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Building community in social media is one of the biggest challenges for franchise brands and their franchisees

“How do I grow my community?” This is probably the number one question I hear from franchises when it comes to franchise social media marketing.  Building community is the 2nd step in the Tactical Wheel and is critically important for social media success. Understandably so, because franchises need communities:

  • As a means to directly communicate with their audience.  It’s like the old saying, “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?”  If you don’t have solid communities, then nobody will be around to listen when you have something to say.
  • To increase awareness.  As you post and communicate with your followers,  your brand and message will be visible to many of their connections as well.
  • To aid in influencing purchase decisions. When potential customers are making decisions about what company to use, many will check out your social media environments.
  • To show case positive reviews.   Consolidating all the good things your evangelists want to share about you amplifies their impact

Ways to Build Community

There are a variety of ways to build community within your social media channels to connect with your target audience and get them to friend or follow you.

  1. Invite your contacts via email:    One way would be to send out an eBlast to all of your customers, prospects, and partners, notifying them that you have set up social environments to better serve and communicate with them.  The message needs to focus on how you plan to utilize these environments to provide enhanced customer service.   Repeat this effort every month or two by sending out another email blast to only the new addresses you’ve since added to your database, as well as to anyone who did not connect from the previous attempt.
  2. Get employees involved:  Because the average person on Facebook has 130 friends, every one of your employees who has a Facebook account has about 130 people that may not know very much about what products or services your company provides.  Getting your employees to follow your different social media environments is a great way to (1) help your employees feel connected to the organization, which will help your retention numbers and (2) create an opportunity for you to become exposed to their followers or friends, which will help you build community with those individuals.
  3. Add Follow Us Information….EVERWHERE:  You should also put the “follow us” information on everything, webpages, newsletters, email signatures of employees, and marketing pieces.
  4. Incentivize your community through social media-only promotions and events:  By offering exclusive special events or discounts that users can learn about only from social media will encourage your followers to spread the word to their friends.
  5. Leverage search engine optimization (SEO):  This is a great way to build community through social media.  There are infinitely more people out there who don’t know you than those who do know you.  Tapping into the billions of searches conducted in sites like Google each month will enable you to build community with individuals who don’t know your company even exists.  However, these individuals are highly qualified because they are searching for information about the products and services your company provides.

So where is the most effective place to build community; Brand or Franchisee level? While it’s good for a brand to have a strong community connected to their social presence, because social is ultimately hyper-local, it’s much more important that each of your franchisees have loyal followers who are connected and enagaged with them on their individual pages. The only way this works effectively is to equip, enable, and empower them to manage their own social environment.  However, getting all of your franchisees focused on building community within their environments, allows franchise brands to capitalize on hundreds to thousands of social footprints, which will create a virtual army of highly engaged and connected customers and prospects.  This is a true advantage of the franchise model over multi-location businesses.