Franchise Articles

Posted on Jun 09, 2011

FranchiseHelp Franchise Facebook Rankings for April 2011

Facebook Like Button - Franchises Using Facebook and Social Media - Franchise HelpWhich franchises really get Facebook? Which understand how to leverage the power of social media to reach and engage their customers? examined this question in a late March post ranking franchises in social media (Facebook edition). That initial analysis, conducted in partnership with digital media audit and analysis leader M-IQ, tallied the number of Fans (officially known as "Likes" -- for you social media sticklers out there) on any given franchisor's Facebook page, using those figures as a crude proxy for the franchise's influence and reach on the Facebook platform. The task proved a much more complicated exercise than anyone could have initially suspected, owing both to the lack of standardization in Facebook vanity URLs across franchisors and to the mishmash of consumer-created pages and franchisee-created pages on the platform (some of which have remarkably substantial audiences of their own).

The resulting Franchise Facebook Rankings provided a snapshot of which franchises had invested in growing their Facebook reach and which had (at least up to that date) largely ignored the world's largest social media platform. The analysis yielded some eyebrow-raising conclusions, with several major franchise brands ranking well below expectations and some lesser-known brands punching far above their weight. More importantly, the analysis sparked discussion about the implications of the Fan / Like metric and debate over what it means for a franchisor to be an effective user of social media.

In this update to the Franchise Facebook Rankings, we dive in much deeper, drilling into a rich social media data set that reveals a fuller picture of franchises' Facebook activity and effectiveness. Going beyond basic Fan / Like counts (still an important measure of a franchise's social media audience / reach), we assess franchises' ability to grow their social media audience, their activity on the Facebook platform, and their track record of generating engagement with their audience through that activity.

Specifically, we examine the following audience reach & growth and activity & engagement indicators:

Franchise Facebook Fan Growth

  • Total Fans: A measure of the raw reach of a franchise brand's Facebook page, as measured by the brand's total Fans (Likes) at the end of the month being measured.
  • Monthly Fan Growth: A measure of the absolute growth of Fans (Likes) on a franchise's Facebook page over the course of the month being measured (i.e., the franchise's ability to grow their page's reach).
  • Proportionate Fan Growth: A measure of the new Fans (Likes) on a franchise's Facebook page as a percentage of the Fans the page began with at the start of the month (i.e., the franchise's ability to grow their page's reach, given where it began the month).

Franchise Facebook Posting & Responses

  • Franchisor Posting Activity:  A measure of the frequency with which a franchise posts to their Facebook page (a basic proxy for a franchise's activity, in terms of attempting to elicit engagement, over the course of the month being measured).
  • Total Fan Responses: A measure of total audience activity elicited (comments and likes) by a franchise's Facebook page over the course of the month being measured.
  • Average Responses per Post: The ratio of Total Fan Responses to Franchisor Posting Activity (i.e., the number of audience reactions -- meaning comments and likes -- elicited per action / post on the franchise's Facebook page).

We told you we'd be going deeper this time around, and there's a lot of interesting data to dig into. Even if you're somewhat confused, you can read on for the rankings, referring back to the definitions above as necessary. Most of this will come clear as you read the explanatory observations and commentary beneath each ranking category. Rest assured: (a) With the Total Fans rankings, you still get the most basic ranking measure (though we encourage you to look well beyond that metric, for reasons we explain below), and (b) we'll be summarizing the results of the analysis in tables and charts below, to make the findings easier to process.

[Ed. Note: This data provides a snapshot of franchisor and fan activity on Facebook in April 2011. Social media is a fast-moving space, and since April there have been many dramatic movements, including a significant expansion of Facebook Fan counts for several franchisors and the closing of the Subway 365 page, which was a very large Facebook page managed by a franchisee in the Subway system (discussed further below). We present this snapshot data and our extensive commentary for the sake of historical analysis. Subsequent updates to this data, with associated commentary, will be supplied on a monthly basis.]

Now, let's get to the results.

Franchise Facebook Rankings: Total Fans

Total Facebook Fans

Observations: No shocking surprises here. The biggest franchise brands in the world (e.g., McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, Dairy Queen) tend to have the biggest presence on Facebook. (This is another reason it's important that any analysis of franchises in social media look beyond the basic Total Fans ranking, to understand what smaller brands -- with lesser consumer recognition and smaller marketing budgets -- are doing to creatively grow their presence). Also of note: the rising Buffalo Wild Wings franchise ranks among the top 5 -- an impressive feat, given the competition for attention at that level.

