The increasingly popular use of employee advocacy as a strategy has now been expanded into other more general areas; take the concept of franchise advocacy, for example. Can franchisees be social media-based brand ambassadors? If so, what role can we play?

What is advocacy?

It is more commonly used in the workplace under the term “employee advocacy”, which involves people who work for a company promoting or defending its image or reputation, usually through their personal accounts on social media. 

One definition of Social Dynamics suggests that this term could be summarised as the art of bringing employees together to become digital brand ambassadors. The key is to rehumanise brand marketing by creating credible, human points of contact, which is where employees come in, practising a form of digital advocacy.

Franchise Advocacy: why apply the strategy of advocacy to the franchising sector?

Franchisees are locally based brand representatives, and although they are independent business owners rather than employees of the franchisor, the advocacy strategy is still relevant. 

The best people to defend the values of a brand are the members of its network. They have real and credible experience to back up the marketing that comes from head office, especially with local audiences. 

Moreover, the franchisee’s words have a greater impact exactly because of that proximity to their audience. So the question is: how can we help franchisees become brand ambassadors?

Identifying ambassadors within the point of sale network

To ensure compliance and an effective advocacy strategy, you need to;

  • find voluntary ambassadors who are already eager to get involved
  • provide baseline content that makes people want to share it 
  • franchisees with enough digital experience

Providing the resources necessary for a successful franchise

As mentioned above, providing shareable, good quality content will help franchisees establish a presence on social media. 

To achieve this, a few other social media management tools will be needed first: 

  • A content library (known as digital asset management). You can use this media gallery to store all the brand’s resources, viewable by category, campaign, document type… Good DAM gives franchisees direct access to all of a brand’s content. For example, some of our customers use the content library to share ready-made stories in MP4 format. These files enable outlets to download the stories and publish them on their Instagram accounts.
  • Ready-to-post templates or ready-made posts. Quite simply post templates provided by head office that the local outlets can publish. The advantage here is that points of sale don’t have to think of their own ways to engage on social media. The posts are all pre-approved, consistent with the brand strategy and deployable in a few easy clicks, and they can always be edited by the point of sale before publishing to make them more locally relevant. Thanks to this easy system, franchisees can schedule all their monthly posts in just a few minutes. 
  • A social network governance strategy. Some franchisees do not have time to spend on social networks, so a governance strategy is an ideal way for the head office and local branches to agree on a way of working that suits both parties, as well as clearly establishing the rights and permissions of each outlet. The outlet can leave the social media to head office or it can ask the latter to approve its posts before they’re published. Similarly, head office can insist on approving posts beforehand to ensure all content is brand-consistent.

Developing brand awareness for retail outlets on social networks is certainly doable, it’s just a matter of finding the right balance to work in symbiosis.

Maxime, Marketing Manager at Hyperspread

Why encourage franchisee activity on social networks?

Local pages show higher social network engagement rates than brand pages do. For example, the Facebook engagement rate can be up to 5 times higher than that of a national page.

It’s important to realise that behind these data, local pages are very often targeting a narrower community. The subscriber base is made up of customers who have already been to the branch, of relatives who support the franchisee… a strong link between the customers and the business.

As a result, shared content has more impact and generates better results (engagement, reach, etc.)

Is local social media engagement the customer connection of the future?

One important aspect of employee advocacy is that we tend to trust people who are familiar to us, so when someone in our network or community is vocal on social media, we listen more. We identify the person doing the talking and recognize their individuality.

A similar thing happens with local franchises. They are “humanised”. They are independent business owners. Their voice has much more impact than a brand campaign. It is more reliable and appears more objective.

The customer is not seen as a mass audience to sell to, but as someone with specific needs and expectations. This service is already provided in shops, but as the use of social media increases, will the advice and attention currently given to customers in person be transferred to social media platforms

With or without Franchise Advocacy, what we know for certain is that the contribution franchisees make to a brand’s e-reputation will only become more important, in same the way that employees have become online brand representatives for their employers.