Can combining social media automation with the benefits of local storytelling prove to be an innovative process? For those familiar with Clayton Christensen’s novel, The Innovator’s Dilemma, he presents many arguments for how a corporation’s culture are crucial to adopting and implementing successful new innovations. What is intriguing, from a social marketing perspective, is that many of the same principles can be applied for the unique challenges in administering scalable social media campaigns and local brand storytelling initiatives. In this blog we’ll examine the automated and innovative means for how a social marketing manager can flourish in driving relevant content across nation-wide location pages rather than fighting a cannibalization of efforts.
Consider the following situation; You are the corporate social media champion tasked with delivering brand communications across numerous franchise distributor or owned-retail locations, such as car dealerships, coffee chains, etc. Yet, each of these individual locations wants to have their own unique social media presence to best relate their store to their local community. So how do you ensure the appropriate brand uniformity using syndicated content across each location’s social channels all while allowing ample flexibility for contribution of local content to establish a community connection? Rarely are these logistic obstacles to running large scale social media initiatives given consideration. This is one of many scenarios in which exists a concept that may aptly be termed ‘The Social Automator’s Dilemma’.
Some large retailers, such as Macy’s, maintain only a corporate brand channel pages with no location identities. Yet other companies, such as Lexus, Old Navy and Quizno’s encourage location-specific pages to complement their brand social channels. An entire separate blog post could be written to weigh the pro’s and con’s for each approach, yet let’s examine the ease in managing social channels to allow for optimal engagement opportunities. Macy’s, a highly active brand on social media, devotes their energy to uniform content across all channels and location pages. Given this preference for centralized communications to ensure consistency in product features and promotions , the idea of permitting each location to have a unique voice would likely create conflict with the core messages. Their social content for their retail locations content is syndicated through an automated social publishing platform.
Quizno’s, on the other hand, employs a much more decentralized social media content management strategy. While the corporate channel is the primary driver of the Quizno’s brand, consumer engagement through unique local content and promotions are served up by the local social channels. One reason for this dynamic is the franchise ownership model that exists with Quizno’s as to allow these location owners to build their local brand, but also to best determine the product, pricing and promotion strategies excel in the local competitive market. The biggest reason, however, is the desire to connect with local customers and immerse their store with the greater community to create familiarity and trust. As you can see in the Quizno’s of Superior, WI post who used the opportunity to share a photo of a newlywed couple celebrating their wedding day pictures at the Quizno’s store where they met as employees. What a great feature story!
Lexus instills a very similar approach with what seems to be a primary intention to build upon the client relationships that exists with purchasers of their cars and the sales staff at the dealerships. While the Lexus brand pages deliver upon the prestige trigger, local dealerships look to establish trust in the services they offer to support these major purchases. As you can see in the post contained in this paragraph, a nearby Lexus dealership makes the monthly efforts to feature some of their customers that shared their proud Lexus ownership story. These type of earned media campaigns are proving to be more crucial than ever for creating implied endorsements of a business’s product and service. Being that these individuals story related to overcoming challenges specific to the area, i.e. winter driving, it provides great local content that resonates with their prospective new customers.
Similarly, Old Navy engages their local retail stores teams with flexibility to create unique social media content across various channels. As you can see in the captured tweet image below, to promote local sales and special events, heightening the call-to-action for nearby shoppers monitoring for deals.
So given the approach utilized by bland and Quizno’s, what tips can be offered to anyone else managing social media content in a similar dynamic to allow optimal location flexibility and ensure alignment with brand messages? Below I offer three suggestions from my own experiences in this model:
1. Coach for Consistency: the best way to allow location flexibility in posting unique social content without creating messaging conflict is to be active in coaching local content creators on the ideal types of content additions. Encourage those tasked in adding new content to look for unique local features, customer testimonials, promotion of sales events and other items that increase the local community connection to their store. This way, a blueprint is laid out for the optimal type of local content to empower these stores to contribute in complement of the core brand messages.
2. Provide Guidelines: while step 1 is intended to encourage types of location-specific posts, this step is meant to define the types of content that shouldn’t be posted. This is fairly self-explaining concept but it’s important to note the grave importance of setting parameters upfront and warning against misuse of the brand representation. It should never be off-limits for the social media manager to prohibit the privilege of a unique social media channel in the event of abuse or misalignment of messaging.
3. Share Successes: the best way to keep the momentum being built by those following your guidance in step 1 is to share the examples created that enhance the brand at a local level. Instead of writing post examples for store owners and staff to mimic, spend time curating strong examples of successful posts to provide real examples of creative and worthy local content contributions. Moreover, this helps in supporting your case that many of their peer store owners are following your suggested formula and sticking the script to everyone’s betterment.
While there is no way to automate local content, this manual process can prove to be innovative in it’s scalibility and sustainability. In a way, if all local content contributors are generating success on their own in following your recommended guidelines, it seemingly becomes an automated process in itself. This should be the dynamic and end result to strive for and it only comes with a smart plan and consistent coaching to the newly empowered local content contributors. Best of luck!