3 Ways to Drive Vital Viral Buzz to Your Franchise

Latest posts by Steven Zhao (see all)

Word-of-mouth marketing is undeniably effective in bolstering a business, with four-fifths of consumers trusting validations by their friends over any other marketing, and the social media age has only amplified the possibilities.

Still, many franchises don’t create organic opportunities for patrons to spread the good word about their businesses. Nearly half of companies say they have less than 50 percent confidence or no idea about their own viral impacts, according to a study by FreemanXP and the Event Marketing Institute. Rather than actively integrating social media marketing into their strategic planning, they simply hope for Facebook, TripAdvisor or Yelp posts to appear (and to spread their influence) like magic.

A kind word from a thrilled customer goes a long way, especially in an era when social credibility boosts consumer confidence in a brand. Consequently, forward-thinking franchisors build digital marketing tools into the core of their franchise offerings, increasing the likelihood of retweets, views, likes and other forms of organic social platform content. Franchises can’t force customers to sing their praises, but they can at least give fans something to buzz about.

Make shareability a priority

No amount of paid marketing can match the kind of intimate relationships shared on social sites by people who trust one another. For that reason, every franchise should devise ways to make social sharing not only convenient, but also exciting for guests.

Without a means to easily tell the world about their day or a reason to catch others’ attention, most people won’t decide to share tidbits with their social audiences that would give your business a boost. Essentially, customers have to be led to share, and that’s where your franchise’s marketing strategy comes into play.

With a plan to generate demand among new customers by leveraging your existing customers’ networks, you can fill the top of your sales funnel and enhance your social game.

Follow these methods to launch a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that won’t cost much, but will have long-term impacts.

  1. Get your staff in on the action

Your staff can be the most valuable early players in electrifying your brand. Their advocacy helps you expand your reach to untapped audiences and edge out the competition faster than if you relied on customer traffic alone.

Train employees to encourage selfies and social sharing with patrons. Assign one or several of your employees as social sharing liaisons who create hashtags, collect photos and post the pictures on all the company’s social channels.

Zappos puts such a premium on company culture that the online store encourages employees to share its daily ins and outs on social media. Whether its during a culture gathering or a daily meeting, employees post material to the company’s employee advocacy-specific Twitter account with the hashtag #CompanyCulture.

Take Zappos’ lead by encouraging everyone on your team to share content, images and video about your franchise via social media. That way, you’ll have a built-in marketing push from day one.

  1. Create a shareable environment

Kylie Jenner has made some seriously strong viral marketing moves with her cosmetics line. Her pop-up shops include a retail experience that practically begs for selfies. Unsurprisingly, customers do exactly what’s expected, and the word of Jenner’s makeup offerings spread like wildfire.

Your franchise probably doesn’t have the intrinsic notoriety of the Jenner name, but you can create cool, colorful backdrops — which are linked to increases in recognition and memory — in your retail facilities that lend themselves to selfies and videos.

At our franchise, we specially built a digital market vehicle into every single customer play session of our virtual reality game. Each group of players receives a mixed-reality video clip of their experience layered with virtual reality images. At the end of a session, guests see the videos playing on an iPad and can authorize sharing that video to their Facebook feeds or download a copy for their social media.

This demand generation engine acts like the top of the marketing funnel to drive new consumers into the facilities. One digital influencer who visited a Hong Kong franchise shared a video that reached an estimated 1.6 million individuals — almost 20 percent of the city’s population.

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  1. Err on the side of surprise

Surprise is one of the best emotions to harness for organic viral marketing. Ramp up the liveliness at your franchise to create the most shareable experience for your customers.

For a master class in this, turn to the Museum of Ice Cream. The organization isn’t in a set location; it’s a traveling pop-up show that sells exclusive tickets. Essentially, it’s a colorful road show with a favorite dessert at the core of its marketing. Patrons love it and talk about it online because the experience is so unusual.

Ontario-based eatery, Burger Revolution, takes the element of surprise a step further by playing on customers’ fear of missing out. The restaurant uses its Facebook page to inform followers of how many burgers remain each day, creating suspense and (hopefully) foot traffic.

Whether your franchise is the newest on the block or you’ve been immersed in competition for years, you can never do too much social media marketing and planning. Evaluate your current strategies, and then look for ways to expand your horizons. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so make use of it as one of the hottest channels for your startup’s customer acquisition and retention.

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