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The franchise industry has a new "friend": Facebook.
The social-networking giant recently became a member of the International Franchise Association and plans to take part in the big trade group's annual meeting this February in Orlando.
“Joining the IFA is part of Facebook's continued commitment to helping local entrepreneurs build their businesses, deliver value to their customers and create new jobs in their communities," Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of U.S. public policy, said in a statement.
As part of the new alliance, Facebook will join the IFA's technology committee, according to Matthew Haller, an IFA spokesman. The IFA will dedicate a page on its website to information on Facebook tools and get franchisors to the right team at Facebook if they have questions, he said.
Facebook already provides features to support franchises, including a new "parent-child" tool that helps franchise brands manage their franchisees’ pages on the social-media site. Certain companies have been piloting it, and Facebook wants to "extend the use of that more broadly," Haller says.
A representative from Facebook is scheduled to speak at the February conference about how franchises can use that tool, according to Haller. Facebook also offers Page, Check-In and ad-targeting tools designed to help businesses attract and engage customers.
A spokeswoman for Facebook wouldn’t say how many franchises currently use its site. But joining the IFA, which has 1,200 franchisor members, “gives Facebook an even greater opportunity to listen to their business needs and provide them with information on the tools they need to connect with franchisees and customers on Facebook,” the spokeswoman said.
The IFA says 90% of the traffic to its own site consists of people interested in franchise opportunities. Facebook hopes the alliance will help franchisors and franchisees learn how to use the site to find potential franchisees and customers, the spokeswoman said.
IFA, which approached Facebook more than a year ago, also is in discussions with Google to join the trade group and set up a similar relationship that may include a protocol for member franchises to submit information for Google maps and other location-related services. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.