By Karen Spaeder, Vice President of Communications at Rallio
Every franchise strives to be innovative — to continually discover and establish new processes, methodologies, technologies and systems that make the business faster, stronger and more agile than the competition. The ability for franchisees to translate that same drive for innovation into their social media pages is a skill on its own, one that some owners have perfected and others are still finessing (or ignoring altogether).
That’s because creating an impactful social presence isn’t necessarily at the top of the list of business requirements for franchise organizations. Very often, it’s tucked into the “nice to have” category, when in actuality, it should be a must for any franchise that wants to grow.
To be a leader in social media, it requires a certain passion and hunger for examining what’s working well and what needs improvement in terms of social presence. The good news is that you can instantly improve your outcomes starting today by implementing the strategies below for innovative social media.
The Innovation Trifecta: Owned, Earned and Paid Social Media
First, here’s a word about the three different types of social media: owned, earned and paid. For a comprehensive social strategy, you need all three working together in a complementary manner.
- Owned social media — The assets you own and publish as a brand through your social channels and through any influencer channels.
- Earned social media — All your shares, mentions, reposts, reviews and user-generated content related to your brand that are earned without any kind of compensation. The better your owned assets, the more likely you are to create the kind of engaged audience that will disseminate earned media for your brand. It’s the equivalent of free publicity, it’s what enables “social proof,” and it’s essential for ensuring the success of both your owned and paid assets.
- Paid social media — The content you boost and sponsor through paid advertising and any paid influencers in order to get your content in front of your desired audience.
When these three types of media are doing their jobs, you’re able to improve sales, brand awareness, reputation and online traffic while creating an engaged, loyal audience that will happily share their positive experiences they’ve had with your brand. To ensure your owned, earned and paid social media are functioning optimally, start with the assets you own. The more innovative these assets, the easier it is to funnel them into earned and paid social media for a perfect trifecta of social media marketing greatness.
Innovation Tip #1: Don’t Be Boring
Do you remember the last time you were moved by a stock photo? No? That’s because stock photos are generally not designed to elicit emotion. Whereas stock photos speak to a broad audience, real-life photos tell a story that moves people to take action.
In a sea of social media noise where your competitors are also vying for your audience’s attention, beautiful visuals with great captions are the only way to differentiate yourself. Photos of team members, office parties, a “day in the life” and even customers (with permission) allow you to tell a brand story in a way that stock photos cannot.
It’s this type of hyper-local content that builds an engaged community around your brand. Simply posting branded content from corporate won’t help you gain earned media — much less connect with potential customers who live in your town.
Innovation Tip #2: Be Nimble
Does your franchise system have a structure in place to enable franchisees to execute a franchise social media marketing plan? If there’s no system, then that means franchisees are left to figure out their social media on their own. When that happens, the potential is great for franchisees to:
- Post off-brand or ineffective content, or only post corporate content
- Post inconsistently and not engage with their community or respond to comments, questions, inbox messages and any complaints or praise
- Post nothing at all and risk appearing to be “out of business” or just not in step with the times
In contrast, when there is top-down, franchisor-level support, structure and buy-in of social media as a marketing medium, then franchisees will have a clear plan of action for executing a social strategy. It can be seamless and growth-oriented, and franchisees can feel empowered to act quickly when opportunities arise to engage with their audience.
Consider, for example, if a customer engages with your page but you never see it because you don’t have a system in place for checking your page regularly. The customer, therefore, gets no response. The possible scenarios include:
- Commenting on your post with something positive
- Commenting on your post with something negative
- Sending a message to your page with a question or a complaint
- Submitting a positive or negative review or recommendation
Whether the engagement from the customer is positive or negative, when you fail to respond, it sends the message that you don’t value your customers. However, if you have a franchisor-endorsed method of responding to your customers, then your customers will get quick responses to questions, compliments and concerns. They’ll be more likely to continue buying from you if they feel like they are valued and heard.
Innovation Tip #3: Be in High Demand
You’ve heard of the scarcity principle, right? When people think there’s a limited supply of something, they are more likely to want to buy it now. Millennials and Gen Z might call it FOMO (fear of missing out). However you look at it, the point is that you can manufacture scarcity on social media to create buying urgency.
There’s a fine line between generating FOMO and coming across as overly promotional on social media. While phrases like “Act now, while supplies last!” might turn your audience away, a limited-time giveaway or follower-only offer will generate buzz and excitement.
One strategy that works well is to partner with one or more complementary brands to offer a giveaway together. Each brand can ask people to follow, like, share and tag a friend. This kind of reciprocal marketing will help you build your following with new potential customers while creating excitement around your brand.
Be Innovative — or Be Left Behind
As we enter a new year, now is a good time to take a hard look at your social media strategy — or lack thereof. Understand that social engagements among your target audience are happening with or without you. If your franchisees are not a part of those conversations, they’re missing out on opportunities to connect directly with their local customers — and potentially leaving it to the competition to scoop up local business.
Each year, Franchise Business Review surveys thousands of franchisees from leading franchise brands to inquire about their level of satisfaction and releases its annual list of the Most Innovative Franchises. With a rock-solid social media marketing strategy in place, your franchisees will be better equipped to execute upon the ideas above. As FBR’s CEO, Eric Stites, points out: “Innovation takes a lot more than just having creative, great ideas. It also takes execution.”
In other words, all the innovative social ideas in the world mean nothing if you don’t establish the systems and processes to bring them to life. More accurately, your franchisees need a clear social media marketing plan and strategy that will empower them to energize their local social pages.
Have you registered your brand to participate in FBR’s research to determine the Most Innovative Franchises? Click here to review the submission guidelines and sign up for your free survey. The deadline to register is June 30. To see the award-winning brands on the most recent list of the Most Innovative Franchises list, click here.