How the Internet and Social Media Have Changed Franchise Brand ManagementBefore the advent of the web and social media, franchise brand management used to be fairly straightforward. Franchisors managed a national marketing strategy to build and strengthen brand recognition through centralized consistency, and franchisees benefitted from the results. And while franchisees were required to maintain a certain level of quality and standardization, the failure of one franchisee to live up to expectations did not impact the national brand in a serious manner, at least not with the potentially disastrous ramifications it can have today. This means the online and social media activity of franchisees is also relevant to franchisors, while they need to keep a balance managing this.

Viral Doesn’t Always Mean Good Things – Like with Bad Reviews

Online search and social networking affects businesses both locally and globally, and a negative review of one local franchise can adversely impact other locations throughout the nation. Between Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, online discussions are not only public but can spread like wildfire across the Internet. On social media networks, friends may be local or they may be thousands of miles away. A bad customer experience in Charlotte, North Carolina may cause friends — and friends of friends — to avoid franchises in San Francisco, Buffalo and Fort Worth.

Worst case, a video of a cockroach racing across the floor in one underperforming location can quickly go viral, and sully a brand’s national reputation almost irreparably. Consequently, it has become much more imperative in recent years for franchisors to keep a tighter rein on quality control at their franchises.

Leveraging Social Media

On the other hand, social media can work wonders to strengthen a brand, if managed effectively. Social media networks and customer review sites like Yelp and Google Plus give franchisees an opportunity to interact with their customers, to create a positive, family atmosphere and build brand loyalty. When this kind of open dialogue is ongoing, a disgruntled customer will most likely address his or her complaint to a franchisee before badmouthing the business to friends and family. This gives the operator the chance to rectify the situation, often before a complaint ever gets posted. Customers who feel that their concerns are addressed in a timely manner are generally reluctant to criticize the business, even when they’ve had a less than exemplary experience. According to Lee Resources, 70% of these customers will even consider your business again going forward.

Social media provides franchisees an opportunity to behave more like a local business instead of a faceless corporate brand. That said, many franchisees shy away from social media, feeling it is too complicated or too time consuming for them to manage.

Social Media Site Management

Savvy franchisors make it easy for their franchisees to set up and manage social media sites by providing a set of guidelines, including step-by-step instructions, templates, artwork, photos and a variety of professionally written content that they can customize to use on their pages. After all, one of the perks of being a franchisee is that your franchisor, at the corporate level, has professional marketers available to provide just these sorts of materials. Providing a wide variety of sample blog posts not only gives franchisees inspiration and even actual content to cut and paste from, but guidelines as to what kind of material is appropriate for the brand.

However, as it is with physical quality control, it’s still important to monitor franchisees’ social media sites and interactions to ensure they’re appropriate and reflective of the brand. Bad reviews can quickly damage a brand’s reputation online and so can inappropriate posts on a franchisee’s social media page. Because of the extra time and effort required to do so, some companies restrict franchisees from having individual sites. This is a major mistake, as it takes the local out of local business, and robs franchisees of the ability to interact with their customers and leverage what is arguably the greatest branding opportunity since television.