Tapping into Your Franchise’s Local Audience via Social Media

Tapping into Your Franchise's Local Audience via Social Media - Duct Tape MarketingFor many people looking to get into the world of business ownership, purchasing a franchise is the ideal situation. You’re able to get behind an established brand, and you have access to proven marketing materials that will give you an advantage over starting a business from scratch.

Of course, the lifeblood of any great franchise is the local audience that will act as its customers. Different areas may have different nuances, beliefs, and experiences that make an “across the board” marketing message ineffective. What works for customers in one part of a country or region may fall flat in another.

Franchisors know that using a range of different marketing mediums is key. Radio and newspaper ads, bus bench ads, direct mail and vehicle wraps all have merit, but when it comes to really tapping into what your local audience wants, social media may be the best option.

Entering a Brave New World

Any reputable franchise’s corporate office will have some sort of social media strategy in place, but franchisees must also get into the act and nurture their local fan base. Many older brands created their franchisee rulebook before the internet was such a force, but if franchisors want to keep up with the competition, a concise set of guidelines is crucial. Setting inexperienced franchisees loose on social media has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster, without the proper guidance.

Generally, there are three franchise social media management styles, as noted in our Franchisor’s Guide to Social Media. They include a controlled style, where corporate controls all the posting, a limited style where franchisees can post but only with corporate approval, and an open style where franchisees can post as they see fit.

Each style has its pros and cons, and different franchisors will have their own beliefs about which is best. However, it is always a good idea to let franchisees help create a unique voice for their own local audience since they are the ones immersed in the community. Tapping into that audience via social media requires some insider’s knowledge and specific steps to follow.

Creating the Plan

Like any marketing endeavor, creating a sound local social media strategy begins with a great plan. Whether the franchise is a restaurant, a hardware store or a gas station, planning is key, and it begins with defining your target audience. If you don’t know who you are speaking to, the message will never be as clear as you’d like. Things like age, gender, marital status, occupation, income, and education all play a role.

The planning process should also include a social media schedule. Often, what works best is a combination of franchise-wide promotions sent from head office and local news, events and promotions. In order to keep all of the information organized and stay on schedule, utilizing an effective social media management tool is key.

Avenues of Engagement

When it comes to reaching your local audience, it’s important for a franchise to choose which platforms make the most sense. These days, you have Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and even Snap Chat and Pinterest have been used successfully to keep in touch. You must determine where your local audience likes to hang out online and then be there when they are.

Naturally, if you are a franchisee for a teen beauty accessory store, your audience will be found in different places online than the local audience for an upscale steak house franchise. You must figure out where they congregate and how they prefer to be engaged, in order to be successful.

Can I Have Your Attention Please?

Quite often, the “how” is almost as important as the “where” in terms of engaging with your local audience. In some cases, standard tweets might do the trick, while others may prefer videos, memes, infographics or Facebook posts. It’s also important to create local profiles for each social media platform, so each audience feels as though you are speaking directly to them, and the messages are always relevant. Franchisors should make sure this is happening, but if it isn’t every franchisee should speak up.

Consistency Is Key

Once the level of corporate office / franchisee social media participation has been established, you have an overall plan in place, you know which platforms make the most sense and what kind of messages produce results, it’s all about consistency. This concept seems simple, but it’s not unusual for franchisees to have no online experience, or to get caught up running the franchise and forget about their social media responsibilities.

It is important for franchisees to take their local social media duties seriously, and delegate or outsource if necessary. For franchisors, supporting franchisees with a plan designed to help them reach their local audiences via social media will benefit everyone involved. To learn more about dominating the world social media for your franchise, check out our Franchisor’s Guide to Social Media.

Juliette SchmerlerJuliette Schmerler is the founder and creative director of Sparktank Franchise Marketing, a boutique marketing agency that focuses on helping franchisors build their brand, find new franchisees and grow sales with local marketing. Juliette keeps her finger on the pulse of the latest reds of projects marketing and online trends through ongoing training as a certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant.

5 Visual Storytelling Trends That are Shaping The Future of Communication

5 Visual Storytelling Trends That Are Shaping the Future of Communication - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Pixabay

Visual storytelling is one of the most potent forms of communication in existence today. From films and virtual reality experiences to interactive games and data visualizations, visual stories are revolutionizing the way we persuade audiences with our messages.

While brands and marketers have generally lagged behind filmmakers and the media in the visual storytelling department, this is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as marketing shifts from “interrupting what people are interested into becoming what people are interested in,” in the words of Marriott’s VP of content marketing, David Beebe.

