“Being agile”…how does that fit in with business?

Let’s start with a definition of agility. In sports, agility is defined as “the ability to move and change the direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while in control.” Business agility is defined as the ability of a business to “adapt rapidly and cost efficiently in response to changes in the business environment.”

The Canadian Marketing Association 2013 B2B conference on November 6th focused on creating an agile business. It was a full day of presentations, case studies, and panel discussions on a variety of topics including lead generation, transformation management, content development, and measurement. Ultimately, it boiled down to three key areas a company must embrace in order to be competitive, relevant, and responsive today:

  1. Embrace changeJeffrey Hayzlett delivered an impassioned keynote presentation about the need for change in organizations. We fail at change because we fear it. It causes tension and means we have to take risks and test ourselves. When we don’t embrace change, we miss opportunities and lose sight of what the brand and company is all about. Being agile means not settling with the status-quo – customers don’t, so neither should you.
  2. Put process before the technology.  Ally Motz of SiriusDecisions Canada Inc. indicated that process needs to be in place before the technology (i.e. marketing automation). Mike Hicks of BlackBerry echoed this sentiment stating that it’s not about marketing automation – it’s about the content, the strategy, and the management behind it.  Agile businesses can be successful with the right strategies and processes (who, does what, when and how) in place – the technology is there to make it easier…not do it for you.
  3. Invest in people.  A company is only as agile as its people are, and agility stems from how engaged your employees are. John Wright from the Canadian Management Centre stated that only 27% of the Canadian workforce is highly engaged, with 50% moderately engaged. Engaged employees are those that connect and align, both emotionally and intellectually, with your company and customers.  Create engagement by being specific in your expectations, clearing the path of potential obstacles, and making work meaningful for your employees.  Ultimately, engagement means greater employee productivity, better customer service, higher revenues and profitability.

Being agile doesn’t mean your organization needs to be small. Even the largest organizations can be agile organizations. It just takes a lot of commitment from everyone to not fear change, to create strong processes and to invest in their people.

Do you have an agile organization? What are your best practices?

by Kim McWatt

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Do not feed the trolls!

Customer complaints – they can be the bane of one’s existence on social media. Negative commentary can often strike fear into the hearts of even the strongest brands. But they don’t have to be. The key is recognizing if it’s a legitimate customer complaint or concern versus incendiary commentary made by a troll.

Legitimate customer concerns can be enlightening, empowering, and yes, even inspiring. Sh!t happens, so rather than take a negative approach to reacting to negative customer commentary about your product / service or customer service (e.g. hours of operation, phone “on hold” wait time), look at it as an OPPORTUNITY. You may already know there’s a potential issue, customer input can help to hone in on where you can make things better.

Trolls, however, are like vampires – they suck. While vampires suck your life blood, trolls just suck the life out of you. A troll is someone who: posts inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community such as discussion forums, chat rooms, blogs, reviews, or on social media with the intent to provoke an emotional response or simply to disrupt conversation. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

These types of people hide behind the anonymity of their online persona which gives them power to say what they want when they want. Spotting a troll is tricky. Sometimes it’s easy – they may start their commentary with complementary statements such as “You suck”. They also tend to play the devil’s advocate regardless of any attempt by you to make good on the situation. If you dig deeper, often they have never been or ever will be a customer. Sometimes, what you may initially think is a troll could be a stressed out person that needs your patience and understanding.

Dealing with Negativity

My colleague, Mary Fearon, provided some excellent insights into dealing with negative commentary on social media in her blog post about the pitfalls of social media. Mary writes that when determining how to respond, perspective is critically important and helps to identify if the commentary is legitimate or a troll trying to stir the pot on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.  Be truthful, transparent and genuine when you do respond and as mentioned earlier, view concerns as feedback on how to make your product, service, or business better.

Here’s a few tips on how to deal with trolls, and customer concerns in general.

