Social Media Policies & Procedures – What’s to Debate?

I agree local opportunities within social media are huge and I project it will continue to expand and improve as more tools and technology are introduced. Just think, it wasn’t all that long ago we didn’t even know about Foursquare and now it’s growing like crazy!

And, yes, franchisors should not “manhandle” social media and content marketing as some have dictated, but it is vitally important to have very detailed social media policies and procedures so that everyone within an organization participating in social media is afforded the opportunity to be as active as they so desire. That being said, their activity must be in line with the guidelines that are determined to be in the best interests of the brand. After all, utilizing the brand within social media should be deemed no different than using the brand name on signage or in traditional marketing. Ultimately, it is the brand’s trademark and use of the same, in any manner, still must comply with the franchisor’s authorization to use the same.

Social media should not be considered one-size-fits-all. Instead, a strategy must be developed in line with the goals and objectives for utilizing social media and all that goes along with the strategy including resources available to execute the plan, identifying targets and where they congregate and communicate, the types of social media that may be best suited for sharing information and in some cases calls for action, and of course, how the results are to be analyzed and quantified.

For instance, from a very simplistic point of view, how would anyone propose a chain of 500 franchise locations each be active on Twitter considering there are limitations on characters in the profile name? It’s one thing for each location to have an individual presence on Facebook by using the brand name along with a geographic acronym of sorts (XYZ Finest Pizza – North Hollywood, CA). But, how could the same be accomplished within Twitter especially to maintain consistency in the brand name? In this case I would recommend a corporate Twitter account for the brand only. In other situations, each location having a Twitter account may be feasible. But even then, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. Only proper strategy development will make that determination.

Certainly, mapping out the strategy and overall web presence, then planning out the role social media will play is the correct course of action. and will make implementing a social media policy must easier. Not to mention providing defined reasons for specific parts of the policies and procedures that can be used to “convince” franchisees to abide by the policies and procedures as opposed to unsubstantiated reasons which may cause franchisees to feel they’re in a “demand” situation. Convince rather than demand always wins out!

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011

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With Social Media Comes Great Responsibility

Within the LinkedIn franchise groups we continue to see discussions about social media. There’s great interest in what still appears to be the unknown. With fundamental questions being asked and basics being discussed, there is still a level of exploration and discovery going on. Yes, and uncertainty as well.

But, there are also discussions about how to utilize social media better, more efficiently and effectively. Many are exploring ways to expand their social media reach into franchise marketing and lead generation. While others are determining how it can help drive business to franchise locations. And, others are looking into improving system-wide communications, support and training through the many facets of social media. Certainly, the franchise community is embracing social media more and more each day.

Discussions have also centered around social media guidelines, policies and procedures. Who’s allowed to do what is an often repeated question? Other questions touch upon Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter presence, types of posts, information to be shared and continue through to crisis management. All are very important topics of discussion and all must be addressed prior to launching a social media program.

That being said, it’s essential an overall strategy be developed that addresses these questions as well as establish goals and objectives of utilizing social media within your organization. Brian Solis, globally recognized as one of the most original and most prominent thought leaders in social media, is very insightful as to how organizations should embrace social media. In his recent book, Engage!, A Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate and Measure Success in the New Web, he shares that insight.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, investor, entrepreneur and Chairman, HDNet, is quoted as saying, It’s no longer an era of business as usual. Executives and entrepreneurs must embrace new media in order to not only compete for the future, but for mind share, market share, and, ultimately, relevance. [Engage!] helps you engage. Without it, you’re competing for second place.

In Chapter 17 of Engage!, Defining the Rules of Engagement, I believe Solis truly delivers the message, and addresses many of the underlying questions I’ve outlined above. At the very least, with respect to these questions, Solis provides what is in essence an outline of what must be considered as businesses take the next step within social media.

With Social Media Comes Great Responsibility
from Engage! by Brian Solis
Chapter 17, Page 205

Please remember these words…

Perhaps the biggest mistakes committed by businesses, personalities and brands in social media occur when people jump into social networks blindly without establishing guidelines, a plan of action, a sense of what people are seeking and how and why they communicate, an understanding of where people are congregating, a definition of what they represent and how they will personify the brand online, and the goals, objectives, and metrics associated with participation.

Everything starts with education and the instruction of policies to protect individuals and brands.

In addition to setting the guidelines and regulations for how and when employees [and franchisees] should and shouldn’t engage online when it relates to the company, we must teach our spokespersons, ambassadors, and advocates how to leverage the immediacy, extent, and potential of these powerful social media tools. Our communities will follow by example.

Holding informal and infrequent workshops and/or publishing internal guidelines for self-consumption and interpretation is not nearly enough to satisfy the substantial requirements for an in-depth comprehension of the scenarios, circumstances, objectives, hazards, and nuances associated with engagement, influence, and community building.

This is more than publishing and it’s far more important than empowering employees [and franchisees] with the ability to chat online.

It is our responsibility to contribute to the increase of a significant, tuned, and strategic signal, with a high ratio to noise. I assure you that in doing so, you will earn a place among the elite in the ranks of social, new, and emerging media practices within your organization.

Recently, on Franchise Today, my guest, BJ Emerson, Social Technology Officer at Tasti D-Lite, mentioned social negligence. At the time, I thought it was a powerful statement and was intrigued by its implications. But now that I’ve read Engage!, I truly understand what BJ was referring to, and now realize the power and magnitude of social negligence… and social responsibility.

This post was originally posted on this site April 2010.

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