As the Internet of Things and wearable tech take us closer to a perpetually connected world, visual storytelling will be all around us. From having conversations with our favorite characters to playing games that will help feed the homeless, these visual storytelling trends will allow us to live within stories of our making and, in the process, blur the lines between reality and fiction.

Restrained only by the pace of technological innovation, here are five visual storytelling trends that will shape the future of all communication-related fields:

1. Never-Ending Stories

Audiences’ appetites for captivating stories is growing insatiable–so much so that they don’t want to see them end.

Just take a look at the recent trend in rebooting classic movies and hit TV shows and the nostalgia that leads movie studios to make a profit off of these–even if they’re rarely as good as the original.

In line with this demand, visual stories will increasingly run parallel to our real lives. This means that stories will not only occur in real-time, they will also happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This means that if you tune into one of these story worlds in the middle of the night, you may find that your favorite character is tossing and turning or staying up late to catch up on some work.


Or in the middle of your lunch, you might receive a notification from this parallel story world stating that your character’s town is under a tornado watch.

In fact, we’re already seeing this trend taking shape on social media. On Twitter, for example, you’ll find Mad Men’s Don Draper tweeting regularly to his 18,000 followers and Homer Simpson amusing his 2.27 million followers.

The growth in popularity of live-streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat, which allow audiences to interact with personalities in real-time, is another indicator of this trend.

2. Hyperreal Storytelling

The future of visual storytelling will not only follow a 24/7 cycle; it will also appear more real than reality itself.

I call this trend hyperreal storytelling, and it refers to the way technologies such as virtual and augmented reality are allowing us to create immersive stories that appeal to several of the five senses.

Some of these experiences are so authentic that they have the power to fool the mind and body into reacting as if living through the real thing.

Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, have already benefited from therapeutic virtual reality sessions that place them in lifelike but controlled situations, fooling their bodies into registering these as positive “experiences” in which they conquered their fears.

If you think this is too far down the road to think about, take a look at Lucasfilm’s next virtual reality movie about Darth Vader. Set within the Star Wars universe, the movie will allow participants to walk around, manipulate objects, touch characters and even influence the outcome of the story. (In line with the previous trend, it will also have a 24/7 cycle that continues beyond the user’s experience.)

3. Connective Storytelling

Audiences who grew up with the Internet don’t only crave interactive experiences–rather than passive spectatorship–they also want to connect with other people, whether real or fictitious.

Three-dimensional, relatable characters have always been at the heart of the most beloved stories, but in the future of storytelling, it won’t be enough for us to connect with characters emotionally–we must also be able to walk a mile in their shoes.

In the VR experience called “Nerve,” for example, users can put themselves in a movie character’s shoes and experience what it’s like to ride a skateboard while holding onto a police car or climbing a ladder from one high-rise to another.

Or in the Project Syria experience, viewers can feel what it’s like to live in a Syrian refugee camp and sit alongside grieving families as they hear deafening gunfire and rockets overhead.

4. Social Impact Storytelling

Related to the previous trend, visual storytelling of the future will also be used to increase empathy for others and raise funds for social causes.

Just like Project Syria, there are already dozens of VR experiences that aim to increase awareness of the plight of those who are less fortunate.

From living as a homeless person to suffering from Parkinson’s disease, these VR experiences are paving the way for storytelling that has an actual impact on the real world.

There are also social games that are used to raise funds for different causes, such as this initiative which urges participants to become real heroes by playing a game that will help raise money for a children’s hospital.

5. Brand Storytelling

When it comes to crafting unique virtual reality experiences, brands are not far behind filmmakers.

5 Visual Storytelling Trends That Are Shaping the Future of Communication - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit IKEA VR Experience

IKEA, for example, launched this VR experience that allows users to walk around and interact with a virtual kitchen. They can open drawers, move objects, change the look and feel of the kitchen and even explore the space from the point of view of a child.

Always the content marketing trendsetter, Red Bull also created this immersive flying experience which allows participants to enjoy a wild, realistic air race simulation.

Authors of Our Own Stories

In line with these trends, communicators of all types, especially marketers, must then strive to create content that is:

  • Interactive
  • Authentic
  • Immersive
  • Impactful
  • Continuous

Although most of us will not be able to assign millions of dollars to the creation of a VR experience just yet, the trend is clear: The stories of the future will not only become more visual, they will empower us to communicate more vividly than ever through alternate worlds and characters so believable they will blur the lines between fact and fiction, between natural realities and invented ones.


