The Importance of Social Media for Franchise Success

The Importance of Social Media for Franchise Success

How Franchisees Can Cultivate Online Communities to Capture the Next Generation of Consumers

The days of franchisees treating the online social media world as a secondary approach to building sales and community relationships are long gone. The emergence of Gen Z, who will overtake the Millennials and become the largest consumer demographic by 2026, have lived their entire lives online. They had tablets and smartphones in their hands before they could walk. They not only spend much of their day interacting with friends and groups online, but they’ve taken the online review world started by the Millennials to a whole other level. Ignoring these cohorts and failing to adapt your community-building strategies to the online world is a mistake.

Building online community relationships is now equally as important as building relationships in your actual community. Your strategy is integral to reaching younger demographics and turning them into lifelong customers. Understanding which social media platforms will help you speak to which demographics is essential. Facebook is still the market leader regarding daily users and is an important part of your strategy. Of course, to do this, your business will need a Facebook page that should be used to engage with your customers directly. Most internet users research companies and brands online; it’s especially common with Gen Z. Think about how you launch new products, conduct giveaways, talk about community support programs, and promote your hiring initiatives.

Social Media Engagement

Daily engagement on Facebook is a good start when considering how to build your online community; it’s also a rich source of customer feedback, especially if you drive your customers to leave reviews, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Another consideration often missed by franchisees in their approach to using Facebook is the group function, and it’s a significant opportunity. Spend some time searching for the groups in your community, and you’ll be surprised at what you find. Mothers’ groups, church groups, hiking and outdoor groups, gaming groups, and so on and so on, you get my point. Find the groups that are relevant to your business and join them. If the administrator of the group page doesn’t allow business pages to join, consider joining with your personal Facebook account and interacting as the business owner. It’s a great way to build your brand and relationships in online community groups relevant to your small business.

TikTok is another social media platform that has taken the Gen Z world by storm. It’s where you need to be if attracting younger consumers is one of your business objectives. Every day, more and more businesses are finding ways to use TikTok to help support their business needs. In 2020, when Chipotle needed to hire 10,000 new employees across the US, they were one of the first brands to use TikTok as a recruitment platform. They had great success with their campaign, delivering an additional 7% of resumes through that channel alone. So, whether you want to use TikTok to drive a younger customer demographic to your business or increase your employer brand exposure to a younger demographic, TikTok must be considered.

Handling Customer Reviews

Another significant impact the online community has on your business is the increased importance of online reviews. Online reviews, started by the Millennials, have reached a whole new level with Gen Z. Often, this demographic will read over five online reviews of a product or service before purchasing. So, actively managing where your reviews are coming from and engaging with those customers promptly and meaningfully will go a very long way in how this generational cohort feels about you and your company. Remember to consider all the places your customers could leave a review of your business; it’s not just social media. Platforms like Yelp, Google, and Trip Advisor also have substantial online communities that actively use these review platforms to share their customer experiences, the good and the bad.

As a franchised business owner, customer reviews can significantly impact your unit’s economics by driving additional customers and top-line sales, so paying attention to your star rating is essential. Asking customers who have had a great experience interacting with your business to leave a review online is a great way to drive referrals and repeat customer visits. Don’t be afraid to use something like a social media review card that you can hand out to customers you know you’ve serviced well, with links to where they can leave a review about their experience online. It’s a great way to drive engagement with your online community.

Responding to Criticism

Equal focus is required when dealing with any negative reviews that have been left about a customer’s experience, so taking them seriously will serve you well. There are great insights that can be aggregated from negative reviews. Approach them as an opportunity to learn and evaluate how your operations are performing. You can make meaningful enhancements that will impact your customers’ experience. Remember, though, when someone leaves a negative review, engage with them immediately; if more than 24 hours pass between them leaving the review and someone from your company reaching out, in the eyes of Gen Z, this is too long.

Also, consider that the same way you would deal with a customer complaint in person applies online; don’t be defensive. Offer to give them a call to get more feedback and take the conversation offline. Remember that the whole online world is reading your response when dealing with a customer complaint online.

Social media is a vital part of franchisee success today; treating it as anything less than a vital tool to build community, sales, and your employer brand could have several negative impacts on the success of your franchise.

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Laura Darrell lives in Mexico City, and as a former leadership executive, she has over 25 years of senior leadership experience at some of the world’s most beloved brands like Starbucks and Apple. Her time spent working in franchised operations for large multi-unit franchisees at A&W Restaurants Canada complemented her executive leadership skills as vice president of operations and training at Boston Pizza Restaurants, Canada’s largest casual dining chain.

She prides herself on her ability to build strong, collaborative relationships between franchisees and franchisors. She is a regular contributor to FranchiseWire and other publications in the franchise periodical space, where she writes about the leadership skills required to lead in a franchised organization and many other topics relevant to franchisee success and strengthening unit economics. She holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Royal Roads University in British Columbia, Canada, where she conducted her thesis research on multidisciplinary collaborative leadership practices within franchised organizations that enhance business results for all key stakeholders.

She has written three books: The Principles of Franchisee Success – Apply Them and Take Control of Your Business Results; The Promotability Gap – The Real Reasons You’re Not Advancing in Your Career; and The Great Resignation – How a Culture of Coaching, and Appreciation Can Help You Win the War for Talent. She travels frequently in the US, Canada, and Mexico to speak at franchised organizations that are looking to develop strong and effective leadership talent as well as helping them to enhance their relationships with their franchisors. She is also the founder of Laura Darrell Leadership Coaching.
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