EY - Jason Falls

On 26 September 2013, the EY Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosted a Twitter chat with social media great Jason Falls.

Jason addressed several topics that can impact almost anyone who uses a social media platform to build their business. Below is a transcript of the chat, and some “Learn More” links that go more in-depth on topics.


@TrepCenter: You started Social Media Explorer in 2009, what's the biggest difference in social media then and now?

@JasonFalls: Biggest difference in social media for entrepreneurs in 2009 and 2013? Wow. I think it's no longer dismissed. 

Companies - large and small - are taking social seriously. They see the benefits and challenges, but more so the opportunity.

In 2009 there were the "it-getters" and the nay-sayers. Now it's more that everyone gets it, but we're trying to optimize.

The best thing about now is entrepreneurs are starting with social. How can I use this to build my business?

Not so in 2009 Also, Facebook is bigger with more options. From a tactical standpoint, that's different.


@TrepCenter: New platforms are launching every day now. But in 2009, which platform(s) did you use?

@JasonFalls: Not sure I'd change much today for that type of business. Certainly Facebook, G+ and others have relevancy, but that's B2B.

You use your blog as a hub/resource/leadership play, Twitter to drive convo and eyeballs and LinkedIn for biz contacts.

With few exceptions, Facebook and Google+, Pinterest and FourSquare, etc., were never worth the time for my type of biz.

For a retail environment, B2C, etc., that would be different, I'm sure. But Blog, Twitter and LinkedIn worked for me.

@tedbirk94: For treps, social media should be more about storytelling; less about selling. Do you agree?

@JasonFalls: To a degree, yes. Storytelling and engagement is critical, but you can't not sell. ;-)

@Sam_Ford: Also a distinction here between the trep's individual Twitter efforts & the brand's re: selling

@JasonFalls: If I'm selling all the time as a person, I just come across as sleazy. On-line or off-line. Heh.

@Sam_Ford: Very True. A brand's Twitter presence can be constructed to inform/entertain and convert. Person? Eh. 

@JasonFalls: Yup For the person, it's a chance to show rather than tell potential customers re your expertise/passion.


@KariWBlock: Jason, is there one question an entrepreneur should ask themselves before each tweet when beginning?

@JasonFalls: What will make my audience say, “Holy Smokes! That's <Insert Adjective Here>?'" Answer before each communication.

@KariWBlock:Thank you- that's !#/! awesome!


@TrepCenter: So in 2009, FB was a social platform, what specific event, if any, moved it into a biz player w LinkedIn & Twitter?

@JasonFalls: Facebook became a relevant business player when it offered more than side-bar ads. Getting into the news stream = critical.

The fact that you can now on FB hyper-target and deliver message in-stream is incredibly powerful in the social environment.

@anne_abl:  Do you have any advice for business owners using social media in areas of IP and copyright ?

@JasonFalls: In what terms? Being mindful of it or being an attorney?

@anne_abl: What to be mindful about

@JasonFalls: For me, Copyright and Trademark are easy - If it's someone else's, or might be, get permission or don't.

@JasonFalls: Random point - I think entrepreneurs don't use social media enough for market research. All you have to do is ask!

Especially during early stages - asking consumers/an audience if they'd use a product, why, etc. Powerful and cheap.


@TrepCenter: You've consulted many treps on their social media use. What are the most common mistakes you see?

@JasonFalls: Most common mistakes are selling first rather than building a relationship with the audience. To many entrepreneurs ...

... are over-anxious to pitch their idea. Social is a relationship, not an elevator ride. Nurture me. That's most company's biggest mistake too.

Go look at @charmin @tacobell or most successful brands. It's more than pushing. What #entrepreneurs need to remember is that while they are 100% passionate about their thing.

We aren't. AND ...

We won't be until we have some vested interest. If you're someone we know like and trust, we have a vested interest.


Jason Falls on why brands are often too sales-y in social media


@MTPinelli: So how should entrepreneurs leverage social media/networks to get feedback on new ideas?

JasonFalls: Engage an audience of potential customers and simply ask. Posting a "Doing some research on this market ..." question.

You'd be shocked how useful the answers can be. Folks will tell you what you want if you ask them to.

@tedbirk94: Is social media the great equalizer for treps; enabling them to compete with the Goliaths?

@JasonFalls: In a way, yes.  Social media gives treps the same size sounding board on this channel. But $$ trumps them on others.

Still, if I attract a large social following because I'm useful, more will pay attention that watch ads.