Nayomi ChibanaNayomi Chibana is a journalist and writer for Visme’s Visual Learning Center. She has an M.A. in Journalism and Media from the University of Hamburg in Germany and was an editor of a leading Latin American political investigative magazine for several years. She is particularly passionate about researching trends in transmedia storytelling.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Pexels

Given the sheer scale of social media and the number of social channels (there are over 90 social networks) – and the volume of people using them (Facebook has over 1.59 billion active monthly users) – you could say it’s a bit of a chore keeping up with everything.

Between monitoring, posting, and staying engaged, I’m not surprised that marketers try to automate the process as much as possible. But that’s not going to keep people engaged or grow sales through social.

In fact, automation is the opposite of what we should be doing, when you consider that the whole idea of social media is to provide that direct, authentic engagement with our audiences.

And sometimes, brands pay the price for that automation.

We Love Social Media Fails

I think we put social media fails from brands right up there with celebrity gossip. Sometimes those fails are interesting, sometimes they’re eye-roll-inducing, and sometimes they’re just a trainwreck you can’t look away from.

Domino’s Pizza is the first brand that comes to mind.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing


After receiving a compliment on its Facebook page from a clearly satisfied customer, Domino’s fired off the wrong auto response, posting a message that said “Sorry about that!” It’s great that Domino’s is prepared for damage control – every brand should be.

Unfortunately, that automation disconnected Domino’s from its customer, and resulted in some negative feedback in what could have otherwise been a flawless bit of customer praise.

Oh, Oreo…

Oreo has received some praise in recent years for the mastery of its marketing messages, such as its quick thinking during the Super Bowl blackout in 2013.When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing

But even a brand that has it together like Oreo can slip when it comes to automation. It might feel like you’re in full control when automation is set up, but that control goes out the window when you start involving the public.

Oreo found this out in 2014 when it tweeted what was clearly an automated reply to a Twitter troll. That automated response led to a lot of negative PR for the brand.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing

Reach Out and Touch… Everyone. As Quickly as Possible.

AT&T had attempted to set up an automated campaign around March Madness. The campaign was supposed to create personalized tweets that went out to basketball fans around a Ticket Chasers campaign where fans could win NCAA tickets.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing

Unfortunately, the automated campaign wound up targeting a much larger audience than intended, which grew by the minute and quickly spammed a huge section of people. AT&T responded by quickly deleting threads and shutting down the bot, and its head of social media at the time issued a formal apology directly to Twitter followers.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape MarketingBaccus-5

Automation Has Its Place in Social

You never think it could happen to you, but the above examples weren’t intentional. They were accidents – and accidents can happen.

I’m not advocating that brands and marketers stop using automation; it certainly has its place in your marketing strategy. If you want to effectively use automation, then use it to:

  • Schedule posts when your team is going to be offline, or if you’re going on vacation or to a trade show/event.
  • Fill up your content calendar by using tools like Quuu or Buffer. Then you’re filling in gaps around your real-time posts.
  • Find the best times to post content to get the most eyeballs.

When Automation Goes Wrong: A Better Approach to Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing

None of that really takes away from your engagement with your audience. You’re still posting great real-time content and rounding it out with stuff you’ve curated or scheduled ahead of time to keep up with your audience.

To avoid incidents like those above:

  • Don’t make automated direct messages or automated responses part of your strategy. That ruins engagement, especially if you’re not there to reply.
  • Don’t try to use scheduled content to blast the same message out to every social channel. You need to cater content to your audience segments, as well as the network you’re on.
  • Don’t just curate and automate content posts when you haven’t read the content or can’t screen it.

Keep It Authentic

A better approach to social media is to treat it the way it was meant to be used: to directly engage your fans in a sincere and authentic way that best represents your brand.

If you’re strapped for time, I get that. I know what it’s like to have a packed schedule. It’s hard enough finding time to breathe, let alone post to 3 different social networks throughout the day.

When you’re struggling to get authentic posts out and keep engagement up, then it’s time to either invest in an agency that can manage it for you, delegate it to a team member, or hire a virtual assistant who can keep the social content flowing based on your strategy.

How do you maintain and grow your engagement on social media? Do you use automation tools or do you have a team that handles it for you? Share your approach with me in the comments below:

Aaron AgiusAaron Agius is an experienced search, content, and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Should Have a Following

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Should Have a Following - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Very Pixel

Have you ever noticed how so many major corporations produce commercials that focus more on their brand name rather than an actual product? At first, this might lead to some head-scratching—after all, isn’t the product what they’re selling?

