According to the Observatoire de la Franchise, the French Observatory for franchising, in 2020 there were 1,927 franchisors and 78,032 franchisees in France, generating an estimated €63.88bn in revenue. And, as the Observatory adds, the franchising business has been on the rise in France for the past 20 years.
So, one would think that franchisors/franchisees have just naturally turned to using social media, an increasingly important channel for companies of all types and sizes.
The 2021 French Franchise Survey tells us that 77 per cent of franchisee survey participants “use at least one social platform in order to communicate with their customers.” While 71 per cent say that they have received some sort of social media assistance from their franchisor.
Health crisis or not, it’s easy to say that social media receives an enormous amount of attention in the press. Add to that, the “aging”, less effective media channels such as TV and radio. Then consider the growing number of individual/company social media profiles and their posts, articles, stories, and advertisements on numerous platforms, in many different media formats.
And, over the last 15 years, we have all probably bought something via these networks – not to mention reading, following, and forwarding their posts to your contacts!
So social media should be a no-brainer for franchise businesses in France, right? Well, yes and no. In this article, I’m going to share some of our experiences, conversations, and research concerning social media usage/adoption in the franchising business in France over the last six years.
This article does not represent a benchmark, just some highlights that might resonate with franchisors and franchisees in other areas of the world and shed some light on how social media usage is evolving in the franchising business in France – and maybe similarly in your own country.
It would not be realistic to talk about social media use in this sector without talking about the pandemic; simply because it is usually one of the main driving forces behind increased social media awareness:
More people working remotely and fewer people physically going to stores to make purchases means more online activity.
Sales teams working remotely means fewer opportunities to see clients, resulting in increased social media prospection and selling from behind a screen.
Generally speaking, does this mean that franchisors/franchisees across France are really getting a professional grip on social and using it like the Swiss army knife that it represents? Again, yes and no – let me explain via some insights gathered before and during COVID.
Lessons learned from the pandemic
The growing number of non-franchise companies turning to this business model, in addition to the new types of sector-specific franchises, are contributing to a franchise space being more crowded than ever before. With this new found competition, franchisors/ franchisees are finding it almost impossible to survive without minimal social media presence/profile.
Furthermore, almost all franchisors are present on at least one platform with at least approximately one weekly or biweekly ‘corporate’ post. Most of them manage their social media/ community management strategy internally, with about four out of five taking some external social media/ social selling training geared to their recruitment, management, or sales teams.
About two out of five are thinking about putting employee or management advocacy programs into place. For most of them (save for the larger, more well-known multinational brands), engagement and ROI rates are still in test and learn mode.
When it comes to franchisors fully recognizing the importance of social media for the franchisee network and adopting a clear positioning/ strategy, there are usually two types of situations:
Situation one: Franchisor remains in control of all social media activities
The franchisor does not allow franchisees to manage their own social media presence and does it for them, many charging a monthly fee for this, some using automation tools to publish the same posts on all franchisee pages. According to the franchisors I met, this ensures brand coherence and avoids any bad buzz situations.
Result: This type of situation usually ends up frustrating franchisees who would like to manage their own social media page, but need help.
There is also a rising number of “we’ll do it for you” franchisors who recommend franchisees to contribute with local posts.
Result: If no training or assistance is provided, then this usually falls on deaf ears, as depending on the entrepreneur, the size of the team, and skillsets, some might not be fully aware of what is behind social media.
Key takeaway: Some franchisors are slowly modifying policies, contracts, business models, and training practices in order to give their members the social media freedom they will inevitably claim.
Situation two: Franchisor shares social media activites with franchisees
These are usually franchisors who have already tried informal social media assistance: ranging from a short video call with a social media intern who provides information, to a few hours of training on digital tools and/or digital recruitment.
Result: Both franchisor and franchisee realize that these are not satisfactory solutions as they are incomplete. The franchisee is still not aware of the franchisor’s brand charter, editorial orientation, and social media best practices.
Key takeaway: Franchisor undergoes a social media adoption “overhaul”. They put into place solutions that:
• Formally hold franchisees accountable for their social media presence and actions (and sometimes lack thereof)
• Provide sector-specific and bespoke practical training. Some even include social media/ social selling/digital marketing/tools training in the training catalog, via remote, face to face training, or a mix of both
• Are agile and ROI oriented, accompanying franchisees with concrete examples of how the social channel impacts the livelihood of their business, while providing social media best practices, tips, and opportunities to apply them during a test phase.
So where is this all going?
As both franchisors’ and franchisee’s targeted population’s age, connecting with them via social will become increasingly more mainstream to communicate on recruitment, commercial offers, company news, and most importantly, to provide clients and consumers a digital space to voice their opinions and converse with brands.
For franchisors and franchisees in France, as in many other countries, social will eventually become one of the most important tools in the customer experience toolbox.
Michelle Goldberger is CEO of The Smartworking Company, and is also a social media and social selling trainer and author. This article was compiled with assistance from Fédération Française de la Franchise, France Pare Brise, Gautier Groupe, Point S, and Schmidt Groupe.