Facebook like graffiti - Using social media to engage customers

As more and more franchises embrace social media as part of their marketing plans, it’s becoming increasingly important for all franchisees to understand how to take advantage of popular social media tools in order to reach customers. Whether driven by the franchisor or the franchisee, social media needs to do one main thing: engage an audience. Without some sort of audience engagement, you may as well not bother with a social media presence. Here, we’ll explore why engagement is so important, and look at how franchises can use social media to best engage both actual and potential customers and build a loyal following.

A Great Soft-Selling Tool

Social media can be an effective tool for driving leads and sales for franchises. Hundreds of millions of people use social media daily, making it a great way to soft-sell to potential customers. Social media is more casual than other forms of business communication, which means that it can lead to a great deal of conversation, engagement, and relationship building, if done right. It commonly facilitates the building of relationships between businesses and customers/prospects by allowing both groups to share entertainment and valuable content. As a result of this exchange, consumers end up letting down their guard more than usual, listening eagerly to what businesses have to say and offer to them. This type of interaction is very different from the old-school, hard-sell approach in which a business is obviously out to get your money.

It Won't Cost You a Thing

When a franchise focuses on building relationships, it starts to occupy its customers’ minds. Customers naturally begin to associate certain products or services with a particular brand, and with effective social media engagement, that brand could be yours. The best part is, it won’t cost you a thing to set up and build a strong social media presence. There’s a caveat to that, as with most things — you can pay to have professional profile images and graphics created, and to run ads, but these things are not necessary to get started.

To start, you’ll be able to set up your franchise’s social media pages at literally no cost to you, other than your time. Once you’re set up, you'll want to put some time in each day or at least several times per week maintaining engagement and building up your number of followers, but again, at no additional out-of-pocket expense. Being so cost-effective, social media should be a strong part of any franchise’s marketing and advertising strategy from day one (or maybe even before that!).

First Impressions Do Count

On any social media channel, you’ll have only a few seconds to make an impression on a visitor, so it’s necessary that you make it count. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure your profile looks professional and tells visitors what you do immediately — in other words, you'll need to give those visitors a good reason to “Like” or “Follow” you. Keep in mind that what you present to your audience must always reinforce what your franchise business is all about.

While each social media channel is unique, they all have a lot in common, starting with your profile. When someone searches for the name of your business, they'll see your profile, complete with a cover (main) image and profile image. A business page really isn’t that different from a personal page, except that with the former, the perspective will shift to your franchise business rather than you personally.

Typically, your profile image will be your company logo or an image that is representative of your business, whereas your cover image will allow you to get creative while telling your story. The profile image is a large, prominent piece of real estate, so it’s best to put some thought into making it an attractive, eye-catching one. The cover image may feature something that has come from the franchisor, or something that's been customized for you as a franchisee. Some great options for a cover image include:

  • A product or group of products that you offer
  • Seasonal promotions
  • A new, featured item or items
  • A tagline and image highlighting who you are and what you do
  • A promotion of an event or sale

When it comes to your profile information, it's important to be as thorough as possible. These details will show up in local search results and help you tell your business's story.

Building Your Fan Base

Once you’ve set up your profile on a certain site, it’ll be time to start building up your fan base and number of followers in order to maximize your reach. Over time, your following will grow organically if you regularly post quality content. However, you’ll most likely want to actively work to increase your number of followers, too, especially when just getting started.

Your first potential fans should be your known supporters. Open up your address books, both online and offline, and invite all of your contacts that may be interested in following you. Let people on your email lists know about your social media sites and encourage them to become fans as well. Make it as easy as possible for any supporter to become your online friend by including links to your social media profiles in the following places:

  • Your email signature
  • Signage in your business’s physical location
  • Printed and/or emailed receipts
  • Your business cards
  • Your website

You can also “tag” photos you post on your accounts with people’s names so your profile will show in their feeds. On your website, it’s essential that you build in the ability to share content to various social media platforms and provide links to your profiles, making it easy for anyone to become a follower.

What to Share

On any social media channel, always share things that you think will be of interest to your customers. Be sure to strike a balance between content that they’d find entertaining or informative, and news about your product(s) or service(s). Whenever possible, post photos or videos to grab people’s attention, as these lead to higher engagement rates and will be shared more often than posts that only contain text.

Remember, effective social media management is all about starting a conversation and making followers feel involved and engaged. Some more options for sharing include:

  • Super Bowl Pepsi product display - Using social media to engage customers

    A Super Bowl-themed display of Pepsi products from 2015.

    Motivational quotes

  • Product images (“beauty shots”)
  • Behind-the-scenes photos or videos
  • “On-the-job” photos
  • Customer testimonials
  • Company events
  • Information about the franchise's community involvement
  • Promotions/sales
  • Holiday messages
  • “Meet the team” posts

Time it Just Right

Since people are often inundated with posts on social media, it’s easy for them to miss what you have to say. To improve the chances of your posts being seen by a large audience, try to post things during the times when your fans and followers are most likely to see them. There are a lot of thoughts on when is the best time to share on different social media channels, but we’ve found this to be a good guide:

Channel Best times to post Worst times to post
Facebook Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., especially on Thursdays and Fridays Between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Twitter Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., especially on weekends; however, the peak time is 5 p.m. Between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
YouTube Between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
LinkedIn Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays (business hours)
Pinterest Between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

To reduce any stress that may come from worrying about posting at the premium times, you can use a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to make things easier for you. These are free tools (with paid, premium options) that will enable you to schedule posts in advance, ensuring maximum reach during those premium times.

There's No Need to Hesitate

At this point, It's probably obvious that we could go on for pages and pages about optimizing your social media engagement, as there are tons of strategies and techniques that can help you build your following and drive sales. But for now, the important step is to get started on building your fan base. Once you've done that, you'll be able to refine your approach and continually build your presence with each day that passes. With just a few minutes invested per day, you’ll most likely end up gaining a loyal following and lots of new customers before you know it.

We Want to Hear from You

Now, tell us your experiences. Have you had success with any specific social media channel? If you’re just getting started, what are you most excited about when it comes to incorporating a social media strategy into your overall marketing plan? Let us know in the comments section.

To stay up to date on the latest franchise news, to learn more about franchising or a particular franchising opportunity, and to gain access to our complimentary collection of Franchise Disclosure Documents, sign up for your free membership to Birkhoff Research Group»
 

image 1: Katie Sayer (Creative Commons BY-SA); image 2: Mike Mozart (Creative Commons BY)
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