One of the issues that large brands must worry about — especially franchise brands — is IF and HOW local affiliates and employees decide to participate online.
For example, take a look at a well-known brand like real estate giant Century 21.
In addition to the official @C21realestate handle managed by Corp Comms in Parsippany, there are over 350 Century21 employees and/or franchisees on Twitter.
Their Twitter handles range from @C21_SUNBELT to @Cntury21, from @Century21Seller to @RealtorToCall (and any number of @firstnamelastname combinations, i.e., no C21 affiliation).
Some of these real estate twitterati have embraced the medium — and in fact, many of the realtors have 100–400 followers! — yet, most of the agents and franchisees clearly abandoned Twitter after a handful of tweets, or post only very sporadically.
In other words, there is no rhyme or reason, no overarching strategy, no way to consolidate nor highlight the company’s massive scale in order to present a compelling and unified presence on one of the world’s top social networks.
Let’s look at Facebook.
The official Century 21 Real Estate LLC fan page on Facebook is pretty well done, in terms of the depth of content and volume of posts. The page boasts over 5,000 fans.
But then again, there is no explicit suggestion that this actually is the OFFICIAL fan page. In fact, there is another fan page titled, more simply, “Century 21” — with over 1,300 fans. So maybe that is the official fan page??
I am presuming that “Century 21 Real Estate LLC” is the official page because of the ### of fans and the amount of content, and, the fact that there are no other distinguishing qualifiers, e.g., “Century21–(Geogaphy).”
All of this is important because there are 1,600 search results on Facebook when you run a query for “Century 21.” Over 500 of those 1,600 results are fan pages. The quality of each page (based on a cursory review) is spotty and inconsistent, at best.
So: on the world’s #1 social network, it is hard to tell at-a-glance what the heck is going on, when it comes to Century 21. I’ll say it again: there is no rhyme or reason, no overarching strategy, no way to consolidate nor highlight the company’s massive scale in order to present a compelling and unified presence.
I do not raise these issues to call-out Century 21 specifically. Having met (and, full-disclosure: unsuccessfully pitched) the folks at Century 21, I know them to be smart, nice and well-meaning. I point to them only as one great example of WHAT CAN GO WRONG if a large company takes too long to establish some guard-rails on their Social Media approach.
And again, this situation becomes much worse – hardly containable and neary untenable – for companies that rely on a franchise model. Those franchisees who don’t feel amply supported by Corporate will tap their entrepreneurial zeal to ensure that they miss no opportunity to toot their local horns. If “the folks in Corporate don’t ‘get’ Social Media,” the franchisee will experiment on their own. And, as we’ve seen via the C21 example, they’ll largely do a lackluster job.
In the end such companies will have hundreds – maybe thousands – of “stray” Social Media sites. Inconsistent. Abandoned. Off-kilter. Hardly any of these independent Social Media efforts do a good job of boosting the master brand, yet all of them are still clearly affiliated: dragging down the brand, calling out the lack of strategy.
This post is not a call for control for controlling’s sake; it’s a call for planning for brand’s sake.
But surely I am missing something? And I hope you’ll tell me all about it in the Comments?
Posted on: February 9, 2010 at 11:07 am By Todd Defren