Picture this: It’s Saturday afternoon and the family is driving home from a soccer game. “I’m hungry,” cries one of the kids. Mom grabs her smartphone, taps on Google Maps, and discovers a pizza place around the corner – and her sister has given it a five-star review. “Kids we’re having pizza!”
Or it’s a woman with an iPad on her lap, searching for window coverings she just saw on HGTV, and finding a local franchise that has exactly what she wants. Scenes like these happen millions of times daily, and if you’re a franchisor, they point to a huge change in how you connect with candidates, validate your marketing approach, and drive customers to your franchisees.
The Evolution of SEO
SoLoMo is shorthand for the convergence of social, local and mobile technologies – and these elements are rapidly coming together to transform how we connect with and engage candidates and prospects.
Mobile online traffic was up 125 percent from the first half of 2012 to the first half of 2013, according to the New Mobile Share Report from BrightEdge. The trend is accelerating as people are using their smartphones to actively seek reliable information about the world around them. But are franchisors keeping pace?
Right now, only 48 percent have a mobile-friendly website, according to the 2013 SoLoMo Brand Presence Study, which surveyed more than 150 franchise brands.* The same study found that:
- While 78 percent provide individual franchisee microsites, only 32 percent use local plugins on these microsites.
- While 78 percent have a Google+ corporate page, only 20 percent have integrated a Google+ plugin or link on their main site.
- Less than 1 percent of brands surveyed have publicly responded to negative reviews.
Clearly your fans are using the SoLoMo ecosystem to interact with each other, and the social channels are functioning as trust platforms, where people go for opinions and validation from their peers and experts. For the franchisor, it’s essential to realize that this change in consumer behavior impacts your marketing strategy in critical ways, beginning with the evolution of SEO. People are still searching online for your brand, but they are doing it less often from the desktop, and more often from a mobile device.
How to Be Found by Your Prospects Now
Your brand must be findable on the apps that people use most often on their smartphones and tablets. These include Google Maps (linked to your Google+ page), Facebook, Foursquare and others. They are social apps, and they include peer reviews, as well as location-specific data that makes each of your outlets more findable – at precisely the moment when the consumer wants to engage.
The first takeaway is this: Now more than ever, you must make sure that you have a consistent brand presentation on the reigning kings of social media, Facebook and Google+. Here’s how:
Facebook Locations (formerly known as Parent-Child) enables you to claim all of your brand’s listings, display them on a national map, and have them show up at the top of Facebook search results. You also gain control of content at the local level, so you can run promotions in a coordinated manner with your franchisees, who still maintain administrative access to their local page.
Likewise, Google+ enables you to have a branded presence at the local level. Once you’ve claimed your listings, working with a partner who has access to the G+ API allows you to listen and publish content across your system.
Once you claim your listings on Google+ and Facebook, how do you begin to manage your online brand presence? First, put yourself in the shoes of your typical customer. What does that first encounter with your brand look like? How does it feel? Is it easy to find your franchises? Or is it impossible? Is your brand everywhere, or nowhere?
Beyond find-ability, from the customer perspective, it’s easy to see if your brand is “doing social” at all, doing it just because everyone else is, or if you’ve actually committed to becoming a truly social business that is using these channels to listen, engage and partner more closely with your customers to deliver value that they will rave about.
Your brand experience is more important than ever. Pricing and performance data is easily available. As a franchisor you must carefully manage your brand presentation across your social channels, and that requires new levels of coordination between you and your franchisees.
Whether you call it SoLoMo or the new age of the mobile web, the key is not to be caught flat-footed as your competitors sprint ahead. First and foremost, you must have accurate local listings on Facebook and Google, or people searching on their mobile devices, at the very moment they want to engage, will never even see your brand – and that would be tragic.
* Source: 2013 SoLoMo Brand Presence Study, conduct by Process Peak for the Franchise Leadership and Development Conference
Jon Carlston brings years of executive leadership experience in the franchising industry in product management, sales, and training. As Sales and Customer Service Director for Franchise.com, Jon produced revenues of $1.5 million annually through sales of advertising, electronic document disclosure, and other software solutions. Today he spearheads the continual refinement of Process Peak solutions, ensuring that the offering meets and exceeds the needs of franchisors and franchisees.
A Google Certified Partner with access to the Google+ API, and exclusive facilitator for Facebook Locations for the franchise industry, Process Peak enables franchise systems to optimize their efficiency, effectiveness and growth, through innovative and cost-effective strategies and tactics in recruiting, marketing and operations.
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