The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Retail Franchises
In the early 1990s, the internet became available for commercial use and since then, retailers have been using (or inventing) numerous means in order to promote their products and build brand awareness in order to draw more customers. Social media has become a powerful tool for the retail industry, especially since as many as 90% of shoppers turn to social media for retail and often look for help with buying decisions.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) poll of 22,618 digital buyers ages 18 and older, “Nearly half (45%) of digital buyers worldwide said that reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influenced their digital shopping behavior. Some 44% of respondents also said that receiving promotional offerings also influenced their shopping behavior.”
Business 2 Community reported that, “Nearly 70 percent of the active Facebook users in the US and Canada follow local businesses. A survey of 5900 consumers by Vision Critical found that 40 percent of them have made a purchase (either online or in-store) after having favorited a product on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Those are big numbers, both in terms of reach and conversion.”
Not only are buyers themselves using social media to influence their purchase decisions, but retail brands can expand their influence and customer loyalty using social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Social networks such as these are continuing to grow rapidly; in its third quarter last year, Facebook’s monthly active users reached 1.79 billion, up about 16% year over year. Social media is also the modern consumer’s top choice for customer service issues.
By maintaining a presence and engaging with individuals on social networks, retail brands can form relationships with millions of customers whom they might not have other means to access. Social media is an excellent, grassroots method of marketing any business, but retail franchises can enjoy some particular methods of social media marketing in order to increase their success.
Getting Started with Franchise Social Media
As your retail franchise gets started with your social media strategy, your first step should be to get your brand in order. A cohesive brand that your franchisees can implement for consistency is a crucial aspect to franchise success and brand loyalty on social media. After you explain and establish your brand’s voice, there are two key things that must be decided on before you can get started with your franchise’s social media marketing strategy:
Parent Franchise/Corporate: Set a vision and plan for how your brand will engage on social media.
If you’re a franchisor defining this plan for your brand as a whole, you’ll need to determine your level of control. Fransmart, a franchise development company, has outlined four ways to setup a social media gameplan based on franchisor/franchisee control:
- Centralized: When there is a single, centralized account to control the voice of the brand, the benefit to a franchise is that all content is on-brand, and messaging isn’t diluted by multiple marketers. However, your franchisees will miss the chance to connect with their local customers under this level of control, and the generalized brand content may not resonate across the different cultures where you have stores.
- Centralized Blend: The next step is to blend in a little more franchisee control, by getting content from the stores and franchise owners, which is then reviewed and managed by the parent franchise. This keeps a review process in place to ensure on-brand content, but also engages the local customers. On the other hand, it might not work for some franchises because this approach requires a strong corporate social media team to facilitate.
- Controlled: Franchises that choose to provide more marketing support to their franchisees may go with a controlled approach, where the stores manage their own profiles but the parent franchise provides the bulk of their content. With the controlled approach, the franchisees have direct access to their local customers, and get to be more involved, but there may be conflicts if the franchisee publishes off-brand content. Additionally, the brand’s overall consistency may suffer since franchisees don’t all share the same marketing abilities, technology, or resources.
- Monitored: The loosest approach from a parent company’s side is the monitored approach, where franchisees can essentially do their own thing on social media, but they must follow guidelines developed by corporate. Besides having greater personal involvement, the individual franchisees can establish a specific local voice. That being said, compliance is an even greater concern, so the parent franchisor/corporate must have a team in place for monitoring all franchisee profiles.
Depending on corporate’s decision, the next ‘Getting Started’ step may be completed by the parent franchise (options #1-3), or the franchise locations (option #4).
Corporate OR Franchisee: Develop and complete your social media profiles.
Which social media networks will your brand use? The following are a couple of notes to point you in the right direction, based on your industry, products, and social media goals:
- Facebook: Most retailers say that Facebook is the top social media platform for customer acquisition, so regardless of the other networks you choose, Facebook should probably be one of them. According to the Pew Research Center, “Facebook continues to be America’s most popular social networking platform by a substantial margin: Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) now use Facebook, more than double the share that uses Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%).” As the most popular network for consumers, Facebook should be your number-one network as a retail brand. That being said, Facebook is constantly updating its algorithm, and updates are often unfavorable for commercial pages, so while you should certainly have a presence on this network, you’ll likely want to diversify your social media marketing efforts to gain more visibility from your customers on other platforms.
