The emergence of social media as a dominant platform for marketing small and medium-sized businesses quickly became something of a pickle for franchise businesses. Is it better for business if a franchisor who has built up a thriving business to maintain ironclad control over branding or should franchisees who sell and live locally be allowed to have a thriving social engagement with their own community?
In short, there are sound arguments for each side of this debate.
The Case for Corporate Control
Branding: The main case for corporate to control social media is to maintain the consistency of a brand’s voice. A cohesive brand voice can be a powerful tool, and one that can be quickly watered down by local content, franchisees’ individual voices, and content that doesn’t match your corporate identity.
Individualization: It’s still possible to individualize local locations but not fracture a franchisor’s brand. Many franchise businesses including real estate, convenience stores, and fast food franchises allow franchisees to establish individual accounts while still making it clear that they are operating under the umbrella of the brand, and not as rogue operations.
Controlling the Message: Giving franchisees their own individual platform exposes a franchisor to potential risk. When an individual franchise posts, tweets, or uploads content, they do so under a franchisor’s public image. If something goes out that is both negative and viral, it can have long-term effects on a franchise business’s health.
Going with the Flow: The ideal situation is for customers to flow back and forth between a franchise’s corporate page and the closely controlled individual accounts of franchisees. It’s perfectly valid for a customer to land on a franchise’s corporate page, use easy tools to locate their local location, and still flow back to the corporate page if they are interested or want more information about the brand. The key is planning in advance with a marketing plan, social toolkit, or playbook with streamlined guidance on aspects of the brand like tone of voice, visual identity, and example posts.
The Case for Acting Local
Conversely, there are plenty of good reasons for giving franchisees a local platform that clearly identifies their location, demonstrates that they live and act locally, and gives them a model where they can authentically interact with their customers.
Location: Mobile technology’s ability to pinpoint a customer’s exact location is a powerful tool for local franchise businesses. Platforms like Facebook can identify a potential customer’s location, demographics, age, and social media profiles with eerie accuracy. Giving franchisees a hyper-local engagement platform where they can go live, check in with other local businesses, and engage customers is a powerful tool, and it’s something to consider before maintaining a grip on branding.
A Sense of Community: The places where franchises operate are full of real, live people. These people are more likely to know and engage with a business when they know the people running these social media accounts. Corporate brands can be very stiff in their messaging and people can tell when they’re being played by a marketing plan. Running contests, supporting community nonprofits or sports teams, and promoting events can be cheap but powerful ways to show that a franchise business lives and acts locally.