Industry News | May 27, 2011

Who Owns Your Social Media?

Facebook and Twitter have both become essential marketing tools for quick-serve chains big and small. But with a recent report showing that consumers don’t feel valued by brands through these media, brands might have to reconsider their social network strategies.

“[Customers] are expressing their concerns or customer service issues, or even saying how much they love a brand” through social media, says Teresa Caro, author of the Razorfish “Liminal” report that was released in January. “They’re doing that on these platforms, but not necessarily thinking about the brand while they’re doing that and not thinking of [social media] as a viable option to engage with brands.”

Caro says encouraging employees to interact with fans through social media is becoming a popular method for brands to connect individually with its consumers.

While a more localized approach to social media might provide more online consumer touch points, some brands hesitate to give employees beyond the corporate office—even franchisees—that power.

At Lenny’s Sub Shop, which has 150 locations around the country, some franchisees run their own social media operations, “but it’s not something we’re really encouraging,” says president Brent Alvord.

“How do you allow your franchisee to have the freedom to drive their business at a local level without overstepping their bounds in terms of the brand and making sure they maintain the interaction that we require for our brand?” he says. Alvord, who personally oversees the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and interacts with customers through these channels daily, says that some franchisees don’t devote this amount of attention.

“Someone might [create] a Facebook page and get a negative comment out there that sits up there for four weeks and they check their Facebook page once every month,” he says. “That doesn’t work.”

Stacey Kane, director of marketing for California Tortilla, says her company takes an even stronger stance against what she calls “shaking hands and kissing babies online,” or franchisees taking control of social media as a way to interact with customers.

“We kind of have an unwritten policy that everything should come through the central [account],” Kane says, noting that the corporate accounts are happy to post location-specific deals and promotions for franchisees. “By us having a main page, it’s a service that we’re offering to our franchisees.”

Jacob Morgan, a social media consultant and principal of Chess Media Group, says letting franchisees and other company employees control social media accounts can work for companies “as long as it fits into the overall broader strategy of what the company’s looking to do.”

For Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, this strategy does fit: The company runs a centralized social media presence, but also allows local franchisees to manage their own.

“They are letting us put a little bit of a local spin on things. You can’t do that from a centralized location,” says Greg Woloszczuk, president of GMW Carolina, a North Carolina–based Dickey’s franchisee. “I think it helps us create more of a local following.

“It adds value for us to get that local feel versus this kind of monolithic, faceless [corporate] presence,” he says.

Morgan says companies must be on guard to monitor these kinds of accounts, though, which can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth.

“You do need some sort of standardization if you have 150 Twitter accounts and Facebook pages,” Morgan says. “As a corporate entity, you do want to make sure you have brand consistency and messaging.”

Caro says brands should forego franchisee freedom and recommends companies have a single department for social networks.

“If you’re getting into individual Facebook pages and individual Twitter accounts, now you’re getting into a management nightmare and a monitoring nightmare,” Caro says. “Giving them a voice and giving them an account are two different things.”

By Mary Avant

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.

Comments

Local interaction is critical -- if we trust franchisees to talk to customers in person and on the phone, we need to let them do it online. That said, the "bigger voice" they have online can be problematic. We have found a successful compromise by setting up regional social media hubs for franchisees. Individual locations often can't generate enough interaction, but a national, corporate effort is far too broad and removed. Through a regional presence on Facebook, Twitter, even a microsite with a blog -- we can engage and interact, and push out local events and promotions. This supports each operator, and it's not overwhelming or threatening for corporate; we coordinate with them so they are confident we are on message.

Franchise programs put a lot of strategy and time into training franchisees to in turn train their staff on operations and customer service. If a brand decides to let local store operators run their own social media, perhaps it can be done successfully if they put the same time and strategy into training and monitoring a designee in each area.It makes sense that area operators know what resonates with their core clientele. But corporate resources must be dedicated for educating these operators to translate those topics into effective social media messaging. Also, impactful social media campaigns don't just involve posting, but also overarching listening, measuring, and promoting.Smokey Bones is a good example of local social media marketing.

Franchise programs put a lot of strategy and time into training franchisees to in turn train their staff on operations and customer service. If a brand decides to let local store operators run their own social media, perhaps it can be done successfully if they put the same time and strategy into training and monitoring a designee in each area.It makes sense that area operators know what resonates with their core clientele. But corporate resources must be dedicated for educating these operators to translate those topics into effective social media messaging. Also, impactful social media campaigns don't just involve posting, but also overarching listening, measuring, and promoting.Smokey Bones is a good example of local social media marketing.

I agree with David Cyphers on saying it is "critical" to have a local social media presence. I also understand the concern for losing control over the brand through digital channels which is why the corporate entity needs to understand how to monitor the chatter. For a major company running a corporate social media campaign isn't necessarily as important as dedicating a team of people to monitor the franchisees digital performance.I think the Franchiser should be concerned with the listening and monitoring while also providing the guidelines and policy of how to go about using social media in business. Transperency is the key to social media and getting results from the tools but you also need to run a good business! Things to include in a social media policy may be username guidelines, velocity of posting (how often), sentiment requirements or even creating a system of making certain a Corporate member has access to administration capabilities so you can control the content if needed. You need to decide what are the key points of conern in social media and build your policies around those.

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