  • Handling trolls
    • Give them a chance. Respond and see what they do.
    • Ignore posts once you’ve identified someone as a troll. Their goal is to make you and your legitimate fans angry. Don’t “feed the troll” – extinguish the conversation as soon as possible.
    • Throw them off-balance. Complement them or joke them out of misbehaving. Turn their negativity into a positive.
    • Block them. If you’ve made every attempt to positively diffuse their negativity, Facebook and Twitter give you the option to block these people.
  • Respond, no matter what.  Inactivity will appear as if you are ignoring the issue. Assume good faith initially and keep a positive mindset. Sometimes, this could uncover a troll in hiding. At least you made the first attempt to respond and be genuine.
  • Be patient and understanding.  What may be common knowledge to you and your employees may not be well understood to the customer. Whether or not the fault lies with you or the customer, express regret authentically, and offer an apology if it is warranted by the facts of the situation.
  • Stick to the facts. Always try to direct customers back to a central repository of FAQs. If their concern has already been addressed “publicly” on your website this will often diffuse a situation quickly.
  • Contact the customer privately. Take any more serious concerns offline as soon as you can.
    • If you are the Facebook page admin and logged into Facebook as the “Company Page” (i.e. you can post and comment on other pages as the company page, not as yourself), you cannot send a message directly to the person who made the negative comment. Ask the customer to send a message through the comments to start the dialogue.
    • Sometimes, organizations will create a “customer service” Facebook profile (not a Facebook company page). Using this generic personal profile, you can then directly email the person through Facebook as long as their settings allow for messages.
    • The goal is to take the negative conversation off the public page to delve more deeply into the issue and offer a more personal touch that signals you care
    • Alternatively, you can ask the customer send a direct message to you to get the conversation started. This is a common practice to get customer contact information and permission to respond directly.
  • Do not delete negative posts. You should not remove negative posts unless the post clearly violates your social media customer posting policies outlined on your Facebook page or other social sites. If the person is unreceptive to positive customer service attempts, becomes blatantly belligerent, is instigating controversy with other customers, starts arguments (the classic troll) the last resort would be banning the person from the page.
  • Be proactive. Take the time to document all known customer issues and develop a calendar of posts which can proactively deflect any potential customer complaints. Create FAQs or blog posts on your website that can dive deeper into these issues centralized repository provide valuable information for customers to better understand your product or services. Practice possible scenarios so that if a crisis does occur, you’re prepared to deal with it as positively as possible.

Bottom line: dealing with negativity doesn’t have to suck. It’s all in how you handle it.

Ever had to deal with a troll? I would love to hear how you handled the situation.

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By Kim McWatt

In my white paper “Harnessing the Power of Social Media within a Dealer / Franchise Network”, I discussed how providing your dealer/franchise network with the strategies, processes, and support tools for managing social networks locally ensures that consistent brand experience can be delivered to the customer. Setting the expectations up front makes sure that greater trust is established between the corporation and dealers/franchisees since all parties are clear on their roles and responsibilities within the overall company social network.

In addition, consider these best practices for increasing the success of your social media program implementation: 1) listening to the customer, 2) selecting the right social media management system, and 3) collaborating effectively on campaign development.

Listen to Your Customer

Having a deep understanding of your customer, how they interact with your company, what kind of relationship they want to have with you and your brand, and how they respond to your marketing strategies is critical to your success. It often seems as if the customer is an afterthought, especially when it comes to social media.  There is such a concentration on using social media to market to customers, the technology often becomes the driver rather than the other way around – aligning customer behaviors and needs to the technology.

There are abundant examples of companies who get on the social media bandwagon without really thinking if it’s the right thing to do for their customers or their business. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always equate to good results. When starting on the road to developing sound marketing strategies which include social media as an outreach channel, consider questions like:

  • What are your customer’s dominant buying motives?
  • What is the strength of your current relationship? Do you have advocates of your business? How loyal are they to you?
  • What is their preferred method of communication? Email? Online / Social? Personal Selling? Direct Mail?
  • Are there any common needs within your customer base? Can you cluster customers based on their preferences?
  • Are they currently using social media? If so, how?
  • Are our customers currently talking about us online?

