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Businesses with multiple locations – in particular, national brands and franchisors – are very active in helping promote their local branches and franchises.

According to new data from BIA/Kelsey’s “Local Commerce Monitor,” local marketing is increasingly becoming a priority for franchisors (the “parent” groups that own the overarching company but give franchisees the right to run franchise locations). Specifically, they are investing in digital marketing activities at the local level: managing social media use, developing websites and landing pages, creating local listings and online video content, and monitoring online reviews and ratings.

(Check out: “Small Business Owners to Spend More on Online Review Management, Social Media, and Web Design”)

Here are highlights from BIA/Kelsey’s study:

  • Franchisors pay an average of 43 percent of the costs for establishing the online presence of their franchisees. These costs cover things like setting up a website, enhancing local listings, and creating online videos.
  • 51 percent of franchisees say that franchisors are “highly involved” in the social media efforts of their local business locations. This means that the franchisees are required to run public dialogue and engage with customers through the national corporate website. Meanwhile, 23 percent say that their franchisors are “somewhat involved”: meaning, the franchisees are allowed to do social media marketing on networks like Facebook and Twitter, but with rules, regulations, and boundaries between what the local franchise can and cannot say.

It’s not just social networks, either; franchisors and parent companies are also expressing a vested interest in monitoring online reviews (and ratings) of their multiple local business locations. And for good reason: in an age when consumers are turning to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, Google (Google+ Local/Google Maps), and Foursquare to guide their purchase decisions, national brands have to keep an eye on what customers are saying at a local level – and manage these reviews in order to enhance (instead of destroy) the entire company’s online reputation.

BIA/Kelsey says the key is to figure out how much freedom franchisors can give franchisees – at least in terms of responding to customer comments and reviews.

“The (study’s) findings point to a potential tug-of-war setting up over the social media presence of franchises,” said Steve Marshall, BIA/Kelsey’s director of research. “An essential characteristic of successful social media programs is authenticity, which requires candid, timely and uncensored posting. At the same time, franchisors need to be highly protective of their brands, which include their local presence. The challenge is whether social media can be used successfully by local franchises when there’s a high degree of control from the parent company. The jury is still out – this is a delicate balancing act and the roles are still being defined.”

For a summary of findings, check out BIA/Kelsey’s infographic below:

National Brands and Franchisors are Actively Involved in Local Marketing, Social Media, and Online Review Monitoring

(Infographic: BIA/Kelsey)

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

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