Yes and no.

The reason you see so many of these branding efforts is because a recognizable brand with a following is an incredibly valuable asset. Consumers who trust and recognize a brand tend to stick with it and recommend the brand to their friends and family. Even in the digital age and highly competitive industries, word of mouth is still one of the most elusive-yet-powerful marketing channels available to any business owner.

If your organization hasn’t yet established a solid brand following, here’s a few reasons why you should start today:

#5 Your Customers Will Become Your Tribe

If you’ve heard of the concept of a “tribe” in business lingo, then you know that this refers to the behavior of your most loyal customers. This demographic are the ones which are most fiercely loyal and who will sing your praises to anyone who will listen—but without a strong brand identity, this won’t be possible. One of the main purposes of a brand identity is to answer the questions “who are you?” and, perhaps more importantly, “why are you better than the other guy?” Once you have a following, your tribe will answer these questions for you happily.

A good way of looking at it is how sports teams operate. Sports fans are incredibly loyal to their teams of choice. They wear team logos, discuss news about the sport, and follow their team’s games religiously—to the point of saying things like “we won.” Sports teams trade players and change administrations and coaches relatively frequently. As one stand up comedian put it, “you’re cheering for a jersey.” This is the power of a loyal brand following, and this kind of fervent dedication is possible for your business too.

#4 Customers Are More Likely to Engage With You Positively

Have you ever struggled with getting positive reviews or good word of mouth? Do your customers never send you referrals? A strong brand presence can inspire your customers to interact and engage with you more positively. Remember, your brand followers will be your strongest advocates, so when someone needs a recommendation for the kind of product or service you provide, they’ll be the ones out there providing you with “free” advertising.

A good way to gauge how strongly your customers feel about your brand is through a customer survey. If you don’t get positive results from the survey—or worse, few results at all—odds are you need to focus on explaining to your customer who you are and why they should choose to work with your brand—and only your brand.

#3 A Strong Brand Image Isn’t Just Good for Your Customers…

…It’s also good for your employees. When you have a strong brand image, your employees will likely feel more inspired about the work they’re doing. Feeling as though they’re part of something “bigger” and that they’re impacting some kind of positive change in the world—even if it’s just making the best hamburgers in town—can affect they way they think about their work in a relatively dramatic way.

When an employee is proud of the brand they help to create, they’re more likely to behave in such a way that promotes the success of the brand. As a result, you’ll have happier customers—and perhaps new customers too, since your employees will also provide a word of mouth advertising. And why wouldn’t they? They’re proud of where they work.

A strong brand image can inspire employees to stay with your company longer, and this can help to alleviate the high turnover rate that many businesses suffer from. If an employee knows that the brand they’re working for has a strong future—and possibilities for upward mobility in their own career paths—the likelihood that your employees will look for “greener pastures” will be significantly reduced.

#2 Strong Branding Generates Long Term Financial Value

Even if your company never offers an IPO, having long financial value is one of the most positive aspects of good brand recognition. A strong brand can practically guarantee future business and sales—even if the economy is currently in a downturn. A strong brand can also act as leverage in the event that you need a business loan or funding. The more your focus on presenting your brand in a positive light, the better the odds are that your business will have future value, whether that’s for financial leverage, to enter a merger, or to sell it later.

You’ll also find that having a strong brand will help you find potential business partners should you ever decide that you need them. Working in joint ventures can be a major asset to any business, but without a strong, recognizable brand it can be far more difficult to find partners of this kind. A strong brand can help you get the right people on board to work with—whether they become your partners or just other businesses that you work with. Neglecting your brand image reduces trust in these kinds of situations.

#1 Strong Brands Build Trust

This is the most important reason why you should focus on building your brand recognition. A strong brand promotes trust from everyone involved. Most importantly, of course, are your customers, but your employees will also find more motivation and will be more likely to stay loyal to your business for years to come. You’ll have trust from other companies with which you do business, you’ll have trust from potential lenders, and you’ll have trust from all involved financial parties concerning the future of your business and your brand.

Strengthening your brand and developing a loyal following isn’t just about making more sales—it’s about making a strong future for your company. These are the reasons why building a strong brand identity is more about just advertising a product or service, it’s about ensuring the future of your business.

Josh MacDonaldJosh MacDonald is an internet entrepreneur and software develop best known for his development of marketing automation software. Check him out on Twitter or his blog.