As you search for the perfect franchise business opportunity, you should be checking out the online marketing activity of the franchises you’re considering. You should also be asking their policies concerning social media, which can be a powerful marketing tool for the right brands.
But there’s more to social media than marketing.
A Sonic franchise in Topeka found that out the hard way when a customer posted a photo showing hot dog buns stored in a bathroom. No need to build suspense: the buns were placed in the bathroom by an employee, found half an hour later, and thrown out. The errant employee was “counseled” and the franchisee doubled down on food safety education with his team.The Department of Agriculture actually called the customer and let him know that proper food safety protocols were in place, and the customer posted the fact on his Facebook page.
No harm done, right? In the 20th century, that might have been true. Even if the guy had snapped a picture, he could only have shown it to a few friends and family members, and word would have spread around his neighborhood in Topeka. Through the magic of the internet, the customer shared it with all his friends, and 2,259 of them shared it with others. Josh currently has more than one thousand friends, which is a lot, but even assuming that those who shared had the average 338, that’s a potential 763,542 additional readers.
Then the news outlets picked up the story, and there are currently 139,000 websites showing up in Google’s search results if you look for “hotdog buns in Sonic restroom.”
Assume that each person who saw the original picture on Facebook and each person who wrote about the incident mentioned it to five other people, and you have 4.5 million individuals who know about the misplaced hotdog buns.
This must have been very traumatic for the clueless employee who thought storing things in the bathroom would be okay. It’s hard to guess how traumatized the franchisee might be, since it has been just a few days since the photo went viral. He did the right thing in response to the employee’s misstep and to the Facebook post, and his customers and community might support him… or his business might suffer.
In fact, all Sonic restaurants might see a drop in traffic, even though they had no part in the incident.
Business is different now. People can share their delight with your goods and services very fast, and you have the chance to engage with many more customers and potential customers than you ever could before.
But you’re also in public to a degree you might never have imagined.You can assume that there are cameras all around you, all the time.
In this incident, everyone seems to be innocent. The employee, who was probably young and inexperienced, couldn’t think of a good place to store the buns and saw the bathroom as a place with empty square footage. The customer just snapped a funny picture with his phone and posted it on Facebook with no sign of malice. The franchisee saw the foolish mistake and took care of it properly.
So you can’t choose a franchise on the basis of whether this event could happen to you. But you can choose one that knows how to respond well to a social media calamity.