[img id=”1″ align=”right”]The Summer Brand Camp worklab on managing social media at the franchise level was full of excellent advice and best practices. Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) Director of Sales Sheryl Coyne-Batson moderated a wonderful session with panelists Jonathan Brewer (Director of Awesome, BTC Revolutions), Kristen Colby (Sr. Director of Marketing, Front Burner Restaurants), Adriana Scarcella (Talent & Community Manager, Chili’s Grill & Bar), and Courtney Martinez (Sr. Manager, Franchise HR, DineEquity).

We covered so much ground that I’ve broken this session into two different blogs. While this blog focuses on how corporate works with franchisees on social media issues, you can click here to read about the social media recruiting trends that were discussed.

How do you engage with your franchisees?

The panel agreed that since every company is unique, there’s no “one size fits all” approach.

  • Twin Peaks restaurants are 50% corporate owned and 50% franchised. Social media plays a huge role in their organization because Twin Peaks is very social, as are the Twin Peak girls. Each restaurant has its own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. The corporate team works closely with site management during new restaurant openings and provides ongoing coaching and training to the franchisees through weekly and monthly status calls.
  • At Chili’s, franchise partners and employees are viewed as equally important to the corporate team. The franchise restaurants don’t have their own Facebook pages or other social media accounts, but they speak for themselves as part of the Chili’s culture. Chili’s has one voice across their business.
  • Corporate team members monitor DineEquity’s franchisees’ Facebook pages to make sure they’re responding in a timely and appropriate manner.

Some of the tools used to manage postings across enterprises include Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence)), Momentfeed, and New Brand analytics. Many of the panelists schedule posts using tools such as Spreadfast, and Facebook’s internal scheduling tool, but they still use Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence)) for analytics. In addition to scheduling and metric tools, several of the panelists rely on BTC Revolutions to monitor posts and fire off alerts, which then triggers action at the corporate level.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Giving Control to Franchisees

Guests don’t always know, and probably don’t care, if a posting is made by a franchise or a company owned location. Remember that some franchisees have limited working knowledge of social media, so give them some training on the basics:

  • Help your franchisees understand additional uses of social media (recruiting, communication, and promotions)
  • Don’t forget that it’s just as important to respond to positive reviews as negative reviews.
  • Continuously remind franchisees about trademarks, especially during sporting events. For example, use a generic term like “football” instead of a specific team name.
  • The ugly often comes with team members. Train early and often, and address those situations offline. Above all, don’t try to silence the team member or just ignore them.

fast1Courtney shared a great example of the magic that happens when things are unexpected. When Applebee’s discovered that they are the favorite restaurant of a One Direction band member, their marketing department and BTC Revolutions jumped on that opportunity. Since then, it’s taken on a life of it’s own. Franchisees love it because it’s driven additional traffic.

Courtney shared that some franchisees create content much faster than the corporate office can. When she sees great content she shares it with the rest of the community since it’s on brand and in the moment. Examples of things that are shared are new babies, anniversaries, and Bee’s pride moments.

Return on Relationships/Investments

Once franchisees understand how social media can drive traffic, it’s easy to engage them. For example, once they understand how powerful Facebook is, and how it can even drive online ordering, they usually understand that they’re losing revenue by not engaging.

The most powerful social media postings are authentic. Chili’s creates a culture from the top down, and encourages team members to tell their Chilihead stories.

There are very few firms like BTC that can manage social media as well as an internal team. Part of this is because it’s hard to create authentic content without having a deep connection to a brand.

Managing Relationships

In addition to creating content, BTC Revolutions can help coordinate your responses to postings. They maintain an email list with key stakeholders such as HR, operations, marketing, and legal, so everyone instantly gets alerts if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Chili’s manages this internally, and they use a decision tree as a guide for who needs to be involved to resolve a situation.

The panel also noted that different social media platforms require a different voice and expertise. Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are all unique and need different strategies. Find people to manage them who are already on these platforms and love them.

Don’t forget that you can also use data to help identify retraining opportunities. It might feel as though everyone is complaining about a menu item, but dig deeper and you may find out that it’s just one location or region that’s receiving the complaints. Social media offers real time feedback to fix operational issues.

Managing Vendors

If you’re working on a national campaign, it’s important to make sure that the Franchise and Marketing Directors are aligned. For example, if you’re testing a social media campaign with Momentfeed, don’t forget to let the franchisees know so that you’re not inundated with calls at corporate.
We also discussed how many social media management companies, especially start-ups, often don’t have the deep experience needed to manage this complicated area. As I worked through marketing strategies for my mobile recruiting software company, I was quickly inundated with pitches from “social media” experts. I eventually learned that most of these experts operate in a niche area and don’t do both social media and SEO well. They are two very different sciences. So, if you need assistance work with an established partner like BTC Revolutions that has deep experience in the restaurant industry and understands both social media management and SEO.

Best Practices for Franchisee Interaction

In addition to basic social media awareness training, consider offering these tools:

  • Create a starter kit (a packet accompanied by training)
  • Conduct situational based training. Use your own stories of good/bad/ugly posts.
  • Remember that franchisees like hearing more from other franchisees than from corporate. Give them a platform or a hotline they can use to share real life examples.
  • Establish social media guidelines so franchisees understand corporate’s expectations for how quickly they should respond to posts. Prioritize what gets responded to first (usually negative comments) but don’t forget to also respond to positive comments.
  • Offer a preplanned response for franchise owners for negative comments.
  • Teach franchisees how to block comments, and when it’s appropriate to do so.
  • Create an ongoing content kit with an editorial calendar.
  • Show how social media can drive profit through return on relationships/return on investments.
  • Create a social media newsletter for each campaign window. Let franchisees know what’s going on from the corporate perspective so they understand the direction and can help supplement.

Recruiting is a Whole Other Story

The marketing and HR worlds often collide in the social media arena. Click here to read more about how they can work together to help recruit top talent in this competitive candidate market.

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