Getting It Right - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Franchising

Getting It Right

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool, but it can also damage a brand’s reputation if used incorrectly, Trevor Crighton explores the pros and cons.

Social media has offered unprecedented opportunities for brands to generate “free” marketing opportunities on platforms that allow for incredibly specific targeting. Franchises are a special marketing case, in that the reputational buck stops with the parent brand, while it’s the individual franchisee that’s usually public-facing and, therefore, carrying the brand reputation, without carrying an accompanying proportion of the risk.

The same is true on social media: when people are irked, it’s usually the franchisor, rather than the franchisee, that takes the heat. For that reason, some franchisors are more hands-on in the social media world, while others prefer to let franchisees handle their own social media interactions on an individual basis.

Body of evidence 

Bodytec co-owner Sandra Leyck believes that a centralised marketing strategy — including social media operations — is vital in maintaining a consistent brand image, content language and strategy. “On Facebook, we have a parent page and location pages, which we manage. Franchise partners send personalised or studio info and images to us for uploading,” she says. “This system allows those partners who want to get involved to do so, but the others know their pages are looked after.”

Content planning on Bodytec’s social media platforms is done by the in-house marketing team in consultation with its agency, with content creation and posting managed by the agency. “All our engagement is done in-house, though, since quick and accurate feedback is easier to manage internally, as it requires slightly more in-depth knowledge,” says Leyck.

Brand experience

Roman’s Pizza brand manager, Danielle Hattingh, says that the brand’s social media presence is maintained by an in-house agency to ensure a consistent brand experience for customers. “While every franchisee is great at making pizzas, not every one of them wishes to run their own social media presence!” she says.

Leyck says that social media has played a big role in client acquisition and retention, but brand building is always top of mind for their team. “Our main target market is people aged 35–55, and Facebook seems to be the platform of choice for that age group. While we get lots of traction on Instagram and are very active on the platform, this predominantly attracts a slightly younger market,” she says.

Hattingh says that Roman’s Pizza engages its customers effectively via whichever platform necessary. “Social media is not about platforms; it’s about people, and we do our best to keep that front of mind,” she says. “We have a presence on various platforms, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Using a mix of platforms enables us to be present and available to our customer base, regardless of their preferences.”

Flexibility and technology

Hattingh says that the strength of the franchise’s marketing is mirrored in the operation of its social media platforms. “Our open-door company culture means that our social media team doesn’t need to jump through hoops to get immediate input,” she says. The benefit of this is that they can proactively handle any opportunities or challenges quickly, with a consistent brand voice. A digital transformation drive has seen the implementation of IBM Watson-powered chatbot Levi to manage the Facebook Messenger inbox. “The bot is capable of analysing tone and sentiment and intelligently handling tier-one support requests from our customers,” explains Hattingh. “Should we receive a complaint, Levi will escalate the issue to the first available operator.”

Both Bodytec and Roman’s Pizza’s social media followings have been built largely organically. Leyck says that organic growth is the only way to get valuable engagement from people, thanks to genuine interest from followers. The Roman’s Pizza strategy has been similar. “We do run a lot of competitions, which have certainly helped with our follower growth, but it has largely been organic.”


Image: ©iStock - 482565544

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