By listening to your customers online using Google search, HootSuite, or other social media monitoring tools such as MeltwaterBuzz or Radian 6, you can effectively start to plan your social media communications strategy. From your analysis, you gain the background needed to determine the right content, the right social communications channels, and the right voice needed for your current and potential customer audience.

Social Media Management Systems

Social media management systems (e.g. HootSuite Pro/Enterprise, Zift Solutions) offer dealer/franchise networks a way to streamline communications and cascade content through these channels.  Corporate head office can deliver content directly through the local channels while still allowing their dealers/franchisees the ability to post local content. Team based channel management can be set up to enable head office to listen, engage and measure all from a single interface. Management permissions can also be set at an enterprise level and enable as little or as much control of content posted through the local social networks as necessary (i.e. approvals required on all posts versus no approval required).

Selection of a management system should be determined by the corporation and based upon:

  • Business size and engagement points (i.e. size of dealer/franchise network)
  • Expectation of customer engagement frequency/volume (e.g. expecting a high volume of customer posts related to customer support)
  • Volume of marketing content to be posted (i.e. deals, news, campaigns being managed)
  • Custom support options (e.g. specialized reporting or if the organization is multinational)

Not all systems are created equal. The corporation needs to determine what systems will work best for their unique network requirements.

Local Campaign Support

Corporations need to make sure all dealer/franchisees are fully aware of the goals, objectives, timing, content, and response requirements for social media campaigns (e.g. product promotions/product launches).

  • Goals and Objectives – clear objectives and measureable goals need to be published to the franchise network so they understand the success measures for the promotional campaign. Is the campaign designed to increase brand awareness? Drive lead generation? Improve online customer engagement? Franchisees need to understand the objectives and goals in order to provide support at a local grassroots level, just as they would for a traditional media campaign.
  • Timing – this includes length of the overall campaign, frequency of posts, and timing of individual posts. From a recent experience with a food service franchise, we learned that discussion of this aspect of the campaign is critical for local support. The Facebook promotional campaign for a new menu was not clearly outlined to the franchisees both in terms of length of campaign (5 weeks), number of posts (varied weekly) and timing of posts (twice a day to once every 2 days). Franchisees became concerned that the frequency and timing corporate posts impacted on the visibility of their local posts. A discussion with follow up outline of the campaign prior to launch would have alleviated any concerns and allowed franchisees to time their local posts accordingly.
  • Content – Dealers/franchisees need to be aware of the content of the campaign so they can follow up with supporting content, answer customer questions, and ensure they do not post duplicate content during the campaign time frame.
  • Response requirements – the corporation must outline how customer comments will be responded to – will corporate provide all responses to corporate posts? Is the dealer/franchisee responsible for managing comments? If the responsibilities are unclear, customers will become frustrated with either a lack of response or duplication of response.

Including dealers/franchisees upfront in the discussions about social media campaigns can significantly increase the chances of delivering a successful promotion and supports the development of deeper trust between the franchisee and franchiser.

Successful implementation of social media programs takes a collaborative effort between the corporation and its dealer/franchise network. What other best practices are you using to manage social media in your network?

Social Media Management

By Kim McWatt

Social media for dealers/franchises is more than setting up a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn account for every location. These are the tools, the applications. Social media is a conversation happening online – it’s customer service, product/service education, consumer reviews, and brand messaging. It’s building a relationship with existing and potential customers through word-of-mouth.

Social channels create more opportunities to connect with more customers directly and build relationships with them.  Web and mobile technologies – the basis of Social Media marketing – help turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities and individuals. Successful engagement through Social Media is not measured by how many followers or likes you have, but in the quality and quantity of the engagement that occurs. Deeper engagement leads to deeper brand affinity and strong brand advocates.

