According to comScore’s Local Search Usage Study, (as reported by Clickz) “69% of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information on a social networking site.” 22% contacted a business after finding them on a social network and 67% of those consumers went on to make a purchase.
So why are local businesses lagging when it comes to social media? Much of the problem comes from the brand name itself. Twitter, Facebook and all the rest only allow one account per name. That means that if there’s already a Snap-On fan page from the corporate office, the local dealer has to name his fan page something else. There are a variety of obvious combinations but after the top ten, it gets sticky, especially on Twitter where you’re limited to a short character count.
To solve this problem, Facebook would have to allow for child pages. Franchise owners would each own a page listed under the main corporate page. Then, when the consumer searches for their local dealer, all they have to do is start at the brand name and then chose their town from a list.
The second problem with local affiliate social media accounts is one of branding. Most franchised entities work very hard at keeping a certain standard at all their locations. Signage, colors, logos are all handed down from the corporate office but controlling what a franchise owner says on a Twitter account is near impossible. For this reason, I wonder if corporations encourage or discourage social media use among their dealers and franchise owners.
Search Avon on Facebook and you get interesting results. Their main brand page shows up near the bottom of the search results. The top results go to a Spanish site, a local owner and several accounts that have been abandoned. There’s no way to tell though, until you click through. After three clicks, I would have given up the search.
Brand names need to help their local dealers get on the ball with social media. They should set up a standard for account naming that includes the nearest big city to help direct customers and content from the main brand site should be shared with all of the local accounts. Accounts that aren’t active should be removed because the lack of upkeep reflects poorly on the parent company.
Statistics say that social media can be a worthwhile means of generating leads, increasing sales and creating a two-way dialogue with customers. Still, not all franchise companies are ready to hand over the username and passcode to their partners. In February of this year, Franchise.org talked with a franchise compliance director who had a dim view of social media.
“All of our research indicates that, so far, the actual return on investment for companies that do social media networking has been very low to zero. Moreover, we have learned that especially in service-based systems, when you allow franchisees to use “easier” ways to market, the more traditional, and more effective, face-to-face marketing suffers.”
The fact that he refers to social media marketing as “easier” tells me he hasn’t been doing it right, and that, I suspect, is why his ROI has been so low.
Do you have experience with franchising and social media? We’d like to hear about it.