- Twitter: With real-time updates and posts shown in chronological order, Twitter is a social media network for immediate information, condensed conversation, and creating live communities. But with so much chatter going on, a brand’s voice may be quickly muted unless that brand is using Twitter as a means of customer service engagement. Twitter is also a great social media platform for retail brands that have celebrity brand ambassadors.
- Pinterest: Highly visual and curated, Pinterest is a photo-based social media platform that has enthralled DIY-ers and beyond. It can be a very effective social network for ecommerce retailers to use to promote individual products: “Pinterest has more than 75 million registered users. It ranks third, after Facebook and Twitter, in terms of generating daily referral traffic. Almost 80% of its users are women. Buyers referred from Pinterest are 10% more likely to buy your products. Buyers are increasingly using Pinterest to find relevant products.”
- LinkedIn: Although it’s an effective social media network to use for recruiting and hiring qualified retail professionals, LinkedIn isn’t likely to bring more customers into your franchise stores. You might, however, want to consider maintaining a simple LinkedIn page with industry news and information in order to inform and communicate with potential managers or executives for your internal business.
- Instagram: Like Pinterest, Instagram is highly visual and photo-based. However, Instagram does not allow photos that link off of the social app, making it ineffective as an ecommerce mechanism. But it’s user base continues to grow rapidly, so, it behooves a retail brand to implement a targeted Instagram marketing strategy.
- YouTube: From advertising to video contests, the viral marketing of today gets its traction on YouTube. You can make considerable progress with both brand awareness and increased sales by using YouTube as your platform of choice for video advertising campaigns (but you might want to consider splitting that focus between YouTube and Facebook!).
- SnapChat: This social media platform has remained a sort of hidden gem for the retail industry, in large part because it’s hard to track the ROI that a SnapChat ad campaign actually generates. That being said, SnapChat is one of the most popular social networks for millennials and young people, so brands with those audiences and customers should seriously consider the value SnapChat generates in incremental word-of-mouth.
How to Plan an Effective Franchise Social Media Strategy
If you’re a franchisee, you must of course follow all rules and requirements for marketing as set forth by your parent franchisor company. But once those obligations have been met and/or followed, it’s time to plan your social media strategy and other marketing plans. Here’s a great place to get started with your social media vision and goal-setting.
Step One: Evaluate Your Resources
You’ve got your brand and your products, so you’ll need to determine which assets (photos, videos, etc.) to use, how you’ll be designing social media graphics, and your budget. It’s very important to first identify what exactly you’re marketing. Don’t forget labor as a resource; the success and ROI of your efforts depends on the amount of time your social media team (or person) has to implement your strategy.
Step Two: Identify Your Audience
Who do you hope to reach with your franchise social media marketing? The answer to this question may already be answered by corporate, but in the case where a franchisee has more control of their social media marketing, there is more flexibility. This step is key, so that you know where to focus your energy based on your target demographic’s interests and habits. You may have already answered this question while choosing which social media platforms to use.
Step Three: Allocate Your Resources
Based on what your audience likes and is looking for, it’s time to allocate your brand assets, funds, and available labor to prioritize the different features of your complete franchise social media strategy. Remember to leave space for replying to and engaging with your followers and fans, in addition to generating new content.
Step Four: Start Your Strategy
Forbes notes that there are “three strategies vital for any successful social media campaign; creating a community, optimal localization, and listening to your customers. Consider each of these as the legs to a stool, and to stand up-right the stool needs all three to stand sturdy, at the same height and importance.”
- Create a Community: By knowing your audience well, asking and listening to what they want, putting your fans at the center of your strategy, and embracing authenticity, you’ll be equipped to create a real community around your brand.
