Like their customers, businesses are spending more and more time online. Many franchisees now depend on social media, with more than half of franchisees saying it’s one of their top lead generation marketing channels. Social media is also a key tool for offering promotions and handling customer service.

Still, franchisees report there are both benefits and risks of social media as a marketing channel for business. With the importance of digital marketing in today’s business world, it is important to manage the risks of online communication effectively to reap the rewards of social media.

The Benefits of Social Media for Franchisees

Franchisees that effectively use social media can accomplish a wide range of business and marketing goals. With social media, you can:

  • Generate leads
  • Educate and inform
  • Build stronger relationships
  • Stay top of mind.
  • Advertise offers
  • Prompt consumers to purchase
  • Reach new customers

However, it’s important to post the right kind of content and be mindful of how your business interacts with the public online. Good posting furthers business objectives and minimizes the risk of potential claims.

Here are a few ways franchisees can use social media to benefit the business:

  • Create a profile on major platforms (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that is professional, engaging, on-brand and up to date.
  • Network with appropriate organizations online, such as Elevanta, industry and trade groups, civic organizations and the local chamber of commerce.
  • Make a profile page that includes relevant information about your business, such as address, up-to-date hours of operation, etc.
  • Consult relevant industry and legal statutes regarding online advertising and ensure your social media is compliant.
  • Post timely offers, helpful content, important business announcements and positive news about your business.

There are some types of content it is important to avoid on social media:

  • Avoid statements about the business or business offers that could be deemed false or misleading.
  • Avoid using the franchisee’s social media channels for personal purposes.
  • Avoid making statements about controversial and divisive topics that could reflect negatively on the business now or in the future.
  • Avoid posting content that may violate the privacy of the franchisor, employees, vendors or customers.
  • Avoid posting content that is against the terms of service for the social network.

The Risks of Social Media for Franchisees

Even by following the guidelines above, franchisees will face risk by engaging with customers on social media. The sting of a customer complaint or bad review can often feel very personal, and many people’s first instinct is to act to defend themselves and the business from unfair mischaracterizations. However, handling an online complaint or review the wrong way comes with considerable risk, including:

  • Further damage to your reputation
  • Increased negative publicity
  • Possible regulatory or legal issues
  • Potential loss of business
  • Risk to business viability

If faced with a negative complaint or review on social media:

  • Avoid initiating direct contact outside of social media via phone or in-person contact
  • Avoid drafting a hasty casual response that may violate rules or regulations
  • Do not attempt to have the information removed, which can often draw further attention

Instead, manage the risk of a negative complaint or review by keeping three things in mind:

  • Objectivity—A review with spelling or grammar mistakes, or that is irrational or implausible is unlikely to be taken very seriously by objective readers.
  • Attention—Remember that your response may draw more attention than the complaint itself and that your response will be visible to other potential customers.
  • Professionalism—If you decide to respond, ensure your answer is accurate, truthful and doesn’t break any rules, regulations or terms of service.

The risk of experiencing a negative complaint or review online is high. Social media is the channel of choice for nearly half of all consumer complaints. Yet for businesses that respond well to a complaint, about half of consumers share the positive response and more than a third will tell friends and purchase again.

While there are risks of social media, there are also many benefits. Even when faced with a negative complaint or review, it’s often possible to turn the situation around with a good use of social media.