Can Social Media Sell a Franchise?
Drive leads to franchise expos using Facebook and Twitter.

October 2010
By Joel Goldstein

There are more than 500 million active users on Facebook, and the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events, according to data found on the popular social-networking Web site. Odds are, you’re on Facebook too, and so are a majority of the qualified prospects you’re trying to reach.

Why is Facebook still an untapped market for recruiting leads and driving them to franchise events like the International Franchise Expo and West Coast Franchise Expo?

On the consumer side, companies quickly jumped on the social-media bandwagon to offer coupons, online deals and push their businesses. Now’s the time for franchise development teams to get creative and begin using these effective, free online tools to communicate with potential candidates.

“We recently launched our Facebook and Twitter accounts and have seen a very positive response from fans,” said Tom Portesy, president of MFV Expositions. “The key is to offer them something of value. That’s the way to grow your audience and keep them coming back.”

What to Communicate

Now that you’re on a social-media site, what do you write about? Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are perfect platforms to promote upcoming franchise events and talk about company-related news. Did your company close five deals at West Coast Franchise Expo? Then, Tweet about it.

One of the major benefits of a Facebook fan page is that you can post video footage from events. Shoot some video footage with your Flip camera or iPhone of your booth and staff during an International Franchise Association-sponsored franchise expo and post it while the event is still under way. It will give your fans a chance to catch a glimpse of your location and introduce them to the sales team.

KidzArt, an international children’s art education franchise company, prefers to offer discounts to leads. They have begun using Facebook and Twitter to contact candidates and drive them to the KidzArt booth at the West Coast expo.

“We announced that we are giving away two free franchises to candidates that attend or register for this year’s West Coast Franchise Expo on our Facebook and Twitter pages,” said Sue Bartman, CEO of KidzArt. “We will also give a free franchise away during the Expo to an applicant that submits the best video about KidzArt or Art Innovators on our Facebook profile.”

Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School, has two distinct presences in social media as The Goddard School and The Goddard School Franchise. The company recently launched its franchise development side on Twitter and The Goddard School Franchise blog. In addition, the company created a tab within its Facebook fan page for franchising, rather than creating an entirely separate fan page that just speaks to leads.

Ashley Betzendahl, GSI’s social-media coordinator, elaborates: “Our Goddard School presence targets current and prospective parents in our franchised schools. We dispense parenting information, tips and advice through Facebook, Twitter and The Goddard School blog. The goal is to create a community of parents who learn from each other and us every day. Our franchise-development blog distributes messaging on tips to help franchises and small businesses grow, as well as provide information about The Goddard School franchise. Messaging is also delivered about upcoming franchise events we’re attending and recaps on those events.”

Still in its social-media infancy, GSI has already received franchise inquiries via Twitter and seen an increase in interview requests from both consumers and franchise prospects.

Not a replacement for traditional lead capture

Will social media be the last stop for selling franchises? Not at all. A virtually free communication tool, social media is simply another way to interact with your prospects and remind them of upcoming events, franchise expos and how to reach you. Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, are all free ways to send your leads information.

United Franchise Group, which includes Sign-A-Rama, EmbroidMe, Billboard Connection, FranchiseMart and Plan Ahead Events, utilizes social media as an introduction between the prospect and the franchisor.

“We have fan pages and Twitter feeds for each of our five brands”, said Dave Masterson, chief technology officer. “We reply back to the leads in the fashion they are most comfortable with, some want direct massages back on Twitter, some prefer to contact us privately, so we shift over to their e-mail accounts.”

Think of social media as another way to speak to your prospects. If your company is attending Franchise Expo South in January, you are most likely informing your current leads by using e-mail blasts, direct mailers, press releases, and other message delivery methods. Add social media to that mix by pushing out a message to your followers that you’ll be in Miami this winter. Go a step further and mention that if a prospect has found you on Facebook or Twitter, they can receive a complimentary voucher for admission to the show.

Papa Murphy’s pizza chain does not have a separate account for its consumers and potential franchisees. Instead, the company occasionally posts a franchise recruitment message to the consumer Facebook fans to try and spark some interest in their program.

“We will generally announce a new market that has opened for franchise opportunities or promote a new store opening,” said Rhonda McGraw, manager of business development for Papa Murphy’s. “Another topic we promote is local franchise seminars we conduct throughout the country.”

Sport Clips hair-care provider for men and boys uses social media in a similar fashion. “Sport Clips utilizes its Facebook and Twitter presence as both a consumerfacing tool and to reach out to potential franchise investors,” said Beth Boecker, director of franchise recruitment. “We do so by communicating information about our franchise growth and expansion across the U.S., as well as sharing timely news of Sport Clips promotions and events.”

Facebook is International

According to Facebook official statistics, there are more than 70 translations available and about 70 percent of Facebook users are outside the United States. For franchisors targeting international expansion, this is a huge audience that’s going untapped.

Sponsored by IFA, the International Franchise Expo attracts more than 150 international delegates each year, the West Coast Franchise Expo is highly targeted to the Hispanic community and Franchise Expo South is one of the top events for Latin America expansion. Before your next franchise expo, utilize Facebook to let prospects know your company will exhibit at these events.

Another tip: add the Facebook and Twitter links to your franchise development Web site. The next time prospects are visiting your site, they can easily click over to your social-media pages and learn where your company is exhibiting and which markets and countries you’re currently targeting.

If you are looking for a good example, check out the ways MFV Expositions uses Twitter and Facebook to promote upcoming franchise expos and offer discounts to registrants and specials to exhibitors. More information on West Coast Franchise Expo, Franchise Expo South and the International Franchise Expo is available at mfvexpo.com.

Joel Goldstein is director of marketing for MFV Expositions. He can be reached at jgoldstein@mfvexpo.com. To view the WCFE page, log on to facebook.com/mfvexpositions or check out twitter.com/FranchiseEvents.