Social Media Policies Within Franchising: The Debate Continues

In the continuing debate about making the case for social media policies within franchising, below is an article by Attorney, Chad Finkelstein, expressing his opinion on the matter. So, as a franchise professional, we’d love to hear your opinion as well!

Franchising and Social Media
by Chad Finkelstein

As posted: Financial Post on October 25, 2010

Whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, the realities of social media likely already affect you. Franchisors need to determine whether, from a marketing perspective, it makes sense for them to have profiles on forum such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Many already do, but depending on the nature of your business, it is not always an ideal method of promotion.

If that type of online marketing suits the strategies of the franchise system, then the next question to ask is whether franchisees should be permitted to have their own social media websites – for instance, a Facebook page for that particular franchised location. The franchisor will need to decide whether the benefits of widespread marketing on these popular websites outweigh the costs of giving its franchisees that much control over advertising the brand.

Accordingly, it is a good idea for franchisors to develop social media policies, and for franchisees to ensure that those policies are not too restrictive. If you are an existing franchisor or franchisee, your franchise agreement likely already states that franchisees cannot conduct any internet advertising without the consent of the franchisor. While that may have made sense at the time it was drafted and agreed to, the practical realities of business today means that franchise law in Canada has to evolve to reflect new technologies and marketing platforms.

As a result, franchisors should consider adding social media policies to their standard agreements, and franchisees should consider requesting them where they do not already exist, so that the franchise system as a whole can benefit from this new world of online marketing.

Chad Finkelstein is a franchise lawyer at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Toronto.

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Making the Case for Social Media Policies in Franchising

Yesterday, within the IFA Group on LinkedIn, a discussion entitled Why You Don’t Need A Social Media Policy was started regarding social media policies within franchising. Of course, I was compelled to chime in…

It is my position that franchisors would be negligent and irresponsible not to have a social media policy in place. At the very least, they should be working towards one. I could go on about protecting the trademark, system development, etc but with everyone’s experience and understanding of franchise best practices in this group, I’ll just focus on social media for now.

While I do agree “local” is where it’s at, it is still communications, marketing, pr, messages that are being put out there on socail media and just as franchises have established policies, procedures, guidelines, processes, etc for operations, marketing, advertising, etc, it is imperative the same be done for social media.

I’ve spent most of the morning trying to find any article, blog, comment taking the position of not having a social media policy within franchising. I have not found one. But, I have found many franchise professionals that have written and posted about the necessity of having social media polciies within franchising. So, if you don’t agree with my position, allow me to direct you to links from several franchise professionals that feel it is best practice to develop social media policies for franchise brands.

By the way, I don’t believe social media policies should be one-size-fits-all just as I believe a social media program should not be cookie-cutter. To arbitrarily state that all franchisees should have a facebook account and / or a twitter account is not a good or well-thought out recommendation. Determining what social media to effectively use within a franchise system is a process in and of itself. The key word here is “effectively.”

Being effective within social media takes planning. It takes identifying targets and where they congregate and communicate online. It takes determining financial and human resources to engage, monitor and manage the chosen social media platforms. It takes an understanding of the objectives to utilize social media and to have clear, concise expectations. In essence, it takes a strategy to develop, a plan to execute and results to analyze.

Once this phase is complete, a social media toolkit should be developed, franchisees (and franchisor personnel) should be trained, and the program launched. Anything less, in my opinion and from my perspective is less than best practices within franchising.

Franchising is all about uniformity and consistency from one location to another. It’s about systems that provide the foundation to uniformity and consistency. And, it’s about the policies and procedures that ensure that uniformity and consistency that makes franchising successful… And, I don’t believe that’s just my opinion!

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Social Media Training For Employees

Yesterday, I read an informative article by Ben Parr (Mashable) about training new employees in social media. The article, “How to Train New Employees in Social Media” was posted on the American Express Open Small Business site and included the following seven tips to social media training:

1. Consider writing guidelines or a social media policy: A policy can clear up confusion and help you keep employee focus away from what they shouldn’t do and towards what they should be doing. We wrote great guides on whether you should have a policy and 10 must-haves for any social media policy over at Mashable.

2. Make it clear you aren’t policing: The focus is on ways to use social media to promote the business, rather than ways to avoid embarrassment. Make that clear to new recruits and stress that you won’t be policing. Rather, you’ll be trusting in their good judgment and their ability to control privacy settings. The Associated Press quickly learned what happens when you become overbearing.

3. Test their social media knowledge: You’re going to have to individualize each employee’s social media training. While one may have 10,000 followers on Twitter, the other may have no idea what a blog even is. Don’t assume everyone’s at the same level.

4. Have them start their own blog: If your employees have writing-specific duties, give them a homework assignment: start your own blog. The practice of setting up a WordPress account, writing posts, and promoting them is real-world education.

5. Give them required reading: Give them a good book or two on using Twitter or pitching to blogs. Give them a set of blogs (don’t forget Mashable!) that they need to read. Have them subscribe via RSS for efficiency’s sake. Finally, encourage them to subscribe to other blogs and explore their interests.

6. Hand them the reigns: They can read and learn, but you have to trust them eventually with the reigns. Once your new employees are getting comfortable, have them tweeting, making videos, and coming up with initiatives. The more they submerge themselves, the faster they’ll learn.

7. Impress upon them the importance of social media: Yes, some employees simply won’t get it unless you put it into context. Explain how far your reach goes with a single tweet, or provide examples of how businesses were hurt by an inability to understand Facebook.