Distributed, “corporate/local” companies, such as brick-and-mortar chains and franchises, insurance companies, banks, and directselling organizations have a unique set of challenges on Facebook. How do you align field reps, franchisees, store managers, agents, and affiliates with corporate brand guidelines while empowering them to have their own voice? Many corporate executives initially feel frustrated when they realize social network profiles such as
Facebook Places and Yelp profiles are being autocreated for each agent and store location (behind the scenes, Facebook and Yelp are importing public business directory listings), or that local agents and stores themselves are creating their own Facebook profiles. Rightly so, they worry about lack of visibility, loss of control, damage to the brand, and even legal liability for what local brand agents post.
Given that there is little corporate can do to prevent or ban these local profiles, many corporate/local executives are learning to embrace them. When properly managed, local-originated content is actually resulting in substantially higher consumer engagement, which can be tremendously beneficial for the brand. While consumers identify with national or global brands, the actual customer experience happens at the local level through the physical locations they frequent and now check-in to via Foursquare or Facebook Places.
It then becomes a question of how corporate can empower agents and stores with the right tools, training, and messages. As you have likely experienced first-hand, franchisees and local establishments are eager to get involved with social media, but they often don’t know what to say after they’ve created a Facebook Page or Twitter account. Worse yet, some locations say all the wrong things—for example, they are too salesy, they fail to delete profane language, or their posts contain misspellings—all of which can damage your brand. Other locations hit the ground running, pushing out top-notch content for a few weeks, but then it ends abruptly. A local page gone stagnant quickly fills with spam and reflects poorly on the brand.
What is the solution? Distributed organizations have to balance corporate with local Facebook initiatives, but with a little extra effort, they can harness invaluable local market knowledge, reach, and customer connection. The following sidebar illustrates how global fitness company 24 Hour Fitness is successfully tapping into the Facebook marketing opportunity at both the brand and local levels through a combination of policies, tools, and training.
Case Study: Balancing Corporate and Local Initiatives on Facebook
Last winter, 24 Hour Fitness had developed a rapidly growing corporate Facebook Page with 100,000 fans but needed to figure out a Facebook strategy for its 400-plus fitness clubs across the country. Especially following the launch of Facebook Places, the corporate marketing team realized that local Facebook Pages for each club would be the perfect way to replicate and extend the fitness dialogue and experience between visits.
The challenge was how to balance protecting the brand with encouraging each location to cater to its unique market, such as local preferences, habits, and even weather. High-priority goals included the following:
► Monitor and analyze corporate as well as local efforts on Facebook and Twitter
► Utilize a content workflow system to approve, reject, or suggest content (including Wall posts, branded tabs, and promotions) to all or a subset of locations
► Encourage localization to increase consumer engagement and check-ins while enforcing brand compliance
24 Hour Fitness sought the help of Hearsay Corporation, a Facebook Preferred Partner that has developed a social
media–management tool for distributed organizations. The 24 Hour Fitness marketing team works with local club
managers to create a Facebook Page for each location and then uses Hearsay’s administration tool to centrally monitor, analyze, and provide Facebook content suggestions to the various locations across the country (see Figure 7). Club managers can view the suggestions, personalize and localize, then one-click publish to their Facebook Wall and
The results have been higher engagement both by consumers and local club staff, a consistent brand experience across these local efforts, and hours of work saved by the corporate marketing team and local staff each day. In addition, 24 Hour Fitness uses Hearsay’s compliance module to filter profanity and personally identifiable information which may appear in Wall posts.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for us to engage with our members using Facebook during and in-between their visits to our fitness clubs, but managing the social media activity of our over four hundred clubs was a daunting task. Hearsay Social helps us organize, empower, and measure all of these disparate local club initiatives from a central dashboard and is helping our brand reach and connect with larger audiences while saving valuable time for my team.”
—Tony Wells, Chief Marketing Officer, 24 Hour Fitness