Social media can be a difficult enough thing for a small business owner or even a large corporation when there is only one centralized account on each social media network for the company. When franchises are added into the mix, extra considerations and policies need to be outlined to ensure that your brand keeps a consistent voice across channels and locations.
Pieces or a Whole?
For businesses with thousands of locations, a centralized strategy is usually the best course of action. McDonald's is a good example of centralized social media control with local accessibility. Their Facebook page includes a tab where you can enter your zip code and see any local deals or information pertaining to you, so the consumer gets local content from a central office.
If your business has between two and two hundred franchise locations, then how much control over content you relinquish to each location is up to you. You need to consider the time and expense factors for each location to staff a social media manager. There are three primary setups for a franchisor to establish social media accounts for franchisees.
1. Total central control
2. Location gives input with central approval
3. Location has control within guidelines
Deciding which way you will go on this is up to your businesses' model, needs, clientele, and structure. There is no cookie-cutter approach, so you can decide for yourself what will work best for your business.
Set Guidelines Up Front
You need to establish a policy manual for social media before you ever set up your first Twitter account of Facebook page. If you are in an industry that is regulated in relation to social media, then you will have to comply with those regulations as well as your own policies.
Once you have established the policy manual for your company's social media use, then you can weigh those policies against central and local control of accounts to see which fits you best. Once decided, you may need to alter the policy manual to reflect the decision and its ramifications.
Actually putting the policies and the local-central structure you decide on is where things can get difficult. Any business should invest in good social media management software to ease both the setup and the ongoing management of their accounts, in order to save time and money. Sendible's dashboard includes features that specifically help in these situations, allowing central locations to publish content for multiple locations using placeholder merge tags that populate with relevant local content for each location once sent. It also allows for central approval of locally generated content before publishing, as well as providing reports that can be generated by location, company-wide, or a mixture.
Franchisors have come from behind the pack a few short years ago to fully embracing social media as a marketing platform, and it's paying off. One restaurant found that by offering a last minute deal they could add 20-40 tables in a week. In 2012, a 40 unit pizza franchise in Wisconsin decided to start Facebook offers on Tuesdays, which was their worst business day. Some locations saw up to 70 redemptions in a single day.
It's not impossible to manage social media with many franchise locations as long as you stick to a few rules: make the policy first, decide where control of the accounts lies, and use good software to setup your social media flow.
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