Many Outlets, One Voice
Sarah Needleman WSJ
Write up by Jon Scharf
In this article http://preview.tinyurl.com/84qnrmz in the WSJ the issue of how should a franchiser manage the digital content that the franchisees put out into the public domain. The brand that the company projects is extremely important and difficult to maintain when it is one sole entity; when there is additional business units in multiple locations this task is much more difficult. A business that is west coast based may have units on the east coast. The east coast unit may have different clientele and what is seen as important for blogging, tweeting, facebook posting, etc for one may not make sense for the other. This can possible create confusion and drive customers away because the brand of the company may become blurred.
There is also a legality issue; franchises and business units cannot misrepresent the parent company. This technically can happen if a tweet is sent out that the franchise doesn’t necessarily agree with, etc. Data from the Intl Franchise Association shows that franchisers in general are frequent users of social media daily and weekly. It is extremely difficult to build parameters that are legally effective to protect the franchise while benign enough so that the consumer can casually interact with the franchise to increase their user experience. The article mentions how companies such as Naked Pizza and Birds Unlimited Inc. use social media. Naked Pizza tends to give guidelines for how the franchisees need to interact with the customers through social media outlets and they oversee the process. Birds Unlimited uses software that allows headquarters to make additions automatically to the social media that the franchises put out on the Facebook page. They also have their own what to do/not to do rules and regs, best practices with using social media for the company. Another company, College Hunks Hauling Junk has somebody in the corporate office that is solely focused on responding to customers’ posts as well as monitoring the franchisees posts. So this position serves as a safety net and backstop to policing the social media of the firm.
The issue which stuck me is how can the firm get the most out of social media with putting generic parameters on what the franchisees can and can’t do (outside the obvious)? This is certainly unchartered territory for many businesses. Social media could be very rewarding to a company in terms of adding to a customers experience with a product or receiving feedback on how the company can improve or what problems to address. If the company knew what the problems were upfront, they would fix them obviously before they became problems but that is not how the game works. Customers want to be told the truth and not bogged down with nonsense. In my youth I had been in a position in a job that I could give the customer the answer they were looking for but held back by very conservative archaic rules that prevented me from giving the customer the best value added experience. That being said with whatever one tweets, blogs, etc it is going to exist forever; how should a firm structure the rules to use the social media interaction the best for both the firm and the client and the overall brand?