Posted October 22, 2010 10:00 am by with 11 comments

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Over the years, my husband has spent thousands of dollars on tools from Snap-on, but his connection to the company was always through a local franchise owner and not with the corporate office. But if you look for Snap-on on Facebook, you’ll find only a few dealers have pages. Of those, most are out of date and one is friends locked. That’s no way to do business.

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, 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.

  • Cynthia,

    I wasn’t aware this problem existed, but reading this post definetly gets me thinking about the constraints local franchises have.

    I think the immediate change that corporate brands can make is to utilize hyper-local blogs for each of the franchises.

    This way each franchise can place all the contact information, price guides etc – Best of all, this is only a click or two away from the corporate bliog.

    I think when dealing with the creation of franchise accounts on Twitter and Facebook, it is all about how much investment each company is willing to put into to help setup these accounts.

    Will they leave the franchises to do this themselves, or will they train them to corporate standards and create specific guidelines on how to run their social media accounts.

  • YES! Twitter (as well as Facebook and LinkedIn) have to do a better job of allowing businesses to set up a profile that multiple employees (or, in this case, franchisees) can be associated with. The problem that franchisees are facing is a perfect illustration of the problem. I’ve often wanted to connect with a franchisor, but was unable to discern what profile was appropriate.

  • Ally Moore

    It’s funny that you mention searching for “Avon” on Facebook. I actually did that when in search for some Skin So Soft and was so quickly turned off by the confusion that I just went to the store and bought a different product instead. It is vital now a days for businesses to market themselves and create their brand using social media, but people tend to either over do it where it becomes more of an advertising nuisance, or they simply don’t know how to use the sites and they don’t offer enough useful info. I personally think interactive is always best, with plenty of hard facts. I read a nice article about the development of social media that I think explains the transition to this point very well. I will post the link, but great article. – Ally

    • Cynthia

      Avon really surprised me since they fit into the whole Mommy Blogger trend, you’d think they’d be on top of social media, but it’s a real mess.

      The more I looked into this, the more it seemed that the brands weren’t interested in helping their franchise partners get ahead. How insane is that?

  • Cynthia makes some great points. Facebook and Twitter are still in their infancy for business. I can envision a day when they break out and allow a tree structure as Cynthia described that might look somewhat like that used by Craigslist that has country, states and major cities available.

    Balihoo is in the business of helping franchises market and one of our recent efforts along the lines of this discussion is a system of microsites for a brand and all its resellers or franchisees. If you can imagine, a local franchisee gets a nationally branded site and designated control over the elements that need to be localized (the contact info, choice of local offers, local product imagery). So far, it has been a well-received solution to the challenge Cynthia described. We also provide branding tools so a national or local marketer can create Twitter, and Facebook pages to match their microsite, as well as all other branded pieces across 15 different mediums. That takes care of brand control wishes of the national corporation and allows the marketer to create consistent touch points wherever the consumer is.


  • Lorri Wyndham

    As the Operations Manager for COMPUTER EXPLORERS a home-based franchise, I have been trying to get franchisees on board with social media for quite some time now.
    Some have been quick to catch on and are tweeting away, some even using Foursquare to find new local clients. These same few have started blogging using the platform available on their local websites.
    Most Franchisees will tell you that time is the biggest obstacle in adding social media to their marketing efforts. To overcome this, many have joined together with other local franchisees on Facebook and have started regional pages. Currently we have COMPUTER EXPLORERS of North Carolina and COMPUTER EXPLORERS of Chicagoland. The New Jersey Franchisees will be banding together soon.
    As far as letting go of control from a corporate stand point, Franchisees are trained in appropriate logo usage, as well as what the overall mission and vision for the brand. As a corporate team we guide and monitor franchisee efforts, the marketing world is growing/changing and it is our job to support the franchisees in the use of any tools that will help them to grow their businesses.

    • Hey Lorri! I like the idea of franchisees banding together to create/manage a regional social media presence. I’m curious, what’s the top objectives that franchisees have with social media? Does that vary, or at corporate do you set some of objectives for franchisees to reach (i.e. increase “Likes”, distribute certain content, drive traffic to the corporate website, fill out a form, etc.)?