Keep Your Eye On: Team Subway on a double-meat roll, folks: Subway 365 (a franchisee) and Subway (franchisor) are both among the most popular franchise Facebook pages, coming in #3 and #5, respectively, in the Total Fans rankings. It's quite remarkable for a local franchisee's page to garner this kind of national attention and even more remarkable that confusion over franchisee vs. franchisor pages hasn't prevented both from drawing an extremely large following. That said, we'd expect to see the "official" Subway (franchisor) page overtake the Subway 365 (franchisee) page in the coming months.

Franchise Facebook Rankings: Monthly Fan Growth

Monthly Facebook Fan Growth

Observations: Yet again, the rich get richer, as the franchise brands which started the month with the most Total Fans (McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway, Domino's, Ben & Jerry's, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, etc.) tended to grow their Facebook audience faster than franchises with fewer Total Fans. This is to be expected. For one thing, the franchises with the greatest Facebook presence got there for certain reasons (organically or otherwise), and those reasons are unlikely to change much from month to month. For another, the inherently viral nature of the Facebook platform means that, even without an optimal audience engagement strategy in place, Fans (Likes) endorsing a Facebook page will tend to beget more Fans (Likes), as the action of a user endorsing a brand by Liking their page gives the page a higher probability of inducing that user's friends to do the same -- and their friends to do the same, and their friends, and so on, in an outward-expanding viral spiral. That, after all, is the hallmark of a social media platform with built-in viral promotion channels.

Keep Your Eye On: Hotel brands on the move! Hilton Garden Inn, clocking in at #18 on the Monthly Fan Growth ranking with over 38,000 new Fans (Likes) for the month, is making a strong bid to jump up from its current position at #55 on the Total Fans list.  The same goes for budget motel chain Super 8, which, with ~25,000 new Fans (Likes) for the month (#22 on the Monthly Fan Growth ranking), is on pace to break out of #61 slot on the Total Fans ranking and jump into the top 25 in the very near future. These are certainly two brands to watch for in the next update. Finally, although the Arby's franchise may be on the auction block, don't count the brand out in the Facebook arms race, where in April it drove nearly 55,000 new fans (good for #17 on the Monthly Fan Growth rankings, compared to the #8 ranking in Monthly Fan Growth for soon-to-be-ex-sister-brand Wendy's).


Franchise Facebook Rankings: Proportionate Fan Growth

Proportionate Facebook Fan Growth

Observations : The Proportionate Fan Growth ranking, which measures Total Fans growth for a franchise's Facebook page as a percentage of the page's Fans at the start of the month, will tend to favor niche brands that are working from a smaller base of Fans, simply because of the math involved in the analysis. Accordingly, we find party DJ and videographer service Complete Music & Video leading the pack, followed by printer cartridge refilling service Cartridge World. Ranking just below these brands, however, come big-name hospitality brands Super 8 and Hilton Garden Inn, followed by venerable specialty furniture retailer Relax The Back. Rounding out the top 10 are BrightStar Care, Flip Flop Shops, Computer Troubleshooters, Lil' Angels Photography, and Embassy Suites Hotels.

Keep Your Eye On: Of all the audience measurement metrics in the Franchise Facebook Rankings, the Proportionate Fan Growth category should be the most volatile and entertaining to observe from month to month. Watch the May results to see if April's leaders can keep up their blistering growth through the end of spring.

Franchise Facebook Rankings: Franchisor Posting Activity

Facebook Posting Activity

Observations: This is the metric over which franchisors have the greatest control, as it's simply a count of the number of actions (posts) a franchise has taken on their own page over the course of the month. There's no golden formula for the number of times a page owner should post, so for us the most valuable aspect of the analysis lay in observing the range of franchisor posting frequency. At the high end, franchisor Mr. Appliance Corp. pushed out 84 posts, followed by Homewatch CareGivers International (71 posts), and Domino's Pizza and Precision Tune Auto Care (both with 65 posts).  On the low end of the range, there were, well... there were plenty of franchise brands with zero posts.The average number of posts per franchise page for the month (based on the full data set) came it at about 12.8 posts for the month (16.1 posts when excluding franchise pages with no activity). The median of the same data set came in at 9 posts for the month for the full data set and 13 for the month when excluding franchise pages with no activity.

Keep Your Eye On: It's entirely possible that some of the franchises on the high end of the range are relatively new to Facebook and in the midst of a social media binge of sorts. Look for some of them to "burn out" and reduce their posting activity in subsequent months. Similarly, it's possible that many of the franchises on the bottom end of the range are in the process of figuring out what type of content or activity they want to push out on Facebook; perhaps those more cautious or deliberate brands will pick up the pace of their social media activity in the coming months.

