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Social media and franchisees – a dangerous mix?

Like all business owners, franchisors are responsible for the messages that are being sent out about their business. Whether sent out through their advertising campaigns, marketing, and PR strategies, or social media, in order to stay consistent in the eyes of their audience, all key messages must be the same.

Many businesses have spoken out about the negative aspects of allowing their employees to have access to social media and therefore have decided to boycott it completely.

As a franchisor, you want to have an equal balance over the control you have over each franchise and the control your franchisees have. One of the most important aspects of owning a franchise is maintaining the consistency and repeatability of each location. However, you want to also be able to cater to each location’s individual needs.

So what happens when social media gets involved? Franchisors now have to make the executive decision on whether they allow their franchisees to use social media for their franchise or whether they ban it completely – or whether they have just one corporate platform that all franchisees can use.

Choosing to ban social media

If you choose to ban social media completely, you have to think of ways to enforce your decision as well as monitor all platforms to ensure no franchisee is using their personal platforms instead. This can be quite a delicate process, as social media is a part of many people’s daily lives.

It is your responsibility, as the franchisor, to sit with your franchisees, explain why you are banning social media, and talk through any issues or questions they may have. You then must discuss any legal issues and get them to sign a written document agreeing that they will not use social media for business purposes.

It seems quite extreme but social media is a powerful medium, and if you would like to enforce boundaries, there are specific things you must do to ensure all rules are followed.

Just remember that even though banning social media may seem like the easiest thing to do, it may also be the one decision that causes the most internal and even external problems. What if one of your franchisees already has a great social media following? What if one location finds social media to be the best marketing or advertising channel?

Before you make the decision to ban, do some research into your franchisees’ social media history, ask them questions and always take into account how they may react.

Choosing to allow social media

If you decide you would like your franchisees to have complete control over their own social media platforms, be sure to think about what this may mean for the franchise business.

By allowing your franchisees to have free reign over their social media, you are allowing them to have free reign over the messages they send out. If your franchisees are experienced with your brand and know the types of messages you want to send out, then there shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

However, if your franchisees are new to the industry, or new to owning and running their own franchise, you may need to educate them on the types of messages you want them sending out via social media platforms.

A great idea is to have your legal contact type up a social media policy outlining the dos and don’ts for you. It should outline certain potential issues such as sending out personal content via the professional account, what they should do if they would like to give an opinion, the types of disclaimers they may have to place on their personal accounts and even the issue of what will happen if they decide to move on from your franchise.

When giving this much control over to your franchisees, there are a lot of legal aspects that you may have to think about. As social media is still a growing medium, it would be a good idea to seek legal advice before making this decision.

Choosing to have one corporate account

Many businesses choose to separate their employees’ personal accounts from their organization by creating a corporate account – this can also be used by franchisors.

By creating a corporate account you can give the key social media spokespeople from each location the ability to send out their own messages through the one site by making them administrators. This way your franchisees still have the ability to engage with their target consumers online while you still have overall control of the messages being sent out.

Again it would be a good idea to have a social media policy written up and signed by your employees outlining what you expect from them and what is and isn’t acceptable to send out.

Social media, like everything, has its positives and negatives and as the franchise business owner, it is your responsibility to look into each franchise location and weigh up the positives and negatives for each. If used properly and placed in the right hands, social media and franchisees can be a great mix, allowing consumers to engage with the franchise and create a better brand image.

Raffael Fernandes is the sales manager at FranchiseBusiness.com.au, the official online business directory of the Franchise Council of Australia.

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