An ongoing battle cry for The International Franchise Association is “Tell Your Franchise Story.” The organization has long been asking franchisee and franchisor members to tell the story of their businesses and share the story of franchising’s impact on their communities.
I’ve advocated the use of social media for franchise systems at the IFA’s Annual Convention each year since 2009. So, I was thrilled to moderate a panel of executives who are effectively using social media to tell their story at the #IFA2017 event.
Joining our discussion were Kathleen Kuhn, President of HouseMaster Home Inspection Services, Alice O’Donnell, Vice President of Marketing of Massage Heights, and Ali Rauch, Marketing Director of Chicken Salad Chick. We decided that a discussion on using Social Media must by streamed live. While 200 or so people joined us in the room, hundreds more joined us via Facebook Live courtesy of my Social Geek Radio co-host Deb Evans!
The storytelling era
The number of online written articles, blogs, images, videos, Tweets, Snaps, and posts is growing exponentially. As the amount of available content increases, so too does the need to rise above the rest of the crowd, grab a consumer’s attention, and then hold it with a great story. Franchising has a unique position in the consumer marketplace; a system may tell not just one brand story, but hundreds of stories about the businesses, their owners, and their customers.
The panelists’ tale(s)
Like all good superhero movies, the origin is a great story. Each panelist shared how their brand came to be. HouseMaster Home Inspections started at a time when there were very few home inspections happening and no one was franchising in the space. The founder pioneered the concept in franchising and defined the brand as a confidence builder. Kathleen shared that buying a home is nerve-wracking, and a home inspector must inspire confidence. The franchisee must be positioned as the local expert in houses.
Chicken Salad Chick’s origin has charm and attitude that still resonates through the brand’s marketing today. The founder was personally obsessed with chicken salad and was making so much of it that local authorities forced her to move her cooking out of her home and into a business. After beginning to franchise, the brand has quickly expanded to 65 locations in under five years.
Massage Heights started with the founder’s family going on vacation and experiencing an expensive but less than satisfying massage. A decision was made to make a better service and a business plan was written on the drive home from vacation! As Alice states, the brand is still “in the business of making people feel better.” All three brands started with stories about people; they are relatable, and feel instantly familiar!
Your people, your stories
Massage Heights, as a service provider, takes the view that its product is really its people. The brand is telling the massage therapists’ stories on social media and is collecting these from each franchisee. Their local activity in their communities, such as participating in charity events, is key in sharing who they are and what kind of people customers will find when they engage with the brand. Customers’ personal stories can also provide inspiration for other customers. Alice told the story of a therapy customer who had been in a car accident and was determined to walk again. The franchisee shared updates over time and finally a video of the customer walking!
Ali shared that Chicken Salad Chick’s products – various flavors of chicken salad – are each named after a person who had an impact on the business and founding family. The product then takes on the story of that person. This helps the brand stand out from its competitors – so many casual dining brands share nothing but pictures of food on social media. In addition, the brand is now collecting the stories of the associates and team members. One example is that of a new manager, who after 20 years of working in other restaurants, came to Chicken Salad Chick in order to finally spend Easter Sunday with family, as Chicken Salad Chick is closed on Sundays.
Kathleen said that in HouseMaster’s world of real estate, visuals are critical and many photos are are taken on the job. Franchisees often share photos tagged as “the stuff we find” while inspecting a house. These could be funny shots, defects in the building, or the franchisees’ favorite: selfies taken on a roof! The key is that these images are very sharable and fans on social media are going to share these pictures over and over. They’re sharing the brand’s story at the same time.
That sharable factor is one of the most important things in any content a brand or franchisee posts. Will your fans want to share this post or image to their own page or account? What your fans share with their friends, and their friends share with more friends, is much more important than the original piece. This is even more critical after some Facebook algorithm changes last year put a greater emphasis in the newsfeed to a user’s friends than to brands.
Additional takeaways beyond creating sharable posts and images include:
Find your story Early in the session, I asked the audience how many executives in the room could state their brand’s origin story as eloquently as the panelists had. The panel urged everyone to discover their own story and repeat it often.
Make your franchisees the stars Franchise brands are in a unique partnership; capitalize on those partners’ stories.
Make social media part of your training process We were all pleased to learn in the session that the three panelists have included social media as part of their franchisee training and actually have social media agreements in place.
ABOUT THE |AUTHOR
Jack Monson is the Director of Digital Strategy at Qiigo, helping to unify digital marketing for Franchise brands and their locations. He is also the host of The Social Geek Radio Program and can be reached at Jack@Qiigo.com.