Social Makeover

MIAMI – For business owners, social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and company blogs should be more than sharing marketing messages and industry news. They should be using these outlets to engage customers and drive business, social media marketing consultant Jason Falls stressed here at a panel discussion during Entrepreneur's Winning Strategies conference yesterday.

One way is to use social media to tell the "story" of the business -- how it came to be and what it aims to accomplish. "There's no such thing as boring people and boring businesses," said Spencer Antle, founder of Miami-based clothing supplier Island Company. "Just get on there and tell your story."

It's also important to interact with customers in a way that enhances your brand and its "social personality," Falls said. He cited an example of an exchange over Twitter between popular sandwich shop Quiznos and a woman who tweeted: “To eat the Quiznos sub or not to eat it…that is the question." In response, Quiznos tweeted back simply: "Eat me."

Quiznos' naughty response was more than just humorous, it "empowered the customer to have his or her own story about the brand," said Erika Napoletano, a digital strategist and Entrepreneur columnist. "Your stories are important, but [your customers'] stories are arguably even more important."

Another goal should be to create a social personality, or voice, that stands out from the competition, Antle said. "People want to get away, to have different types of social interactions," he said. "Why should they go to one business over another? They prefer the story that's most compelling."

Making those social connections can require a lot of trial and error, Falls said. But the most important thing for business owners is to at least try.

"If you're doing something wrong [on social media], your followers will let you know," Falls said. "After two, three, four months, if all you hear are crickets chirping from your followers, take a couple steps back, refocus and start again."