Franchise Facebook Rankings: Total Fan Responses

Total Facebook Fan Responses

Observations: It seems that several franchise brands have "cracked the code" of user engagement, at least on a pure volume basis, driving tremendous levels of comment and "Like" activity from their Facebook audiences. From a pure visibility and brand exposure perspective, this is a critically important metric, as every time a user on Facebook interacts with a franchise page in some manner (particularly, by Liking or commenting on a post), that user's friends stand a good chance of seeing that activity in their Facebook news feed (and on their friend's wall). In April, Taco Bell and fast-growing restaurant franchise Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar top the charts (actually, blew away the charts) with over 100,000 total fan responses each. Domino's Pizza ranks a close #3, with about 75,000 Fan Responses, followed by a big gap before Baskin-Robbins at #4 (with about 36,0o0 responses) and Pizza Hut at #5 (with about 30,000 responses).

Keep Your Eye On: Taco Bell not only weathers meatgate but emerges a social media darling -- a textbook demonstration of combining self-effacing humor with fan outreach to generate vocal support from loyal customers. Further down the ranking, McDonald's trails size-rival Subway badly in this metric. Subway continues to impress, with franchisee Subway 365 and Subway itself combining for a total of almost 55,000 Total Fan Responses (which would put them at #4 in the ranking, were they one page). This result goes a good way toward proving that Subway 365 the franchisee and Subway the franchisor have both managed to attract not just a large following but a quality following that is engaged with their brand.

Franchise Facebook Rankings: Average Response per Post

Average Response per Facebook Post

Observations: Subway again proves the quality of its fan base, with Subway 365 (#1 for this metric) and Subway (#5 for this metric) demonstrating the engagement of their Facebook Fans audience. Buffalo Wild Wings comes in at #2 and Taco Bell comes in at #3 -- a very good indicator that these brands are not driving user responses by simply pounding their pages with updates but rather by pushing out posts that its users appreciate and wish to engage with in some way or another. Following these leaders there's a bit of a drop-off, and then McDonald's comes in at an impressive #4, followed by the ever-tasty Baskin-Robbins, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Wendy's, and KFC. It's also hardly surprising to find beloved ice cream makers Ben & Jerry's ranking within the top 15, at #11.

Keep Your Eye On: This may be the most important long-term measure of social media success out of all the Franchise Facebook Rankings criteria. Of course, for mainstream, consumer-oriented franchise brands the Total Fans metric will remain of paramount importance for some time (since, after all, you can't engage a consumer you haven't reached). Once the social media audience "arms race" starts to level off, however, the driver of long-term value for franchises on Facebook (and other social media platforms) will be their ability to reach out to their audience and spur them to interact with the brand in meaningful (and public) ways.

The Average Responses per Post metric serves as a proxy for that ability to drive fan engagement in an efficient manner, by measuring the volume of Total Facebook Fan Responses a franchisor is able to generate per Activity (post) that the franchisor puts out on its page. Why is efficiency in driving audience response more important than pure volume of audience response? It's a matter of long-term sustainability: as more and more companies and brands attempt to engage customers through social media, customers are becoming increasingly desensitized to misuse and overuse the channel, and are beginning to tune out a greater proportion of social media messaging. As a result, in the not too distant future, the ability to cut through social media clutter with messaging that generates a meaningful audience response will be a quantifiable hallmark of the world's most powerful brands.

What these metrics seek to uncover is not just which franchise brands are most "popular" on Facebook, but which are most effective at growing, nurturing, and leveraging that popularity (reach) to engage their audience. Of course, some franchises have inherent advantages over others on the platform (just as they do "in real life") on account of their scale, their marketing budget, and the power of their brand. Yet, by the same token, social media can serve as the great equalizer, a direct-to-customer channel where lesser-known or less well-capitalized brands can rise above their larger competitors through a deeper understanding of the platform, a stronger connection with their most ardent fans, and a willingness to experiment in ways that more established brands cannot. will continue to update this data on a monthly basis (and, going forward, much sooner after the close of the month being analyzed). It will be great sport to see which franchisors, armed with a view of their competition and a sense for their performance vs. the industry, step up their performance in the months to come.

Looking for the full details of the April 2011 Franchise Facebook Rankings? Subscribe to the newsletter -- our subscribers have access to this data as well as other exclusive FH content. The full details include exact positions in each Facebook ranking category (Total Fans, Monthly Fan Growth, Proportionate Fan Growth, Franchisor Posting Activity, Total Fan Responses, Average Responses per Post) for over 400 franchises, across a very broad cross-section of industries. And don't forget to follow FranchiseHelp on Facebook and Twitter -- you won't want to miss the updates we push through these social channels.

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