Changes in Online Consumer Behavior

Social media has changed the way consumers think and behave in their purchase decisions – both in B2B and B2C relationships. In a 2012 study conducted by Nielson Company, they found social media users participated at least once a month in the following social activities:

  • Hearing other’s experiences – 70%
  • Learning more about brands/products/services  – 65%
  • Complimenting brands – 53%
  • Expressing concerns/complaints about brands/services – 50%
  • Sharing money incentives – 47%

As Jim Letwin, President & CEO of JAN Kelley Marketing, mentions in his article Effective Marketing Communications for Franchisors (Part III):

When influencers (such as the media or users of our products and services) voluntarily say good things about our business, “earned media” is generated. Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing force because consumers trust the opinions of other consumers more than they do the opinions of advertisers. So, when someone amplifies that word of mouth by publishing a positive review about an experience they’ve had, their message carries far more weight than if it had come from the company itself. Earned media is presented either through traditional channels (on and off-line articles, TV and radio editorial or news reporting) or through blog mentions and social media reviews. When compared to paid forms, earned media of this kind can generate higher levels of engagement, influence and impact.

Generating earned media takes time, commitment and a reasonable amount of expertise. Because of its popularity and accessibility, social media is the best starting point.

Consumers are looking to the opinions and preferences from a broader online network to help guide their purchase decisions – no longer can a company tightly control its brand/product/service messaging across every channel.  They are also looking for information from a company that provides a consistent and authentic customer experience, regardless of which social channel they seek information through.

With the customer always top of mind, a franchise organization must consider how their activity on social media affects both head office and the franchisees. Policies, processes, and contingency plans need to be put into place to ensure consistency in content and mitigate any potential issues or errors, including reputation damaging content posted by employees through their own social networks.

Getting Started

With all these online conversations happening, it’s easy to see the need to engage with your customers through social media. The hard part is determining how to most effectively do it.

Social media implementation within a dealer/franchise network is different than social media for a typical business or corporation.  There are multiple interdependencies found within the franchise structure and relationship that need to be taken into consideration when developing and implementing a social strategy within the organization. It needs to fit with the franchise agreements, work within the structure at both the corporate and franchise levels, include guidelines for brand integrity, and be integrated into the overall marketing strategies.

The corporation needs to take a leadership role in developing the social networking strategy for the entire dealer/franchise organization.

If corporate head office doesn’t…someone else will.

Download my whitepaper  “Harnessing the Power of Social Media within a Dealer / Franchise Network” to get insights into how to get started in developing a plan that works for your organization.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

One size doesn’t always fit all.

We’ve all heard this: one size fits all. This phrase has been associated with everything from clothing to computer interfaces and marketing communications. Wikipedia defines this phrase as: “a description for a product that would fit in all instances. The term has been extended to mean one style or procedure would fit in all related applications.”

Not too long ago, marketers within the trucking industry assumed traditional marketing tools were the best way to reach their audience. Just as in clothing one size doesn’t fit all; today, a single channel of communications doesn’t fit everyone in trucking. They now have the option to get the information they need from direct mail, print publications, email, the Internet, social media, broadcast media, mobile channels and more.

The way information is gathered and consumed by a truck fleet owner, truck driver, maintenance manager or service technician will vary significantly. Take the time to understand your customers’ communications preferences. Then use this information to develop marketing strategies that leverage the channels which make the most sense for your customer.

Take a good look at your customer

Consider a typical owner-operator or small fleet truck owner in the commercial trucking industry. Annually, Land Line Magazine posts the results of a reader survey which gathers information on opinions and behaviors of owner operators and small fleet owners. According to the 2012 results, a typical owner-operator or small fleet owner:

  • Is male (94%) and approximately 50 years old
  • Owns a computer (desktop (54%) or laptop (56%)
  • Has a Facebook account (35%)
  • Accesses the Internet on the road and at home (44%)
  • Checks out news and promotional offers online (19%)
  • Is using a cellphone (77%) or smartphone (33%)
  • Is starting to use mobile apps, especially trucking apps (42%)
  • Predominantly uses email (71%)
  • Still prefers to receive their magazine subscription as hard copy (82%).

