Over the past decade or so, social media has transformed from an entertaining pastime and means for social networking into a modern-day marketing tool, for both franchisors and franchisees alike. Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become marketing giants, offering franchises the ability to, among other things,:
- gain valuable insight about consumers and their buying behaviour and patterns;
- increase brand awareness and loyalty;
- maintain customer retention and increase repeat sales;
- increase traffic on their website; and
- increase the customer experience and rate of feedback.
With the ability to leave a global footprint using social media, one must carefully consider the cultural differences and perceptions of its global audience. It is therefore imperative that a franchisor seriously considers whether to market on behalf of all its franchisees or permit franchisees to independently market their franchises through social media, as the impact of this decision may affect a franchisor's brand reputation. Due to the fact that there is no legislation specific to social media and the use thereof, many franchises, without conducting adequate research, are left in the dark as to how to conduct themselves on social media platforms. This increases the risk of a franchise's reputation being harmed within seconds of damaging content going viral.
Franchisors need to have the necessary procedures in place for dealing with various issues, such as the negative reception of an advertisement, especially where it results in complaints from consumers or leads to consumer misconduct on the franchisor's or franchisee's social media platforms. Uniform and standardised policies and procedures, together with training amongst the different franchises in the franchise structure, are required in order to reduce consumer confusion and increase brand recognition.
An efficient way to achieve this is through a social media policy that applies to the franchisor, franchisees and employees of the franchisees which sets out amongst other things, the requirements for the creation of social media accounts, roles, obligations and responsibilities of the various role players, and consequences for non-compliance.
Generally, there are certain do's and don't's that a franchisor should ensure its franchisees apply in their daily operations on social media.
- Identify your business clearly and have a separate/independent public social media account from that of your private social media account. Franchisors should also ensure that franchisees, if permitted to use social media, clearly identify their specific franchise.
- Images and graphics should adhere to the franchisor's corporate identity and be in line with the template/format, as detailed in the Operations Manual or social media policy.
- When uploading content to a social media platform think first and foremost about searchability. Search engines, such as Google and Twitter's own search engine, will reveal accounts based on keyword relevance.
- When customising the social media platform, the franchisee should use simple graphics that represent the franchisor's brand.
- Images including photographs posted on social media platforms can easily be appropriated by users. One can protect the images from copying by adding the brand's watermark or posting images at a low resolution of 72 dpi.
- Ensure that adequate security measures are imposed on your social media platform by regularly checking the security and privacy settings on each social media platform.
- Check pages/profiles/accounts in the morning, at midday and before a franchisee leaves the office. You should also have 24/7 access to pages and be able to instantly respond to urgent queries or deal with crisis situations. Should you anticipate a response taking longer, ensure that an initial response, acknowledging receipt of a query, reaches the user within the first 48 hours.
- Don't comment on work-related legal matters unless you are an official representative and have the legal approval of the franchisor to do so. In addition, refrain from discussing financial topics and predictions of future performance.
- Don't cite or reference users, associates or suppliers without their prior approval. When you do make a reference, where possible, link back to the source. Be aware that others will associate you with the franchise brand when you identify yourself as such. Ensure that your social media account and related content is consistent with how the franchisee and/or franchisor wish to be portrayed to users.
- Don't use copyrighted material without permission. Ensure that you have permission when using images or graphics. If a video you post is set to music, you must use royalty-free music and sound effects. To use a copyrighted piece, you must contact the owner. Most often the owner or publisher will be listed on sheet music or a CD label.
- Don't provide your login or passwords to anyone, not even to family members.
- Don't comment on any negative posts or criticism about the franchise. Pass the comment or post on to the franchisor or if applicable, the franchise's social media representative.
- Don't present your own opinions about franchise news from a subjective perspective.
- The winning combination of business and social media done right
- What are the legal implications of your company's social media use?
- A suggested franchising plan for Africa
Previously published in Go Legal
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.