Businesses of all sizes are using social media to advance their marketing campaigns and appeal to new audiences, young and old. Franchises are no different - social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and WordPress can help take a franchise opportunity from just getting by to enjoying soaring profits.

According to AllBusiness.com, there are several advantages to using social media: It attracts like-minded consumers, speaks to audiences thousands of miles away, helps tame rumors and start fires, establishes a company as an industry leader, enhances partnerships, collects feedback and exposes owners to new and different ideas.

Additionally, consumers want to be able to connect with companies and their products through social media channels. According to the Cone Business in Social Media Study, 93 percent of social media users think a company should have a presence on such Web sites, with an additional 85 percent believing that a company should not only be present but also interact with its consumers via these channels.

"The news here is that Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media," explained Mike Hollywood, director of new media for Cone. "It isn't an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion."

It is clear that taking advantage of this channel offers the potential for a massive expansion of clientele for franchisees. However, All Business explained that the secret to mastering communication is not talking, but listening.

"Great communicators ask a lot of questions. They really listen to what you have to say. They inquire deeply into the answers you provide," said the Web site.

Luckily, there are a few tools that will help franchisees get started. Twitter accountholders (which all franchisees should be) can go to Twitter Search and enter their name, their franchise name, any brand names and even competitor's names. This will build an RSS feed that means owners don't have to do a search every day. TweetBeep will do the same thing, but send the alerts to a franchisee's inbox instead.

Another tool, BackType, allows franchisees to monitor blog posts for both positive and negative mentions. Also, if certain users are consistently posting reviews about a particular franchise, the tool will allow the unit owner to set up BackType to track them and their comments.

There is no one way for franchisees to begin using social media. However, before opening an account on any social networking Web site, unit owners should check the company's policies and whether they already have a social identity in place. 

The Liberty Tax Service franchise opportunity is #9 on the fastest growing franchises list of the 2010 Entrepreneur “Franchise 500.” Our tax franchise is an affordable and viable business choice. Each office provides thorough, computerized tax preparation coupled with superior customer service. For the best small business opportunity in the income tax franchise industry, choose Liberty!