So, you’re thinking, big deal. But it is! While the survey indicates print is preferred for certain types of content such as industry news within trade magazines, consideration needs to be taken for the fact that online sources are being used to consume other types of information (webinars, locating loads, offers and discounts, or entertainment).

Take advantage of communications trends

OE truck manufacturers have been quick to take advantage of this online trend in how customers consume content. For example:

  • Mobile Apps: Many now offer apps to help connect customers to their nearest dealer location (Mack’s “Mack Locator” ) and integrating parts promotions available at a dealer location (International’s “On the Road” iPhone app). Volvo Trucks recently launched an iPad game to showcase their truck’s fuel efficiency.
  • Social Media: Majority of OEMs have a strong presence on social media with thousands of followers of their brands. Plus, their dealers are also increasingly using social media to reach out to customers on local promotions, community engagement, and product updates.
  • E-Newsletters: Providing industry, vocational, and product (truck / parts / engine) updates via email has become commonplace. Freightliner provides an archive of newsletters online as well as email subscription.
  • Online Communities: International offers their International Advantage program to enhance their customer’s ownership experience.  Freightliner offers Team Run Smart, an online community of trucking professionals.

One size doesn’t fit all: Getting the right mix

Regardless of if your organization is a large manufacturer or local dealer, distributor or service garage, when developing the right mix of outreach options for customers, consider the following:

  • Let them self select their preferred communications channel. Do a customer survey and ask them how they want to receive information or promotions.
  • Don’t undervalue print and direct mail. In the trucking industry there is still a preference for direct mail (flyers, magazines, promotions) and printed materials as leave behinds in personal selling.
  • Look at your website – do you offer multiple ways to engage with customers (social sharing, online chat, e-commerce, and newsletter signups).
  • With increased use of mobile technology (smartphones and tablets), is your website mobile friendly and easy to navigate with a smartphone?
  • Get started on social media – Facebook is the preferred social network so think about the content you can provide to customers through this channel
  • And don’t forget to collect email. Have your staff ask for it directly to add to your contact lists.

Just as every customer has unique business needs, they also have their own preferences for how they’d like to be communicated with. A combination of outreach channels ensures you’re reaching a broad range of customers in the way they prefer.

One size certainly doesn’t fit all, all the time. So, what ways do your customers prefer to stay in contact with you?

LinkedIn iPhone App

LinkedIn iPhone App

LinkedIn often seems like a lonely outsider in the vast sea of social media networks. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest seem get all the attention. But LinkedIn is a formidable force within the business world. With over 200 million members across 200 countries worldwide, this business networking application is growing steadily each day and can be critical to business development.

Some of the top ranking industries globally within LinkedIn* are:

  • 6.3 million in Information Technology and Services.
  • 3.7 million in Financial Services.
  • 3.7 million in Higher Education.
  • 2.9 million in Transportation
  • 2.7 million in Telecommunications.
  • 2.5 million in Computer Software.

Within the Transportation category, the nearly three million registered members split into the following sub-categories:

  • Logistics and Supply Chain – 662,214 members
  • Warehousing – 114,045 members
  • Transportation/Trucking/Railroad – 992,086 members
  • Maritime – 259,334 members
  • Airlines/Aviation – 801,256 members
  • Package/Freight Delivery – 101,130 members

In Canada, over 125,000 people are registered within the Transportation category. The largest sub-category is Transportation/Trucking/Railroad with nearly 57,000 registered members. The next largest group is Logistics and Supply Chain with nearly 20,000 registered members.

