This ran in the March issue of Franchise Times, which is why the bent is toward that audience. But I think you’ll get some value from the interview I did with Joel Libava, aka The Franchise King.

Are you getting tired already of experts and everyone telling you to get on the social networks without a real tie to your marketing strategy or business results?

Me, too.

There are lots of PR firms adding social media tools to their toolbox, and they should be. But they’re still doing PR, not just social media. And I think that’s important to consider. If an “expert” comes to you who only does social media, watch your back. These are the people who are taking advantage of a trend and trying to capitalize on it with franchisors who don’t fully understand how it all works.

Social media, as we’ve discussed before, is not new. You’re still doing marketing and PR. You’re still doing advertising and business development. But, with the new tools, you’re allowed to do all of these things much more quickly and more efficiently. That’s what it is. A tool. A tool that allows you to communicate WITH your customers instead of AT.

PR firms are handling social media well, as part of the overall strategy, but I’d like to introduce you to a franchise consultant who really understands the space because he’s been on your side. And that is an advantage.

I sat down with Joel Libava (or the Franchise King, as some of you may know him) to ask him some questions about the franchise space and to see what he thinks about the tools in the coming year.

What are the top three trends you think franchisors should pay particular attention to in 2011?
They need to establish listening posts. They should check out both paid and free tools that will allow them to know in real time what’s being said about their brands. There are free tools such as Google Alerts and Social Mention and there are paid tools such as Radian6 and Spiral16.

Do you have any examples of franchises that are using social media and gaining great business results?
Pizza franchisessuch as Domino’s are doing a great job with social media. They have “Customer Appreciation Days” that are featured on Twitter and Facebook, and garner great results.

Speaking of food, here’s one to watch: Apples Gold Group, a 50+ unit chain of Applebees. They have pretty powerful results from their Facebook campaigns.

There is a lot of talk about franchisors not able to control the brand when franchisees use the new tools to speak directly with their customers.
The only way a franchisor can control its brand is by engaging in a two-way conversation.

They have two choices:

  1. Try to engage and show their franchisees how to do so; and
  2. Ignore the discussions their customers are having, and hope for the best.

How much do you think franchisors should be asking their franchisees to budget?
This gets a little tricky. Some of the answer may depend on the franchise agreements in place. (Is there a mention of social media marketing? Does there need to be?) If I were the franchisor, I would use a portion of the ad fund money coming in for social media marketing. However, if the franchise agreements aren’t clear about it, I wouldn’t. So, at that point, I’d ask for them to budget about $150-$200 a month as a starting point. If you hit them over the head with a $500 suggested spend, they may just freak out!

How important is it for a franchisor to become a media company?
Great question. I think a franchisor should start to look at their online presence in such a way.

However, I wouldn’t do it alone. Engage some social media savvy professionals to assist.

But…and this is huge, make sure they (even if they are consultants, not employees) are a fit for the culture of the organization and for the brand itself. In other words, if the franchise’s brand is a rowdy, fun loving one like Hooters, for instance, don’t pick a stuffy, suit and tie, kind of consultant or employee. Make sure it’s a good match!

What is your number one piece of advice for franchisors?
It’s a requirement to have fun with it.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Social media marketing is not a magic bullet that will take your franchise concept to the next level, overnight. It’s only a part of your marketing strategy, but one that you should focus lots of time on. If done right, it’s a very cost-effective way to get your brand known, and “liked.” Just be patient.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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