Risks and Rewards of Local Sales Channels in Social Networking

By Gregg Stewart
May 1, 2011

One of the most perplexing challenges facing national brands is how to adopt social networking into their marketing/advertising plans. The comment I most often hear from major brands is the risk of a loss of control related to allowing local sales channels (dealers, agents, branches, franchisees) to use facebook, twitter, etc..  And honestly, some of this fear is warranted because of rogue messaging, incorrect logo usage, unauthorized promotions, not to mention the potential legal issues.  However, in today’s communications environment, adaptation to change is required in order to leverage how consumers interactive with brands in a web 2.0 & 3.0 world.

Recently I penned a column in Clickz entitled “Local Laryngitis:Brands Need to Help Locations Develop a Voice in Social Media”.  Without going over old ground, the column reviews some of the statistics of why a single voice in the market cannot  effectively reach all of the opportunity that a controlled and distributed approach can provide.  The power of social media is the concept of the social graph. Most brands communicate through a singe voice to a limited audience.   For example:

Ford Cars currently has 1.4 million fans to their facebook page.  If they were able to harness the 4,600 North American dealerships and help them develop their fan base to 1,000 each (not impossible as I have observed many dealerships with more than 1,000) their effective reach would grow by over 300% and provide much greater reach for their brand messaging.

The key to leveraging the social graph with large distributed sales forces is an organized approach including:

Program Development
The process begins with setting program objectives and strategy.  This is a review of target audiences, sales channel dynamics and communication messaging.

Guidelines and Education
With your objectives in sight, and the foundational information from program development analysis, develop policy guideline development and education execution.  Let’s face it the largest barrier to coordinated communications activity is the understanding and adoption of your local stakeholders to participate.  In this way, you are able to control unauthorized “rogue” activity and focus the channel on the corporate strategy and execution plan.

Technology Platform Analysis & Deployment

There are many technology solutions, including social content management systems (CMS) that can be tailored to fit your brand’s unique requirements.  Based on objectives and program dynamics, technologies need to be analyzed and execution plan for deploying  the best system to ensure ease of implementation and program success.need to be developed.

Content Creation and Implementation

In this phase, you must create approved content that the local stakeholders can tailor (within guidelines) to communicate within their local market areas.  This enables the local communicators to increase the reach of your communications.  A large barrier to participation for local outlets is simply providing them with a tool without content.  Instead you need to develop content they can adapt and build confidence in the social manner of communicating.  Finally, the aforementioned CMS systems can allow control to ensure that best practices are re-enforced and  adherence to program guidelines.


As with any marketing effort, program benchmarks and goals need to be set to measures progress and success.  Community (Fan, Follower, Likes, etc) should be tracked at the location level, as wells as, message reach, engagement and response.  Our view is if it can be measured it can be optimized, providing critical feedback to help program development.

Shameless Plug

If you are looking for assistance from a firm that has developed these types of solutions for Fortune 500 companies, contact us at info@15miles.com

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