I interviewed Elaine Mesker-Garcia, who manages social media for Fuddruckers and Luby’s. Luby’s has 93 locations and is corporate owned and recently purchased Fuddruckers, which has 60 corporate locations and approximately 120 franchisee-owned locations.
What are a couple things you’ve learned in growing and managing Fuddruckers and Luby’s Facebook pages?
We have brand managers that make it so much easier to share promotions and processes, especially with Luby’s.
With Fuddruckers, particularly with our franchisees, we are learning so much about each other.
It’s great to see how different franchisees run their businesses and we love hearing and sharing their ideas.
It can be difficult to maintain continuity because we have franchises all over the world, from Puerto Rico and Mexico to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
We are definitely building relationships and trust with our franchisees and learning so much in the process.
We’re currently working on a social media toolkit that will help our franchisees with the new Facebook timeline for business, as well as artwork and other things like that to build continuity.
Since Fuddruckers is franchisees and franchise-specific pages, how do you coordinate and manage across all these pages?
A big thing is building trust with our franchisees. We have reached out to certain franchisees and are even admins on certain pages and we help each other.
Education is huge, making sure everyone understands the importance of social media and how it can be done efficiently and well.
Also, we’re working on a corporate guidebook regarding social media which we will share, and that should eliminate confusion and help all our franchisees who may have questions.
How do you handle complaints and negativity on Facebook?
Aside from really negative posts– things with curse words or that are blatantly offensive — I like to leave comments, particularly dialogue, on our page.
On our corporate pages, I respond to nearly 100 percent of posts, even if it’s just people liking the comment.
I think a big thing today is people expect a brand to respond and we make sure we do that as quickly as we can.
I like to encourage dialogue, asking questions and inviting them to email or contact me so we can get any issues resolved.
The great thing is when we do that, we often times get someone who may have been upset coming back and saying “Hey, that was awesome, thanks for listening.”
People just want to be heard, and I ensure that they can be heard on our pages.
It’s great when we can even share the franchise opportunity, like if someone wants to know why there’s no Fuddruckers in their state, we respond with a message and a link to the franchise opportunity.
Again, that two-way communication is great with Facebook.
What are some pros and cons of social media for franchises (Fuddruckers) versus owned-and-operated (Luby’s)?
The pros are the fact that we get to hear from and share ideas with franchisees.
Just recently, we had a store owner share a photo of his team making onion rings.
It was great to be able to take that photo and share it on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Just by being a Fuddruckers franchise, our franchisees have access to over 80,000 fans on the corporate Facebook page.
The cons are just the things we’re working on, namely bridging the gap between the corporate and the franchisee.
We don’t want our brand to be diluted, and our franchisees are great at ensuring they keep our high standards.
If you could have one new feature on Facebook, what would it be?
I love the new Facebook timeline for business, and that it lets people message the page rather than post on the wall.
But it would be great if Facebook would allow the page to reach out first and direct message people as the page.
That way, we wouldn’t have to use our personal Facebook accounts to reach out to people who may have questions or concerns, and we wouldn’t have to wait for them to contact us first.
What advice do you have for readers?
The main thing I share with our franchisees is that Facebook is not just there to sell your brand.
Social media is different than traditional marketing. Every post doesn’t have to be about selling.
Posts as simple as “Have a great weekend” or “What’s your favorite flavor of shake?” allow for interaction and relationship building.
Those posts help make your page and your brand human and unique. Facebook pages really do let you give your brand a face.
Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.