Social Media: Why nearly 75% of US franchise systems are now using Facebook as part of their branding and sales strategies

“Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch obviously never visited the Facebook page of Einstein Bros.”


So said the January 2011 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, referring to the US franchise’s 2010 Bagel Bonanza promotion which gave away a bagel and cream cheese to anyone willing to sign up as an Einstein Bros. fan on Facebook. The promotion was so phenomenally successful – more than 300,000 fans signed up in less than a week – that before I started writing this article, I checked to make sure that the franchise hadn’t been put out of business by the demand for free bagels. Apparently it hadn’t.


Last year I had a similar experience when I found myself totally unprepared for the response one of our clients received from an advertisement I placed for him on Facebook. Happily my client wasn’t giving away freebies. But they struggled to keep up with the unexpectedly massive flood of enquiries they received – and if we hadn’t pulled the ad promptly, that may have done their brand more harm than good.


One of the beauties of Facebook and other social media platforms is that you can pull or modify your ad or offer at any time without having to resort to conventional advertising’s ‘while stocks last’ or ‘limited offer’ safety nets.


The rise of social media has been nothing short of astonishing, with Facebook users now numbering– he quickly opens his Facebook page to get the latest stats – more than 1.9 million in New Zealand alone.


Just in case you have tended to dismiss Facebook as something only teenagers are into, 1.1 million or around 59% of New Zealanders on Facebook are aged 30 and over. And if you’re chasing the senior market, 377,000 or 20% of Kiwi Facebookers are aged 50 and over.


Using a Facebook advertisement, you can also target your market by where they live and what their interests and sometimes occupations are. For example, I have a client whose market is teachers. The Targeting section of the Facebook advertising facility tells me there are nearly 19,000 Kiwi teachers on Facebook.


Now for the best part. How much do you think all this costs?


Amazingly, it’s still essentially free to play in social media, provided you’re happy just set up a page and then promote it with what’s called viral marketing – the online equivalent of what word of mouth, which almost every marketing person acknowledges is the best form of marketing, partly because it’s free and partly because a customer recommendation is always going to be more effective than a sales message.


The advantage for small to medium businesses is that with some effort and some savvy they can do as well as, if not better than, their larger competitors without blowing their marketing budget. The social media environment levels the playing field.


And if you don’t know where to start with viral marketing and just want to advertise on Facebook, you don’t have to pay to place the ad, just when someone actually responds to it – it’s called PPC or pay-per-click – and you can place a daily limit on how much you spend. I have run effective campaigns targeting hundreds of thousands of people which have cost less than $500.


Another advantage of Facebook for franchise systems is that you can set up local pages for your franchisees as well as a national presence. In a US survey, 69% of people said they're more likely to patronise a local business if it offers information on a social networking site, and there’s no reason to believe New Zealanders’ attitude would be any different.


Are there any disadvantages of using Facebook as a marketing tool? An important one is time. You can’t just put up a Facebook page and walk away. Or rather, you can – but you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Because Facebook is a social medium, it’s about connecting and communicating with people, and that means setting aside time for that every day.


This article is another in our Why your Marketing Sucks series. In coming weeks, we’ll provide more case studies showing how social media and other types of online marketing works for a variety of different franchises across industries of almost every type. And we’ll throw in some tips and how-to guides to show how easy it could be for you to join the New Marketing revolution without neglecting the traditional marketing that is still working for you.