in the buying process is increasingly a buyer led activity at the pre-commitment stages
The challenge is made even more difficult as the franchisor has not, until now, been able to easily support franchisees in what they say, how they say it or where they should publish to social media.
That is why we have taken action. We have built socialHANDLER
So, what is socialHANDLER and how does it help franchisors and franchisees?
socialHANDLER enables the head office digital manager to create and share social media content to all franchisee offices at the click of a button, for each franchisee to use locally.
The idea is to empower head office to create and share social media content for all the network, so each franchisee can publish with confidence to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The result is to free up franchisees to focus time on client building. To provide all with consistent publishing and greater peace of mind.
Local offices can also build their own content and publish through socialHANDLER via head office permissions. This means that the brand voice can be built consistently across all territories with local permissions in place.
The key is to act now!
Every franchisor should act to have a social media content plan in place. The plan should be director and mentor led. It should clearly align to brand values and commercial objectives. The plan must be clear, manageable and measurable.
Danger! Where there is a lack of understanding there is a leadership void. This results in one of the following social media scenarios:
1. Doing nothing
2. Gagging franchisees and staff at head office
3. Outsourcing to an agency
4. Bringing in a ‘young bright spark’ to control what is not understood
The result of the above four options are loss of:
Part of the challenge is generational. Franchising is traditionally a middle life arena
This means that social media has arrived without our permission. Like it or not social media use and online behaviour are disrupting businesses. So what is going on?
Historically brands have owned their own media presence and voice. Adverts were carefully crafted by skilled marketers are strategically placed into printed and, from the turn of the century, online publications.
Social media is significant as it has made everybody that owns a smart phone, table and PC a publisher. Today that is you, me and everyone.
So what is the upshot of us all being publishers?
Word of mouth has now gone into the internet. What we like, dislike, agree with or object to is now visible online. It can be found and used to assess brands at any stage in the buying process. This affects franchising on multiple levels.
1. Brand promises, and client experiences, can now both be found on the internet
2. The brand and its franchisees are being judged by comments that the brand cannot control
3. Brand values are increasing co-owned by the brand and its clients
The Zero Moment
In 2011 Jim Lecinski, then a VP of sales at Google, came up with a concept called the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT. So what is ZMOT and why is it important in franchising?
Traditionally buyers have gone to adverting to find brands, products and services. From there buyers were expected to make direct contact with the seller via the contact forms, phone numbers, email address or location address provided.
The zero moment is the time when potential clients access the online comments published by existing clients before making contact with the business. This is impacting franchise recruitment and local sales.
So why is this?
Every potential client and franchisee want to have evidence of success and happy clients. Increasingly evidence of this success, or lack of it, is being search for and used by potential franchisees and local clients. What they find influences their decision to proceed to the next step or not.
So what does the franchisor and franchisee need to do now?
• Get your franchisees onboard with on brand well created content.
• Put together a process for collecting client ratings and testimonials that can be published and found online.
• Make it simple for franchisees and clients to understand what to do to take action.
• Make sure you point people to the website(s) where you and your franchisees collect comments and validation.
And finally, by being proactive the franchisor can lead the conversation. By doing nothing or not having a clear plan leads will start to reduce, and sales become harder to find. Again, act now to mend this chink in your franchise armour for the benefit of all that care and depend upon your brand.