With a highly targeted business audience like this, it makes sense for companies within the transportation industry to use LinkedIn for more than just personnel recruiting and start using it as an integral part of the sales process. Here’s a few tips:

  • Update your company page
    • Manage your company overview
      • Showcase Services/Products
      • Ask for recommendations from trusted LinkedIn members
    • Post company updates (and encourage employees to also post industry relevant content)
      • Position your company as a valuable resource to prospective partners – you’re in the know, you have the access to information and the right people to help them
    • Make sure all key employees have the right company profile linked to their experience
  • Join LinkedIn Groups, join in the conversation
    • There are a myriad of opportunities to participate in group discussions within the transportation industry. Add your input and insight to enhance the discussion and showcase thought leadership in your area of expertise.
    • Take conversations offline and use your shared group experience as a door opener for business opportunities
    • Some example groups include:
      • The Logistics & Supply Chain Networking Group – over 115,000 members, for senior level executives
      • Freight & Logistics Professionals – a very active group with nearly 70,000 members and 562 discussions this month!
      • Women In Trucking Association, Inc – a niche group to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry with 2,400 members
      • A Truckload, Trucking, Logistics, Supply Chain, 3PL , Distribution Group – nearly 29,000 members with a very active discussion board
      • Heavy Duty Truck and Trailer Components Group – a group for persons involved or interested in the replacement parts industry for class 6-8 trucks and large trailers. Another niche group with 4,500 members and over 75 discussions this month.
  • Use People search
    • When searching out contacts at prospective customer organizations, search for the target company first and then view the first and second connections you have at the company. See any shared connections you may have and find out if you can get an introduction through LinkedIn. Learn about your prospective clients using their public profile, find out if there are any shared interests or other information that can break the ice and make it easier to get your foot in the door.
  • Take advantage of Company search
    • Use the company search as a source of competitive intelligence. What is your competition up to? What content are they publishing? Any new employees to be aware of?
    • Follow companies you are interested in and get regular updates through your LinkedIn account. This is a great way to see if there are any opportunities for new business with your organization.
  • Test with Advertising
    • LinkedIn advertising can be a valuable tool for prospecting and new business generation. LinkedIn Ads work the same as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Set up your basic ad, target your audience (by geography, company, job title, group, etc), bid on the cost per click, set your budget limits, and “bam” your done.
    • Create multiple ads to test what content generates the most response. Be ready to field calls and inquiries once the ads launch.
  • Use LinkedIn Mobile
    • Download the LinkedIn mobile app to your smartphone if you haven’t already. Use at industry trade shows or events when making contact with prospects. Find out more about individual and company prospects on the fly so you can maximize your networking opportunities.

LinkedIn doesn’t have to only be your online resume. Take the time to get to know the various tools and resources within it and get connected. It will be time well spent.

*Data pulled directly from LinkedIn Ads.

Web and mobile technologies – the basis of Social Media marketing – help turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities and people. Successful engagement through Social Media is not measured by how many followers or likes you have, but in the quality and quantity of the engagement that occurs. Deeper engagement leads to deeper brand affinity and strong brand advocates.

Within a dealer/franchise network, social media is used for a number of different purposes: to build awareness, to support customer service, to influence stakeholders, for education and training, or for business networking. Social channels create more opportunities to connect with more customers directly and build relationships with them.

 The Challenge – Who owns the social channel?

Within a dealer/franchise network, there is a fine balancing act between the needs of the corporation and the needs of the local franchise owner. Corporations must support their network in delivering consistent brand messaging to local customers while at the same time establishing relationships with the consumer at a corporate level.Image

Especially critical is creating uniformity in a customer’s brand experience across all customer touch points.  Since head office usually controls its brand message through all outreach channels (e.g print, broadcast, in-store), it should also control the brand conversations occurring online through social media. Leaving it to the dealers/franchises to decide how the brand message is delivered through their personal social channels leads to inconsistency in the experience a customer has with the brand – between corporate and the local dealers/franchises and between the dealers/franchises themselves.

For a dealer/franchise network to successfully carry out a consistent brand experience through social media, the organization must ask itself:

  • How do we support our dealer/franchise network to be successful in Social Media?
  • How do we maintain the required corporate control and brand consistency while enabling a strong local social presence?

