Q: When a franchise changes ownership, how should the new franchisee review existing social media channels?
First, make sure all passwords and login information for social networks, review sites and related accounts (e.g. Google Analytics) are included in the ownership contract, along with the ability to change them before the previous owner’s networks are shut down. You should also ask the previous owner to maintain his/her e-mail accounts until the logins have been reset.
Next, review the content that was posted prior to the change in ownership to determine whether or not it still fits the brand. It may be best to continue with the current social media strategy or it may even be time to delete the existing channels and start fresh. Deleting social media accounts will cause your franchise to lose its online following, so it should only be done in situations where those accounts are hurting the business more than they are promoting it.
Reviewing existing content is especially important with respect to review sites. Some consumers won’t even consider visiting a franchise that carries anything less than a four-star rating.
Q: What types of opportunities and threats can be posed by social media to a franchise?
Opportunities presented by social media to franchisees include multiple platforms on which to promote your business and the chance to connect with audiences that traditional media do not always reach. These platforms allow for actual conversations between franchises and their customers.
How a business responds to social media posts is very important. You should acknowledge positive reviews graciously and quickly respond to negative reviews with empathy and attempts to take the conversation offline. By responding to satisfied and dissatisfied customers alike, you publicly demonstrate you value them and care about their experiences.
One major threat with social media is how a bad review of one franchise can hurt the reputation of the entire system. Users may make assumptions about your business based on what’s posted about another location.
Also, employees need to be trained how to properly post or respond to customers online. Unapproved or improper content can make your business look rude and unprofessional, so there should be a social media policy in place to support effective communication.
Q: What strategies do you recommend for the new franchisee going forward?
Either (a) choose someone in the business with effective communication training or (b) work with an experienced outside partner to maintain your social media and review sites. You should also frequently search your own business online, to determine how healthy its reputation is. This will help serve as the basis for your social media plan.
If you actively survey your customers, then you can work to make it easier for the happy ones to share their positive feedback publicly and fix any problems revealed by the less-than-happy ones before those problems turn into negative online reviews.
Meanwhile, learn the terms and conditions of the top review sites and monitor them for any reviews of your business that violate them. The sites don’t police themselves, so it’s up to business owners to flag reviews for removal.
When interacting with negative customers, always take the conversation offline and remember ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint,’ when it comes to resolving customer complaints. Don’t respond carelessly just to end the conversation sooner. Accept constructive feedback as an opportunity for improvement; this will also help to minimize negative reviews.
Alexi Venneri is co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike (DAS), a social media and reputation management firm. For more information, contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.