      For anyone else reading, the CEO of Computer Explorers is very progressive when it comes to embracing social media, and co-hosts a great weekly radio show called “Social Geek Radio” with BJ Emerson (Tasti D Lite) – Definitely worth checking out for those interested in the intersection of social media and franchising.

  • I think Josh has a really important point. You need to get blogging and focused on your niche to bring in the traffic and leads to your personal website and stores.

    Social Media is making an impact on business revenue, but only when you put in some work and do it right.

    Two quick pieces on how to do this effectively:

  • Hi Cynthia,

    Nice job on this post. you’re correct; local franchisee social media marketing is still pretty weak.

    There are a couple of great examples, like the franchise owner in Chicago who crushes it. I met that franchise owner (Ramon DeLeon) over at Blogworld, last week.

    He gets it.

    As for Snap-On, because of the business model, (in which the franchisee is the guy or gal doing all the work), it would be pretty tough for them to get on Twitter during the day. That’s their money time.

    But, there are ways to automate some Tweets etc.

    Also, companies like Balihoo, do a nice job helping franchisors automate their local marketing efforts.

    It’s not about the money, as much as it is about the time needed to do social media right.

    The Franchise King®

  • Great post Cynthia! I actually delved into this exact topic several months ago while writing a white paper on how franchises are leveraging social media. From my standpoint and after all of my research, there are a few critical things most (not all!) franchisors are missing when it comes to adopting social media and properly using it to help address business objectives:

    1. They don’t get it and don’t care to learn
    You can’t just throw up a Facebook page, create a Twitter account, check “Social Media” off your list and sit back waiting for leads to come in. Franchisors would be prudent to look within their organizations, find people who are embracing social media, and work with them to understand the platforms, trends, best practices, successful business case studies, and available tools for managing and tracking as the first step. This exercise will open their minds to why consumers have adopted social media so massively, and how businesses are taking advantage of the marketing opportunity to produce tangible results.

    2. They don’t have a strategy
    This is slowly starting to change, but still most franchisors don’t consider social media as a viable marketing tool, and thus do not flesh out a strategy that integrates social with the broader marketing initiatives. Armed with the knowledge gained from the exercise above, a franchisor could then work with their marketing team to develop a cohesive strategy and tactics (i.e. attract and engage Facebook users with value-driven content about our brand/industry/franchisees/etc.; convert them to “Like” our Page in order to distribute content via their profile feeds; and then drive traffic to our local websites to convert them to leads).

    3. They don’t set and monitor success metrics
    Most franchisors aren’t aware of the analytics tools available to actually track the success of a social media marketing program. There are analytics tools specific to the various social platforms, and you can also install Google Analytics in a Facebook Page, for example. Regardless of the strategy, you need to have concrete objectives, and methods by which to monitor success. Otherwise you’re shooting in the dark, and most likely won’t see results.

    I love the approach Process Peak is taking. They’re working with franchisors to create custom Facebook landing pages in tabs, optimizing them for conversions through lead capture forms, and tracking the results every step of the way. Once a Facebook Page is successful for the franchisor, then there’s a basis from which to scale up the effort across the system to franchisees.

    At Empowerkit, we’re working on a lot of really interesting social media marketing tools to simplify one of the most challenging aspects of the process – creating and distributing compelling content that your audience will be interested in and engage with in the first place.

    Thanks again Cynthia, good post!

  • I am a COMPUTER EXPLORERS owner in Greater Sacramento, CA. I can underscore Lorri’s comments about support for social media engagement by franchisees. I am among those who are lagging in feeling secure and comfortable with social media and am trying to be ever more alert to opportunites that seem of value to me and our brand.

    Candidly, I find much of what is posted at various social media sites to be frivolous and/or disconnected from my business. I am not inclined to share my personal activites and whereabouts…..getting coffee, working out, and the like.

    Lorri is slowly bringing me along, though. There is clearly value in this….I just need to identify how to make it work for me and my values.