I was having a conversation with my father last weekend. He’s a lawyer whose firm has decided to wade into the muddy waters of social media. He and his whole company were recently taken to Manhattan to see a PowerPoint presentation on Twitter and Facebook by a social media guru. As someone who never had to use social media in his whole life, he was a bit unsure what difference all of this social media investment would make for the day-in, day-out demands of practicing law. I sympathized.
Social media is such a phenomenon these days that any business that chooses to ignore it does so at its own peril. And there are a lot of early adaptors among the baby-boomer generation. One some level, though, you have to have empathy for the generation of people who grew up without Facebook and Twitter and are being forced to implement to its demands for business purposes. It must be like learning Latin.
I know for a fact there are many franchisors and franchisees who find themselves in this same boat. They’ve spent years simply trying to build up their business the old-fashioned way. Now every time they turn on the TV or internet, someone is talking about Facebok updates or the twitterati. It can be confusing.
Those looking for a introduction to the benefits of social media will enjoy a story from Franchising Times magazine written by Meredith Bauer, attorney in the franchise and fistribution practice group at Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd. in Minneapolis. It’s quite a handy introduction to doing simple things like choosing your Twitter handle, while providing a broad look at the legal particularities of social marketing. It also discusses some of the legal complexities that a social media-using franchisee can encounter. It cites the example of a pizza franchisee, who in a status update, might write about making pizza sauce and in turn give away a secret recipe. There’s a lot of gray area with social media, and there are many subtle ways to violate the terms of a franchise agreement. This article will show you how to avoid them.
Most importantly, franchisors should look into drawing up a social media policy in order to avoid any unexpected embarrassments
Her conclusion paragraph is an excellent parsing of what franchisors must do when choosing to lay out their social media strategy.
“Franchisors must examine their own systems and views as to the value of social media, and develop an individualized social-media policy reflecting these values. Some franchisors may realize that the risks of allowing franchisees to use social media do not outweigh the benefits for their system. Others may desire to encourage and stimulate the use of social media by franchisees.”