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.
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.