There are nearly 1 million franchise operations in the United States, employing about 9 million people. It’s a huge part of the US economy, raking in over $800 billion per year.
Add in the rise of tech and digital marketing, and with that much bank up for grabs, franchise social media is a revenue channel that can’t be overlooked.
What is a franchise?
For anyone unfamiliar with franchising, a franchise is a business that lends its name, logo, and full-on support to others who buy into the franchise and open their own location or branch.
For example, McDonald’s is a franchise corporation, and each McDonald’s location is owned by separate individuals who bought the franchise license. In exchange, McDonald’s corporate helps the new owners choose a business location, order supplies, and market the new location.
Franchisor: the owner of the corporation or umbrella business. In our example above, McDonalds corporate is the franchisor. The franchisor maintains certain bits of control over the franchise branches, like branding.
Franchisee: the owner of one of the locations under the umbrella corporation. The franchisee pays a one-time fee to the corporate owner, usually to cover the costs of onboarding and getting the new business set up (a new McDonalds location costs about $1 million). Then, they pay a percentage of their profits or revenue, depending on the arrangement, to the franchisor in exchange for their ongoing support and use of the brand.
Franchisor social media challenges
Franchises are complex structures, often involving hundreds of chains across the U.S. or globally. And, social media isn’t an easy job either, with multiple platforms and content schedules to manage. When you add in the different needs of franchisors and franchisees, challenges can frequently arise when trying to align social media goals between the two.
Common challenges franchisors face
The overarching problem for franchisors is control, or more specifically, determining what to control vs. what not to control. Too little control and you lose brand authority, too much control and you won’t attract customers specific to your different locations and branches.
Establishing social media guidelines and budget
This is the first step for a franchise looking to unify their brand’s voice while keeping each branch unique enough to draw local audiences.
The first step in establishing social guidelines is to establish a brand or voice. Your brand/voice won’t come overnight—in fact, it’ll evolve as your company grows. But, a great starting point (if you don’t have an established brand already) is to put together a mission statement.
Next, you’ll decide how you want to “sound” on social. Will your company use emojis and appeal to the millennial masses? Or, will you opt for a more professional tone? You may even consider some humor or sarcasm, like the Wendy’s franchise is popular for:
After you’ve got your mission and brand defined, you can focus on setting goals. You need to know specifically what you want to accomplish with social media. Here are a few questions you can answer to get a head start:
- What segments and personas are you targeting? Marketing to millennials is much different than marketing to businesses. Marketing to women is different than marketing to men. Defining your audiences in detail will help you determine your strategy.
- What types of content will you share? Will you share video and photo content? And if so, are you focused on product images, inspirational lifestyle content or other types of visuals? Will you share blog posts? Behind-the-scenes pics on Instagram that show off your company culture? Make a list of all the types of content you plan to share.
- How often will you and your branches share each type of content? It’s important to be consistent. And, you need to establish how often each type of content should be shared. Learn more about content types here.
- Who will manage social media for your team? This can vary depending on the size of your business. In some cases, each branch may have a corporate manager and someone responsible for social. For franchisors with fewer branches, there may be one social media manager at HQ that covers everything.
- How will the different channels be set up? Will your franchisor social media username be YourCompany while your franchise locations are YourCompanyLocation? Consider what makes sense for your business and your audience’s expectations.
- How will you measure results and optimize your efforts? It’s important to track your progress and make changes that increase engagement. The best way to do this is to put your social profiles into a management tool like Sprout.
Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to start piecing together a solid social media plan and social media brand guidelines for your company. You need to set goals and guidelines for your franchisees. Both your goals and your overall plan can inform one another. For example, you can consider how many times per day you’d like your franchises to post, and what your engagement goals are per post.
Calculating return on investment (ROI)
Anytime a business invests money into a software solution (like a social media management tool) or resources (like employees), they need to know what the returns of those expenses will be.
Calculating return from social media can be a challenge even when you’ve got just one, corporate brand to track. Throw multiple franchise locations into the mix, each with different social accounts, and it becomes a much bigger challenge.
Here are a few tricks for franchisors that’ll help track social media ROI for both corporate HQ and branches.
- Set tangible, reachable goals for social media. For example, you might want 1,000 new email subscribers this quarter. Or, you might want to direct 10,000 customers to your website from Instagram.
- Give individual social managers tactical goals. For example, instead of telling your locations’ social managers to get 1,000 new email subscribers, tell them to share your subscribe link in a certain number of posts per day.
- Measure your output. This one may seem obvious, but you need all of your social accounts in one platform so that you can monitor and measure progress from each account.
Check out our guide to learn more about calculating social media ROI.
Common challenges franchisees face
Franchisees have social media challenges just like their franchisors. Besides adhering to brand guidelines and meeting social media goals, franchisees need to stand out from the other branches—and stand out from competitors.
Standing out from competitors
Breaking through the noise is one of the biggest challenges for any brand on social media. When it comes to grabbing attention with your posts vs. the posts of your competitors, it’s best to keep an eye on the performance of your posts and use tools that give you an edge on what your users are looking for on social.
