Today, many franchise networks have pages on various social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Google+) to increase their visibility among internet users and to promote their news, announcements, special offers, etc.

Meanwhile, many franchisees also have their own profiles and their own pages on the same or even different social media sites, and use such means to participate in various social networks.

Yet when questioned about their involvement with regard to the social media presence of their franchisees, many franchisors are still of the opinion that this concerns the franchisee … and not the franchisor.

Is this true?

Isn't the presence of a franchisee on social media and social networks, as well as the image and messages it conveys to the public on these networks, a form of advertising or public relations activity that can clearly have an impact on the entire network as well as on each franchisee and … on the franchisor?

The strength and quality of the franchisor's corporate branding has an impact on the franchisees, both individually and collectively. Likewise, the strength and quality of the presence of each franchisee on social networks and social media also has a direct impact on the other franchisees and the franchisor.

Quite simply, because networking activities on the internet are both local and international at the same time. The internet knows no borders and the messages posted there travel throughout the world and remain available, sometimes much longer than desired.

However, social networks and social media are now an increasingly integral part of public relations, visibility and advertising of a franchise network.

In fact, many businesses today run advertising campaigns, some of which are highly elaborate, designed exclusively for social media.

More and more customers and potential customers (especially, but not only, among people 40 and under) are abandoning traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television) in favour of social and digital media.

The "laissez-faire" approach regarding the presence and activities of franchisees on social media and social networks is a thing of the past.

Every franchisor concerned about the quality of their brand and messages coming from their network must, therefore, now play a proactive role with regard to the activities of its franchisees on social media and social networks.

This role includes:

  • training (initial and continuous), guiding and supporting franchisees with regard to creating their pages and profiles on social media and social networks;

  • preparing and providing franchisees with graphic standards, images, designs, logos and a template to allow them to create captivating pages and profiles that project an attractive and positive image of their businesses and the entire network;
  • providing franchisees with guides, tools and means to improve their visibility on social media, to expand their social networks and to attract customers through their activities on social media and social networks;
  • develop and provide standards and guides to franchisees that ensure the quality and uniformity of their presence on social media and social networks, as well as adequate responses to questions and comments from internet users;
  • put in writing (such as in the franchise agreement itself) and communicate the rules and standards for messages that can be posted or disseminated by the franchisees, as well as by their employees (when relating to the business of the franchisee, franchisor or franchise network), on social media and social networks;
  • actively and closely monitor franchisee activities, and that of their employees, on social media and social networks and, if needed, apply the necessary corrective measures;
  • constantly monitor messages, articles, questions, reviews, and comments posted online on any social media or network concerning or affecting the franchise network, the franchisor or one of its franchisees;
  • ensure that an adequate and relevant response is quickly posted online with regard to any question or comment posted online that is directed to the franchisor or one of its franchisees. A quick response time is essential to online communications, and the response must normally be posted online within 24 hours after the question or comment was posted.

Three Practical Tips:

1. Ensure that your franchise agreement includes the necessary clauses concerning the franchisee's presence on social media and social networks.

Many franchise agreements were written before social media and social networks became as important as they are now. Accordingly, many of these contracts do not include the appropriate clauses concerning social media and social networks and the presence of the franchisee on them.

Now is the time to verify that your contract does contain the appropriate clauses to this effect and, if not, to update it so that they are included.

2. Constantly monitor activities on social media and social networks that affect or concern your network or image.

Nothing is as frustrating to a franchisor as learning from a journalist, supplier, potential franchisee or customer that negative messages are circulating on its social media or social networks.

Given the speed at which news and comments circulate on the internet, only an extremely rapid (usually within less than 24 hours) and adequate response can allow you to prevent negative or false news, or negative comments, from spreading to the point where they can no longer be corrected.

It is, therefore, very important for a franchisor to closely monitor, in real time, all news, messages and comments posted on any social media or social network that concerns it or its network.

Today, there exist numerous means, some of which are simple and inexpensive, that allow a franchisor to monitor messages that circulate on the internet and on its social media and social networks. These means may, if necessary, allow it to rapidly intervene and to limit the damage, the impact of which can increase with blinding speed.

3. Take into account the potential impact of decisions and actions on social media and social networks, in particular vis-à-vis its franchisees.

More and more often, we see situations where the actions of people or businesses (for example, sending a notice or demand letter or initiating a legal action) are shared on social media and social networks, on which they generate a public impact that sometimes is much greater than the legal or financial impact of the action itself.

Public opinion is increasingly becoming a kind of "people's court" that renders a decision rapidly and summarily, sometimes on the sole basis of their first impression of a situation. What's more, once this first impression is in place, it is extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to reverse it.

This is a business risk that every franchisor must now consider in its decision-making process, especially when faced with an defaulting franchisee, a franchisee who is having problems or a franchisee who advises the franchisor of complaints, as well as in connection with drafting any notice, demand letter or legal proceeding (which may be released into the public domain).