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How Franchisees Can Build an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy How to distinguish your local business from its national brand.

By Chirag Kulkarni

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If you own a franchise, you've probably struggled to find ways to differentiate your business from other franchises. That's because marketing for franchises presents some unique challenges, especially on the local level. Even when a brand pumps millions of dollars into a national marketing campaign, local franchise owners don't always benefit.

According to the experts at Curious Jane, an advertising agency that specializes in marketing for franchisors and franchisees, one solution for franchise owners seeking to improve marketing ROI is social media. It's an extremely effective outlet for not only telling a unique story but supporting customer acquisition and retention as well. As the company puts it, "By providing creative content, facilitating discussions and responding to negative and positive feedback in platforms that you manage, you can develop an engaged base of loyal customers for your franchise."

Some of the benefits of having a local franchise include targeting your customers with local promotions and posting content that's directly related to local events. Social media lets you capitalize on those advantages.

Franchise marketing quirks

Social media is an important component of any marketing strategy, but as a franchise owner, using it effectively isn't always easy.

According to a report from the BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor, roughly 51 percent of franchising organizations play an active role in shaping the social media presence of local businesses. Parent organizations can often help franchisees acquire content to fuel their marketing, and you should use this to your advantage if possible.

Franchises with a desire to be successful must equip their local franchisees with some level of autonomy and the resources to market locally. Franchise owners should advocate for this flexibility with their corporate office. Moreover, prospective franchise owners should inquire about this subject and carefully review the franchise agreement when assessing franchises to invest in.

While national companies rely on in-house teams to handle the day-to-day tasks that come with operating a corporate social media account, most franchisees don't have this luxury. But, you can still get started on your own. Follow the guidelines below to launch a social media marketing program that works.

Related: 5 Low-Cost Franchises You Can Start for as Little as $4,000

1. Clearly communicate your brand's vision and mission.

The process of building your brand starts offline. Before you take to Facebook or Twitter, you and your internal team should take the time to craft a compelling story that contains your brand's vision for the future and its mission statement.

Your vision will shape your strategy. Rather than base decisions on market trends, companies with vision make strategic decisions that get them closer to making that vision a reality, regardless of external factors.

If you think of your vision as your destination, then your mission statement is how you get there. It's what guides your internal actions as a company, from hiring to developing new products or services, and it's what keeps everyone within your organization on the same page.

When it's time to start engaging with customers on social media, all of your communications should align with your brand's vision and mission.

Related: Our Top 10 Franchises You Can Buy

2. Automate whenever possible.

Consistency is key to success in social media marketing. You want to be consistent not just in your messaging, but in your frequency and volume as well.

Of course, a major advantage of social media is that it allows you to quickly react and respond to relevant current events and to provide ongoing engagement with customers. But, it's also important to establish a general cadence to your posts -- that way, you can ensure that important topic areas for your brand are addressed in your content. Take advantage of automation tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule the publication of your posts ahead of time. That way, you have the resources to improvise when the opportunity presents itself.

Related: Just How Much Does It Cost to Own a Fast-Food Franchise?

3. Monitor your social media channels.

These channels give you access to direct customer feedback, allowing you to gauge the perception and reputation of your brand. Utilize social media listening tools like Social Studio to get a better idea of what's important or newsworthy to your customers.

By constantly monitoring your local social media channels, you can gain insights into the experiences your customers are having with your franchise, which gives you valuable input on how to better serve them. Good or bad, feedback is a gift. If a customer has something to say, listen. Acknowledge his or her feedback, and then use it to your advantage in your next post.

Related: 5 Affordable Franchises You Can Start for Less Than $10,000

4. Observe your competitors.

Evaluate the methods used by other franchisees and industry rivals. You don't want to copy a competitor, but if you see that a certain technique generates a significant number of likes or shares, brainstorm ways to apply that approach to your own efforts. Likewise, if competitors are receiving a lot of engagement by addressing certain topics, figure out how you can share your company's unique perspective on those same topics. Just be aware of potential differences in audience size when setting expectations for your posts.

Franchises aren't like other businesses, and as a franchisee, you face different constraints. It's very likely that the parent organization will set guidelines and budgets that local marketers must adhere to. You'll need to work within these parameters to develop a strategy that works for you. Social media will inevitably be a big part of that strategy, and with time, energy and the right approach, it could become your most effective marketing tool.

Chirag Kulkarni

CMO of Medly

Chirag Kulkarni is the CMO of Medly, a digital pharmacy in New York City.

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