Today’s guest blog post is by Thomas Scott, CEO of Brand Journalists, a firm that is creating breakthroughs for several franchise companies using a mix of content and Engage121.
Why Being on Facebook is a Mistake
Almost every session I attended at this year’s International Franchise Association conference in Las Vegas touched on social media. No matter what the subject matter, the dialogue eventually focused on the impact of social media. Just as in past years, there was standing room only space for social topics and several times the crowd spilled over into the hallways.
Throughout all the conversation, a disturbing trend emerged as a best practice: Facebook is where you should focus your social media efforts. The message to franchisors: when it comes to social media, it is a Facebook world.
On many levels, this makes sense. Facebook is growing at amazing rates and has quickly become the most popular social network. Our customers are all over Facebook and we feel the pressure to be where our customers are. Our franchisees want to be on Facebook and we are struggling to develop a plan makes everyone happy and produces results.
This is a mistake.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a presence on Facebook; at Brand Journalists, we do a ton of Facebook work for franchisors and franchisees, both of which have a large opportunity to connect with customers via the popular network. I believe in Facebook and we are always looking for ways to coax a return out of our marketing.
The mistake is in thinking that all your social media efforts should be focused on Facebook.
Franchisors today need to exploit four areas of social media. They are all important but not all equal. Some are easier to use and some are better for driving sales. In our experience managing social media for several franchise brands and individual franchisees, Facebook is the least likely social activity to drive actual sales and revenue.
Here are the four areas of social media listed in order of importance and impact on your sales:
1. Blogging – every day, millions of people search for billions of things on Google. Despite Facebook’s size, Google is still many multiples larger and growing. Your customers are looking for you and your services on Google; the humble business blog is the best social media tool to help you get your content in front of your target customers. The business blog is the most overlooked social media tool and by far the most underused. Companies that get good returns on social media are heavy bloggers simply because the blog allows creation of optimized content that gets in front of people who want what you have to sell. A good blog leverages emotionally compelling stories and relevant keywords. If content is truly the backbone of a successful social media campaign, it needs a place to call home and its home is your blog.
2. Google Places – in several IFA sessions we asked if franchisors knew much about Google Places and few understood this important tool. Google Places is Google’s business directory and one of the most important social media platforms. Search for a business or service in your city and you’ll see Google place pages for your local franchisees. This is a mini-website that provides basic information about your business, showcases user reviews and gives business owners spots to update statuses and upload media such as photos and videos. Potential customers who are ready to buy your product or service are influenced more by Google Places than any other social media. If you want to drive sales, spend time claiming, optimizing and managing each of your local franchisee place pages. Spend time to train franchisees on how to manage local pages and gather positive reviews. You’ll get an immediate return.
3. Social Loyalty Programs – Don’t know what social loyalty is? You are not alone. This is a very new field of social media and it holds immense promise for building repeat business and generating referrals from existing customers. Social loyalty programs tap into point of sale systems. Similar to a grocery store customer card, you issue your customers who register online a swipe card. They indicate which social networks they use and give you their email. Why would someone hand over this information? People respond to incentives. If you are a yogurt shop, they agree to post positive messages about your brand and earn points for every posting. Once they reach a set number of points they get free yogurt. When a loyalty customer swipes the card in the store, the program checks them into foursquare, posts on Facebook and even tweets. Every posting has a coupon or promotion for others so you just turned your customer base into a guerrilla marketing sales force. Not only do you entice customers to visit more often, they build brand loyalty within their networks. Talk about word of mouth on steroids……
4. Facebook – last but not least, Facebook is not to be overlooked. In this list, however, Facebook is the most difficult way to generate a direct sales return, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Facebook is a closed system. That means your content stays within the Facebook network. Facebook wants it this way to encourage sharing and eventually tap into a lucrative ad market. For businesses, this means creating a business fan page. The best advice I’ve heard is to think of your fan page as a business website with similar functionality as your main company website. Don’t use Facebook as it comes in its default mode. Don’t have people see your wall when they click on your page. Do get help customizing your Facebook tabs and think about ways to serve up blog content, store locators and Facebook-only deals on custom – built tabs.
As franchise companies, social media has become part of our integrated marketing strategies and it’s a good thing: we have tremendous opportunities to build brand awareness and leverage fans. For the first time, companies are really beginning to show solid track records using the social media tools above to drive sales. If you are trying to tackle social media, start at the top of this list and work your way down — you’ll get a much better result and your franchisees will thank you.
If you don’t know where to start, outsource or get help. You won’t be sorry.
Brand Journalists is a content, PR and social media firm based in Nashville, TN that uses Engage121 with all of its clients to help manage content on social networks to create marketing breakthroughs and drive sales.