As with many questions relating to franchising the answer to this question will depend on what the franchise agreement says. Many franchise agreements, especially those that have not been updated for some time, are silent about the use of social media simply because it was not an issue at the time the agreement was drafted. For more modern franchise agreements you would expect to see a clause which specifies that franchisees can only use social media which has been approved by the franchisor and in respect of which the franchisor could impose conditions such as having administrator rights.
It is, of course, a given that social media is a wonderful way to market businesses and so generally franchisors take a positive view on social media and, indeed, in many franchises especially those based in the US the franchisor actively manages franchisees’ social media activities by, for instance, providing live information. In the US software is available specifically aimed at enabling franchisors to regulate and assist with their franchisees’ social media activities.
The real danger for franchisors and this is why franchisors do generally want to impose restrictions on franchisees’ social media activities is that these activities can become viral very quickly and unfortunate or illegal comments made by a franchisee could have a substantial and immediate detrimental effect on the brand as a whole. This does mean that franchisors do need to include social media policies which sets out very clearly what it is that franchisees can or cannot do as part of franchisee’s training.