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Going Local: Why Franchisees Shouldn't Rely on Parent Brands' Social Media Marketing National social media campaigns may drive awareness, but hyper-local campaigns actually drive business. Franchisees shouldn't overlook that.

By Karen Spaeder Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Rassco | Shutterstock

When franchisees buy into a system, they can generally rely on the parent brand's name recognition and business processes. But here's something a franchisee should not rely solely upon: the parent brand's social media marketing.

Why? Because doing so misses out on the real opportunity of social media. It isn't just to build a brand — it's to actively drive business and engage with customers. That must happen on a local level, with local social media accounts operated by local people.

I was the vice president of communications at Rallio, a social media management company, and we saw this mistake happen all the time. Franchisors typically create social profiles on behalf of their franchisees and syndicate corporate content to these pages. Franchisees then believe that their parent company's social media content covers all their needs, so many don't create social content of their own. As a result, franchisees' pages mostly all look the same — with only corporate posts and no localized personality.

Related: How Franchisees Can Build an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Here's what they don't realize: These local pages could be actively connecting with franchisees' communities, building relationships with their followers, and giving people a reason to visit their establishment or pay for their service. In some cases, these empty pages mean more than just missed connections. Customers could be commenting on posts or submitting feedback, sending direct messages, or even inquiring about products or services. Franchisees who aren't monitoring their pages may be neglecting sales opportunities, along with disgruntled customers.

So how do you do it better? Think local.

Many franchisees think there's no way they can match their parent brand's skill and frequency on social media. That may be true — most brands have in-house social media managers or work with very large agencies to produce a steady stream of content. But a local franchisee doesn't need all that. Local social media management can be simple and quick.

Start by taking out your phone and snapping pictures of staff members and customers (with permission) or capturing glimpses of life behind the scenes at your business. Team celebrations, events, holidays, birthdays, video testimonials, how-to posts, even pictures of your dog — these are all ways to show the authentic personality behind your business, and to remind people that even though your business may be part of a larger franchise system, your location is run by you, and you're part of the community.

Stay relevant by addressing current events and topics of interest to your followers. Once you start posting regularly, you'll get a sense of what your audience likes to see the most. When you have a popular post, you can spend a few ad dollars boosting its visibility and targeting people in your community.

Related: 3 Tips for Managing Your Business' Reputation Via Social Media

I've seen this strategy do well no matter the kind of franchise. For example, when I was at Rallio, we worked with a pet supply franchisor to do social media for all its individual franchisees. We filled those pages with localized content — including plenty of images of local cats and dogs! — and then also started using the social media accounts to introduce new services such as curbside pickup and delivery. This helped build awareness of how each franchisee was serving their community during the pandemic. We then paid to boost their most popular posts, budgeting about $5 to $20
per post.

The result of all this: In 2020, localized social media drove more than $1.7 million in purchase conversions.

Ultimately, these simple steps are what will inspire your followers to like, comment, follow, and share content — all of which creates greater traction in social feeds. Soon enough, you'll have an audience that's eager to not only see your content but frequent your business, too.

Related: Fast Food Restaurant Owners Are Trying Crazy Stuff to Attract Workers. Here's What's Actually Working.

Karen Spaeder

Principal

Karen Spaeder is the Principal of Spades Digital Marketing, a nationwide provider of content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing solutions. A former editor and writer at Entrepreneur, she is an expert in content marketing and social media.

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