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What role can LinkedIn play in franchising? This is a question we get more and more. Specifically, people want to know what they can do or should be doing on LinkedIn to help support their franchise.
To best understand this, it’s important to realize that LinkedIn is an anomaly. It stands apart from other social media platforms as the “professional” site. It’s not a place for your vacation photos or a place to update your relationship status. Rather, with a quick google search you’ll see that it is described as “a business and employment-oriented service…mainly used for professionals networking.”
This description is pretty vague and many users blur the lines between using it as a professional networking space, a sales platform, and an average social media site.
So, to help clear things up, I’m breaking down the answers to 3 commonly asked questions we get at Digital BizCom for how both franchisors and franchisees can use LinkedIn to help their business.
Should I Accept Every Connection Request?
We provide LinkedIn guidance and answer questions for many CEO’s on our roster, some of who have over one hundred connection requests at a time. One of their first questions regarding LinkedIn is what they should do with all their connection requests.
To answer this, it’s important to keep in mind that at the heart of its purpose, LinkedIn is a means for networking, and networking typically plays a role in the growth of any kind of business.
Because of this, the typical recommendation is to accept most connection requests. Of course, this has exceptions. Including to not accept those who are clearly trying to sell or don’t have any information or history on the platform. A good rule of thumb is if you feel uncomfortable, don’t accept the request.
Staying on top of your connection requests is important because whether you are working on a franchisor level or as a franchisee, part of a solid LinkedIn strategy is growing your connections. After all, you never know where your next customer, employee, franchisee or media request will come from.
It is important to note that accepting connection requests will almost certainly be followed by an influx of messages, which brings me to my next question.
What do I do with LinkedIn messages?
While the platform is great for networking, the lines often get blurred between connecting and selling. You’ll notice as you start accepting your connection requests, the messages will begin flooding in.
So, what do you do with them? The answer to this is more complicated as the appropriate response varies based on your industry, your role and the content of the message. The best course of action is to respond in the same way you would if they sent the message straight to your work email.
Do you respond to each sales pitch? Maybe you let them know it’s not a fit right now or share with them that you’ve routed their note to the appropriate contact, or maybe you don’t respond at all. Whatever feels true to your personality and typical email behavior is what you should stick with.
How often do I post and what’s the content?
One thing that remains the same on LinkedIn as other social sites, is that content is king. Don’t log on and have meaningless interactions with nothing of value to say.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 strategy is one of the best ways to build your personal brand on LinkedIn and grow your network.
Vaynerchuk details this approach as finding the top performing posts in your space (you can do this through searching hashtags) and adding your “two cents” into the comments. These aren’t generic comments, but real interactions. Doing this 90 times per day will help build a community. Keep in mind that it doesn’t happen overnight, it will take consistency, expertise and time.
Also, similarly to Twitter’s trending topics, keep your eye on the “what people are talking about now” section, and get involved in those conversations as appropriate.
If you’re a franchisee, share what your business is. For example, if you own a plumbing franchise, share what your services are. Accompany those posts with fun or interesting things you run into on the job. Also be sure to provide value by giving your professional recommendations to your connections on topics that relate to your industry.
Take it a step further and connect with your local media and the reporters covering your industry so they can note that you’re a local expert. Next time they’re looking for a professional to interview, you just might be getting a call!
As the CEO of a franchise brand or someone working on the franchisor level, LinkedIn is arguably one of the most valuable tools to help build your brand and authority in your space.
You should be not only utilizing the $1.80 strategy and connecting with media, but should also be regularly curating LinkedIn articles. These are LinkedIn’s version of blogs and are a powerful tool to share your expertise with a captive audience.
At BizCom we see our clients LinkedIn articles receive high engagement rates and get re-purposed as bylined articles. Talk about a win-win!
Franchise prospects should follow the brands they’re interested in on LinkedIn, along with franchisees and the CEO’s of those brands, to get an in-depth look at what the system is really like. Additionally, prospects should follow relevant hashtags (#franchisee, #franchise, and #franchising) on the platform to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the franchise industry as a whole.
This just scratches the surface of how you can use LinkedIn to help move the needle for your franchise brand. However, grasping an understanding of these basics and growing your connections will help establish you as the thought leader you are and, when executed well, will be a valuable tool for growing your franchise.