 The Reality – Not everyone can do it

For dealers/franchises, social media marketing can be a very cost-effective method for customer outreach and building relationships locally. The reality is, not all dealers/franchisees can implement a social media communications strategy successfully. A number of barriers stand in the way of successful implementation:

  • Time / resources – key staff at a dealer/franchise location are focused on fighting fires, building sales, maintaining customer relationships, managing P&L. This leaves little room for attention on  social media marketing outreach.
  • Skillset – social media marketing is not a capability usually found at a dealer/franchise location. Often times it is left to someone who “spends a lot of time on Facebook”, but may not have the ability from a broader marketing perspective. While larger franchisees may hire marketing expertise to support local outreach efforts, social media may not be a key priority for the location.
  • Toolset– without strong guidance from the corporate level, dealers/franchises are left to their own devices to develop a social presence. From logo usage to tone and personality, dealers/franchisees need content, support, and resources to properly manage their online conversations and ensure consistency in customer experience
  • Mindset – for some dealers/franchises, staff are not familiar with, do not see the relevance of, and are intimidated by social media outreach leading to low adoption or avoidance of social media as a tool to build relationships

The entire network including head office must work together to offer a strong online presence through social channels. To combat implementation barriers and support dealers/franchises in the use of social media at the local level, the corporation must take the lead and give the guidance necessary for their network including:

  • Development and sharing of the overall communications strategy and implementation guidelines for the network including: setting the tone and personality for the brand, creating the overall brand promise, providing brand and content guidelines (from logo use to tone and content development),  determining the core social channels and defining the set-up requirements (profile pictures, “about us” content, etc), and developing an annual editorial calendar for all stakeholders to follow
  • Creating the Social Media policies for use across the entire organization including: employee and customer use guidelines, content management, and crisis management
  • Providing training and support programs for social media marketing to optimize how the corporate and local retail social media presence will complement each other from both a relationship and content strategy perspective; and encourage dealers/franchisees who do not have a social media presence to understand how to develop a local strategy and engage customers online.

Providing the network with the tools and guidelines for managing social networks locally ensures a more consistent brand experience can be provided to the customer.

 Corporate Control – Local Flavor

Just as there are a number of different management models of dealer/franchise networks, so are the methods of managing social media communications. The core element is the level of control at the corporate versus local level within the network. Social media execution can take on a myriad of forms depending on the structure that the head office has developed for their network:

  • All communications are handled by Corporate through corporate social channels. In this scenario there are no local social networks.
  • Corporate social channels augmented by individual dealer/franchise social networks with all communications managed centrally. Dealers/Franchises do not have any access to the local social channels to offer content.
  • Corporate social channels augmented by individual dealer/franchise social networks with corporate provided access to all locally managed social networks to post corporate developed brand messaging while enabling dealers/franchises to manage all local content. Often in this scenario, corporate maintains approval rights on posts to ensure brand consistency.
  • Corporate and dealer/franchise social networks managed separately where Corporate only maintains its own social networks and does not post any content on the dealer/franchise behalf.
  • No corporate social outreach channels with all communications through the dealer/franchise social networks (this could take the form of corporate managing all content on behalf of dealers/franchises; dealers/franchises managing all content; or combination of both).

In order to maintain control, there should be consistent head office involvement in the social channels at all levels. Regardless of if  head office has access to the network’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages or not, support  must be given to the dealer/franchise network by providing content that can be customized at the local level (promotions, events, media relations, brand messaging). Regional / local networks must also follow the social media guidelines created by the corporation for overall communications consistency.

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Additionally, head office (or using an external agency) can offer direct social media management services to deliver content directly through the local channels. Utilizing social media management software, team based channel management can be set up to enable head office to listen, engage and measure all from a single interface. Management permissions can be set at an enterprise level and enable as little or as much control of content posted through the dealer/franchise social networks (i.e. approvals required on all posts versus no approval required).

It’s all about maintaining consistency in and adherence to the overall customer brand promise. Because if head office doesn’t do it…someone else will.

How do you manage your social network?