- Optimize for Local: To make your franchise appeal on a local level, you need to define your local market, focus on culture and tone, and create assets with a localized relevance. Another good idea is to tie online and in-store content together, so that you can be consistent with the franchisor brand as well as refining the content with a local twist. If you’re a global franchisor that intends to create a localized presence for your franchisees, here are some helpful tips to get started.
- Listen & Reply to Customers: Don’t just reply to the happy customers and thrilled fans; be sure to respond to negative social media reviews in a timely, appropriate and customer-centric manner.
Step Five: Analyze & Adjust for Success
After you start your social media strategy, a key to social media marketing success is going to be constant review and adjustment to your strategy in order to ensure its effectiveness. You don’t want to be wasting your time on a strategy that doesn’t bring about engagement and increased sales! All social networks have their own data analysis features, but if you use multiple social media networks you may want to invest in a social media reporting tool that brings together each network’s key data:
- Online Traffic (number of website visits, pageviews and unique visitors from social networks
- Fan & Followers (number of people who subscribe to and/or like your social profiles)
- Social Activity (number of posts you share)
- Social Engagement (shares, likes, comments on content posted on social networks)
- Social Leads/Conversions (from online forms or contacts, or from promotions exclusively marketed on social media)
Additional Tips for Social Media Content
As you implement your franchise social media campaigns, there are some important things to keep in mind in order to achieve success on social media:
- Post with consistency and reply to engagement/comments with timeliness. When your social media profiles are only randomly updated, your customers don’t know where to reliably find the latest products, sales, and other revenue-generating information. Don’t launch a social media plan without a plan to follow-through with fresh, consistently published content. A member of your franchise or location should be assigned to reply to any customer or fan comments, reviews, or negative feedback in a timely manner.
- Keep relevancy at the forefront of your content strategy. It’s not appropriate to post personal things (i.e. photos of your cat, political rants, etc.) on your business social media pages. Keep your content focused on things that are about or showcasing your company or products, and if desired, share relevant content that your audience might enjoy. For example, PacSun might post about their spring line of apparel, as well as sharing videos of people surfing, photos of people tanning on the beach, or doing amazing tricks on a skateboard.
- Feature events or sales. Use social media platforms to spread the word about special happenings in an individual store or across all franchise locations. Not only are you likely to get more awareness and interest, you’ll likely increase sales and revenue as a result of higher traffic.
- Avoid overexposure. There is such a thing as too much posting on social media. First, don’t post too much in general; focus on quality over quantity. Second, don’t just share your own content; be a good digital ‘citizen’ and share relevant content from other brands and individuals. A good rule of thumb is the 70/20/10 plan: 70 percent of your content should provide your audience value, 20 percent should be content from other individuals or companies, and only 10 percent should be highly promotional/salesy content.
- Incentivize followers with exclusive deals. One of the top reasons why people follow brands on social media is to access exclusive discounts and promotions, so don’t disappoint! While you shouldn’t overdo it (as mentioned earlier in this guide), keep your followers hooked with some frequency of special deals or perhaps, loyalty programs.
- Don’t oversaturate your posts with discounts and coupons. This is just another form of overexposure, but it’s a common mistake that many brands make with social media marketing. Center your content strategy for social media on relevant content that brings your audience value. This could be helpful tips such as how to free a locked-up zipper on a dress or how to pair different items for a unique look, showcase fashion trends, or other types of content that’s related to your brand and audience, but not necessarily about your products themselves. Keep 10 percent of your posts or less for coupons, exclusive deals, sales, etc.
- Highlight what’s new and share your favorite products.. This should be fundamental to your strategy; how else will customers know that you have something fresh and on-trend that they may want to purchase? However, look beyond the simple act of posting a new product all on its own and consider curating special looks or groupings in order to highlight other products as well. Feature franchise location and/or employee favorites, top style picks from your buyers, and even featured items that your customers or celebrities love.
- Be varied with content types. Varying the types of content you use on all social media networks will make your page(s) look more curated and unique. This is particularly important with Facebook, where the network’s algorithm manipulates the ‘reach’ that your posts get among your followers and their friends. Some types of content, such as videos, photos, and links, get more visibility than posts with simply text content.