In today’s digital marketing world, whether or not a franchise business should have a social media presence is not the question … they should. The real question is should a franchise company corporately control every aspect of social media marketing or give freedom to their franchisees to participate in social media at the local level?

Actually, there is no definitive answer as every business is different and leadership teams have varying opinions on social media strategies. Franchise companies of both persuasions are effectively using social media for brand management and franchise development.

Based on our work with franchisors, we’ll play devil’s advocate and give you some serious food for thought on this important issue.

Corporate-controlled Social Media Best Protects the Brand
  • With corporate controlling all social media engagement, there will be a consistency in brand messaging and voice across all chosen social networks to defined target audiences. Who better knows the business and the desired brand image than the founder or CEO?
  • For some franchises, the number of franchisees is too great to be able to monitor all engagements if franchisees are free to manage their own social media accounts. The likelihood of damaging content or embarrassing exposure is heightened by virtue of the numbers of unregulated posts.
  • Corporate’s customer service department can best address and answer any negative customer communications and most quickly resolve problems.
  • Franchisees may end up promoting outside their territories, and encroaching upon another franchisee’s customer base.
  • Franchisees are not trained in social media practices and there is often no official training program specifically for social media.
  • Not all franchisees are interested in social media. With only some franchisees participating, it could create unrealized customer expectations, e.g., “Why isn’t my location online / mobile / interactive as well?”
  • Corporate can manage pages on Facebook or Twitter accounts for each franchisee ensuring that all campaigns and promotions get equal distribution to all locations.
  • Franchisees are encouraged to provide feedback and ideas for social media engagement so they are contributors to the overall strategy.
Franchisees are Up Close and Personal with Their Customers
  • By having daily interaction with local customers, franchisees are in a better position to quickly identify trends and changes in customer tastes, preferences and attitudes.
  • Franchisees are most likely using social media in their personal lives so it’s not really uncharted territory. Corporate training in acceptable and approved social media use will minimize any faux pas.
  • Franchisees connecting online and in-person help build emotional connections and trust with the brand, putting a friendly face on your product or service.
  • Local interaction can help fuel the overall company’s user generated content as individual franchisees contribute customer comments, pictures and testimonials that would be missed by just having a corporate social presence.
  • Franchisees help expand the company-wide consumer base by developing their local audiences.
  • Franchisees around the country can initiate discounts, contests, etc. that resonate with their local markets, not necessarily what would work as a company-wide appeal. Niche audiences can grow from localized shared interests and values.
  • Quick action can prevent a disgruntled consumer from possibly going viral with their complaint. Following corporate protocol, franchisees can defuse customer service issues on the spot.
  • Franchisees are already heavily invested in the brand and will generally take great care to protect the brand integrity since that is what directly fuels their business growth.
Quick Look at Social Media Best Practices
  • Establish prescribed guidelines for what is and is not appropriate with social media.
  • Consistently post fresh, engaging content.
  • Stay true to your brand message across all platforms.
  • Monitor activity and respond quickly to comments/interactions.
  • Collect data and analytics to prove ROI and validate your best social channels.
Does your franchise weigh in on the side of corporate control or franchisee freedom?