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Ask the Experts: Marketing franchises through social media

By Alex Porter

Q: What online resources have proven most useful for franchise systems’ location-specific marketing efforts and why?

Alex says:
Google is still the most effective option for location-specific marketing, as it dominates online searches with more than 63 per cent market share and mobile searches with almost 95 per cent. Not only has Google compiled hundreds of billions of web pages, its helpful algorithm also makes it easier to find relevant results, in a fraction of a second. For franchisees who want to reach more customers, it is critically important to understand how Google works, with its industry keywords and search terms, and adjust their strategy accordingly prior to focusing on social media channels.

Facebook is now also focusing heavily on local search and the strategy is growing incredibly fast. While the platform is currently underused by franchise systems, a number of improvements—including highlighting maps and directions at the top of local business pages—are making the platform a strong competitor to Google. Increasingly popular ‘near me’ searches allow users to find recommendations for local restaurants, shops and other businesses.

With its wealth of user data, Facebook can help franchisees pinpoint their target audience with efficient and highly relevant advertising, in a way many other platforms cannot currently offer.

Q: Which types of franchises do best and why?

Alex says:
Generally speaking, the brands that perform well online are those where marketing teams execute programs consistently for the entire system at the corporate level, while individual franchisees also have tools for marketing their business to local customers.

The quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, especially, has yielded many examples of effective digital marketing for franchises. One of the key tactics this sector has managed to capitalize on is the aforementioned ‘near me’ search, where a consumer wants to find results within their community. Potential customers are also increasingly searching with terms like ‘happy hour’ or ‘cheap eats’ instead of focusing on specific brands. By connecting themselves with broad terms like ‘burger’ and ‘coffee,’ restaurant franchisors and franchisees are working to ensure they show up when and where a potential customer—who may otherwise be unaware of their existence—is looking.

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Q: What impact do online customer reviews have and how can they best be addressed?

Alex says:
The impact is massive, with 90 per cent of customers explaining their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. This means it is critically important for businesses to address customer reviews, both positive and negative.

A negative review, for example, can be either ignored or addressed with a response that seeks to fix the problem. The latter option is, of course, more likely to help foster customer loyalty and create lasting relationships with consumers.

Online reviews also play a big role in how your business will show up in local search engine results. This is because consumers love to see honest reviews. In fact, they account for 10 per cent of how Google and other organizations rank online search results.

So, if you want your brand to show up in the top results, make sure to engage with customers’ reviews and respond to their inquiries.

Alex Porter is CEO of Location3 Media, a digital marketing agency that develops strategies for global brands. For more information, visit www.location3.com.

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