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Franchisees can build their local networks via blogging: blogging offers franchisees a meaningful way to engage their respective audiences and provides a destination that can replace a static Web page.

Of the many hats most franchisees wear, blogger may just be a crowning choice. To recommend yet another hat, it would be advantageous to know how that new lid will cover the interests and goals of your busy brand emissaries. Blogging can offer franchise owners a plethora of benefits. Everyone knows that a hat can offer practical protection, and the same is true of blogging. Franchisees can don a captain's cap and take charge of their respective messaging in a sea of competition and communications. Hats also make outstanding accessories to help one stand out in a crowd, which is a definite benefit for franchisees looking to create buzz while validating their clients. Dealing with unmanageable hair is another reason to wear a hat, and bloggers can take charge of presenting and managing a positive image in the blogosphere.

Imagine franchisees as community managers of the territories they serve. They establish themselves as local experts, offer tips and advice, share ideas and information, while posting customer interviews, success stories and more. Empowered to communicate and build a community, franchisees can embrace a role that further sets them in the driver's seat for building their respective businesses. Setting up individual franchise blogs casts franchisees in this intriguing role. Blogging offers franchisees a meaningful way to engage their respective audiences and provides a destination that can replace a!static Web page, ultimately boosting the brand as a whole. Connectivity can abound, as franchisees create their own locally relevant content on a blog that connects to their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Why blog? According to Internetworldstats.com, approximately 240 million Americans use the Internet (as of June 2010), with more than one-half of those using such social media as Facebook. Most of us know these numbers are growing exponentially. Increasingly, consumers are looking for information, services and connectivity based upon interests and values. Anyone can blog.

Blog Framework and Training

For franchisors, taking a lead role in blog development and implementation can set the stage for success. By establishing blogs on the corporate domain, the franchisor maintains control so that brand image remains consistent. While franchises can take advantage of free blogging resources online, the focus of this article is on blogging under the protected space of a corporate Internet. In these cases, the franchisor typically bears the start-up costs to include Web development and franchisee training. Thereafter, franchisees have the opportunity to opt-in to the blogging program. A low monthly maintenance fee paid by franchisees provides for backup and upgrading the blog, database and plug-ins to protect the blog, as well as comment and user-moderation services.

Think of the franchisor as the hub, connecting to each franchise blog, establishing the design and layout and maintaining oversight and quality standards. Logos and materials usage is covered under the franchise agreement, which lessens the difficulties for set-up and monitoring ongoing content delivery. For franchisees, having such a framework makes the task of blogging far less challenging.

Within a franchise system, putting a training program in place can help to ensure success for an opt-in franchisee blogging program. Some franchisors outsource this specialty to companies that focus on such new media specialties as social media, search engine optimization and Web strategy. Training typically includes blogging best practices, effective titling, tagging and categorizing, linking, citation, quality formatting, use of photos (sizing, placement, alignment) and more. Other important topics include how to handle comment moderating and replying to user comments. If a company doesn't have the in-house talent, an outsource partner can also provide valuable blog analytics, so that it can get the most out of its efforts.

One such company that provides services to the author's franchise system says, "In short, hosting the franchisee blogs on the franchisor's domain strengthen the Web site as a whole by broadening the amount of unique content on the site. Over time this content gets linked to by many different Web sites that may not have linked to the Web site otherwise. These inbound links to the franchisee blog help increase the blog's visibility in search results, but they also increase the visibility of all pages on the site by growing and diversifying the domain's inbound link profile."

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Content, Content and More Content

For Craig Jackson, Personal Training Institute franchise owner in Tucson, Ariz. since February 2011, jumping into the hot seat as PTI's sole pilot program blogger during summer 2011 was a no-brainer. "I want people to know us," Jackson said. Although inexperienced in blogging, Jackson said, "As I find interesting articles and information. I learn more about recipes, health, nutrition, fitness and training and then pass it along." Jackson also posts articles touting impressive client results and other localized features. He posts two to three times per week, adding, "I want to focus on quality content rather that quantity."

Jackson bolsters efforts by tying his social media into his radio and print advertising, as well as Google Ad Words, Yelp and targeted Facebook advertising. The analytics are promising. Visits

doubled from 292 to 582 over a two-month period. Nonpaid visits from Google more than doubled, while visits from Facebook nearly quadrupled. Plus, Jackson feels that he is personally more engaged with his business through his blogging efforts. "A plus is that the cost is not huge; it's really just my time," Jackson said.

Content is critical for bloggers, and below are some ideas to keep messaging flesh and interesting. As a general rule, deliver content that is centered on the challenges faced by your readers. Avoid any type of hard sell. A blog should be a destination for sharing ideas, learning, broadening reader's knowledge base and even laughing sometimes.

* Share a client's story (with his or her permission, of course)

* Showcase a member of your team

* Demystify something about your business

* Identify local events with which your franchise is involved

* Draw upon the expertise of others within your industry

* Display a variety of photos, remembering permission is needed (photos should be clear; minimum dpi is 72)

* Create "list" posts, e.g., five reasons why strength training is great for women

* Provide client testimonials

* Display a recent media placement

* Share a favorite quote

* Create and share an original cartoon that relates to your industry

* Show a step-by-step guide on how to do something in a screencast, how-to video or show a series of photos

* Offer tips and tricks, e.g., five exercises to do on a business trip to maintain fitness and strength

* Share your celebrations with photos of store events, company picnics, grand openings

* Post a recipe that ties into your site's theme or business

* Announce an upcoming sale or special promotion

* Support a cause

* Do a weekly round-up of great ideas or links

* Run a contest

* Incorporate travel with your product or service

* Give a photo or video tour of your business

* Share your franchise values

* Sprinkle some comic relief

* Think of ways to make your reader's lives better

* Tell your story, e.g., why did you choose your franchise?

* Run a poll to encourage reader participation

* Offer a coupon or a tangible benefit

* Include a diary of your business travel, trade show takeaways or photos from industry events

* Use holidays to reach out to your readers

* Write generic how-to's for your niche consumers-shoppers, would-be marathoners, photographers, seniors, deal-seekers

* Tie-in to popular sports, trends or celebrities (avoid politics)

* Identify what your customers care about and blog on those topics

Don't forget to include relevant sharing buttons for your audience and try to reply to nearly every comment left on your blog post. Franchisees can build their respective local networks through blogging, and the franchise can strengthen its overall brand as well. Now may be a great time to grab a new hat (and keyboard) and make your presence known in the blogosphere.

Carol Kur is co-founder and director of marketing and nutrition for Personal Training Institute, a fitness franchise that combines one-to-one strength training and customized nutrition counseling for every client. She can be reached at 516-342-9064 or ckur@personaltraininginstitute.com.
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Title Annotation:SOCIAL MEDIA
Comment:Franchisees can build their local networks via blogging: blogging offers franchisees a meaningful way to engage their respective audiences and provides a destination that can replace a static Web page.(SOCIAL MEDIA)
Author:Kur, Carol
Publication:Franchising World
Date:Oct 1, 2011
Words:1336
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