This is when it’s important to monitor not only your hashtags, but also brand keywords that your followers are using. For example, looking at our example ‘Sprout Coffee’ franchise, you might monitor Sprout Coffee mentions for both corporate and specific locations, like #SproutCoffee and #SproutCoffeeBrooklyn.
Differentiating from other franchise locations
How is your coffee shop going to differentiate from all the other coffee shops in your vicinity? And at the same time, differentiate from all the other locations in your franchise? This can get particularly challenging when a franchise is operating in a single region, such as one with locations that are all within New York City.
To stand out amongst branches, it’s best to get a sense for what the folks in your neighborhood prefer.
- Monitor your social analytics to get a feel for what’s resonating with your particular following.
- Use neighborhood hashtags instead of city hashtags to feature your specific branch if there are multiple branches in your city. If your franchise is nation-wide and limited to one per city, stand out in your city by using it in the hashtags instead. Check out this example of Burn Boot Camp in Davie, Florida using brand colors and style, but tagging for their specific audience and offering a location-specific coupon:
- Use a tone appropriate for your customer base. For example, a Sprout Coffee location in New England is going to use a much different style than a Sprout Coffee in Brooklyn, whether it’s referencing local traditions, sports team or visuals connected to their neighborhood.
- You can even use search engines to gather information on the demographics (average age, average income, etc.) of your specific location and use that to tailor your branch’s tone.
Limited bandwidth and staff
Small shops don’t have the same resources as big, corporate headquarters. So, franchisees may not have the time or money to devote themselves fully to social media. Plus, when resources are strapped, teams are small, and often don’t include someone with the skillset to crush it on social media.
To battle limited resources, consider:
- Using an experienced freelancer to manage social media efforts. Just make sure that they’re working in a platform like Sprout under an account that you own. Data is invaluable. And you need to own that data should the freelancer not work out. You can find social media freelancers on sites like Upwork or by asking around for recommendations. It’s best to get someone with experience with your particular audience or market.
- Managing your social media calendar with social media software. Sprout’s scheduler makes it easy for you to schedule your content well in advance. You can also use ViralPost to let Sprout identify the best posting times for your content.
Keeping social media cohesive between franchisees and franchisors
In addition to building out brand guidelines for social media and creating a plan with actionable goals, there are a few solutions that will ease the problem of aligning the corporate, umbrella brand with franchise locations.
Solution 1. Map umbrella goals and individual branch goals
The easiest way to maximize your social media engagement across corporate and branch locations is to create a plan for both parties.
The corporate plan should contain:
- Brand guidelines: your corporate logo, colors and mission statement, as well as general style and tone guidelines (such as what types of humor are acceptable).
- Overall goals: you might include an overall company KPI like total followers or total shares, and how much each location is expected to contribute to that goal (i.e. each team contributes 10%). You might even reward the best franchise.
- Actionable goals: Make sure you set actionable goals that define your posting strategy like posting x times per day or sharing 3 articles per week.
The branch plans should contain:
- Individual goals for the specific location: how many new followers they’re expected to generate, how many posts per day, which channels should they be active on, etc.
- Regional best practices: check out what competitors in the area are doing. What’s working for them? Gathering specific info like top hashtags and special offers will help pinpoint a local strategy.
Check out this example of Dickey’s BBQ. The corporate account posts images and videos that are well branded and engaging while the franchises post about local events.
Solution 2. Create a publishing workflow
Social media is the perfect platform for telling a unique story. You can start small with one or two accounts where you set the tone, then scale out to include more locations as you grow or as you onboard current branches.
Use a social media management tool that has scheduling features to ease the burden of posting all day every day. These tools are scalable, too. This means you can start with one account such as the corporate account, and add users, like franchise locations, as you grow.
This saves a ton of time and resources, and so, as mentioned above, it will ease the burden on smaller franchises that don’t have the bandwidth or talent to manage social media. You can easily schedule posts across multiple accounts and channels with Sprout’s scheduling tool. Finally, workflows that include the option to require authorization on posts help maintain consistency in brand voice and help you avoid social media crises.
Solution 3. Measure and optimize your efforts
As cliche as it is to say at this point: You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So, you need to have both your corporate and franchise locations set up with social media analytics.
Plus, tagging and brand keywords can help organize your posts and find how people are reacting to them. You can use tagging to group posts by specific campaigns and traits, including by individual franchise locations vs. the national franchisor account.
A franchisor might want monthly or quarterly reports on the performance of each branch’s social media. Sprout provides highly readable reports that let you monitor your overall strategy and pinpoint any particular areas of improvement each branch could make. They can also be put together quickly, meaning that franchisees can keep on top of their social media performance with limited time.
Social media is no easy feat—and it’s especially not easy when you’re managing or overseeing many accounts in various locations.
Scheduling out your content calendar can ease the burden on bandwidth. With a plan and set goals that are aligned across all levels of your company, neither the franchise nor franchisees will be flying blind.
What are some of your favorite strategies for franchise social media?