Increasing potential for high quality engagement and social actions taken being the goal.

@doctorcrowe: What is optimal strategy for building a brand's social network-- being connected to right people?

@JasonFalls: Good one. It depends. But I think building a community around service and retention helps attract new customers.  

The more outsiders see how engaged & empowered your customers are on the inside, the more they want to be insiders

But if you're using community for other means, it varies. 

@doctorcrowe: Aye, that's solid wisdom. But what about proactive networking building. Brand X follows User Y for Z goal?  (and thank you for fielding questions today!)


@JasonFalls: I think brands can & should follow prospects & consumers. But not in a stalker-like way. More to get to know them.

Like anything, if it's too much acquisition and not enough engagement/other, it'll come across poorly.

@TrepCenter: What advice would you give to small biz for how to keep your cool w/ disgruntled customers in SM?

@JasonFalls: GREAT topic. Disgruntled customers are empowered by social. You will have to deal with them. But they don't have to kill you.

First, realize that few people are going to listen to someone bitching on social media. It's kinda tired. So the impact ...

Isn't always doomsday like you think. 

Second, understand that disgruntled customers almost always have a point. They can make you better. Listen to them.

Third, if one gets beyond the point of reason, everyone watching sees and senses that, too. 

You can give up and say, "Sorry, we can't help you any more." And folks won't rebel. As long as you've been reasonable.

Keep in mind I'm a rare breed. I don't think the customer has the right to be "always right" when they're not.

So my advice on dealing with disgruntled customers comes with the caveat you need to be willing to stand for something.


Jason Falls on dealing with disgruntled customers in social media


@doctorcrowe: Would you agree that a well-structured community is self-adjudicating? Policing themselves? Stand up for brand?

@JasonFalls: I would agree with that. Though I think the brand has the right to adjudicate, too. Brands should have a say.

At @cafepress, I've injected the brand back into our own forums. Most appreciate it. Some don't. But they're ours.

So instead of peer-to-peer community, it's peer-to-peer-to-brand-to-peer. We're at the table too.

@doctorcrowe: Fellow social media professionals - @JasonFalls is currently fielding questions - answering good questions in  #trepcenter

@JasonFalls: Keep firin' @TrepCenter ... I'm on a roll. Heh.


@doctorcrowe: Speaking of peer-to-peer-to-brand-to-peer. What's your favorite tactic for overcoming digital/human static...

@JasonFalls: Ooh. That's a great question. And easy answer: Pick up the damn phone or go shake their hand.

Often impractical, but holy crap does it work wonders. When they can look at you, hear you ... you're real.

 @flamingmaiden: What's your advice on handling an anonymous disgruntled community member? 

Follow Up: Where do you draw the line, especially if you can't take it offline?

@JasonFalls: Easy - Never have anonymous users. (I know, not always possible. But I hate anonymity.)

And you draw the line when they become unreasonable by common standards. You'll know.

And your community will agree. "Sorry. We've done all we can to help. Let us know if you reconsider.


Jason Falls on anonymity and the internet


@LizEducatedC: How imp't do you think it is to include personal msgs (interests, travel) in someone's professional digital brand?

@JasonFalls: Vitally important unless you want the world to think you're a drone. Heh.


@PRCarl: Do you advise keeping interaction with customers public as much as possible and taking it offline as a last resort?

@JasonFalls: Yes, but only if you're not dealing with personal information. If so (even account issues), move it private.

Keep in mind, anonymity has its place, but it has been abused and become too widely accepted in public social settings.

Anonymity gives people more liberal permission to be assholes. Nobody likes an asshole.

@doctorcrowe: Aye, I think anonymity is where we really start to dismiss human sympathy response. See: YouTube comments, yeesh.

@Sam_Ford: anonymity has its place, but it has been abused and become too widely accepted in public social settings.

@Wordbeast: Anonymity and a lack of visible real-time feedback.

Which I think is a fancy way of saying "fear that being obnoxious will get your ass kicked."

@JasonFalls: Haven't had my ass kicked yet. Or enough, I supposed. Heh.

One last bit on anonymity: If you can't say it and be accountable for it, don't say it. <endrant>


‏@LauraBedrossian: Amen RT @JasonFalls One last bit on anonymity: If you can't say it and be accountable for it, don't say it. <endrant>

@TrepCenter: #anonimity is a HOT issue. Clearly.

@JasonFalls: Kicked the hornet's nest. Sorry. Heh.

The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of EY. Moreover, the views should be seen in the context of the time they were expressed.