Your Take | For Yafa Sakkejha, social media is a way to connect

Yafa Sakkejha is the founder of House of Verona, a health resort in Collingwood, Ont. on Georgian Bay. She opened the resort in December 2008. She is also a raw-food vegan.
For Small Business Week, we've asked Canadian small business owners to share their experiences with using social media to create buzz and interact with clients.

Yafa Sakkejha is the founder of House of Verona, a health resort in Collingwood, Ont. on Georgian Bay. She opened the resort in December 2008. She is also a raw-food vegan.

I started a personal Twitter account in 2009. I didn't understand the value until I stopped thinking about promoting myself and instead got conversing with other people, specifically, answering their questions.

When I answered questions put out by journalists, it allowed them to get to know me without me having to do a hard pitch. In time, it got me published in the Globe and Mail and National Post just because I answered a couple questions.

SPECIAL REPORT: Small Business

Coverage of the latest small business news, trends and issues, as well as advice from experts on everything from starting and marketing a business, to managing staff and improving the bottom line.

I would also search for people in Toronto mentioning "vegan" or "raw food" and start a conversation with them, since it relates to both my business and my passions. I'm now friends with many of my "target market" by virtue of the fact that we share the same interests. Instead of cold calling, this method worked much better to increase awareness of my company.

But Twitter doesn't have to be all articles, links, and sales pitches. Sometimes the biggest response I get from my follower base is a photo and caption of what I'm doing that moment: what's on the menu at the retreat, swans spotted just outside our property, or a funny quote from a guest.

It's not about you. Retweet, reply, and follow. The more you genuinely care about others, the more they will care about you. The bottom line is that your engagement has to be real. Don't think about it being a sales tool. Think about it as a way to express and respond to what you truly care about.

Don't feed the trolls

I've also had success with ads on Facebook. Whenever I placed an ad there, I found that the click-through rate was 10 times that of ads I placed on Google Adwords.

I love writing these little ads - it's like writing a haiku for your company: you need to inject a high amount of creativity in a small space.

We also use Twitter to network in advance of tradeshows. Before the show we start monitoring the event's hashtag to see who'll be there. I start genuine conversations with those people who usually speak back. Sure enough, they visit our booth at the show.

I've also made mistakes on social media, including engaging with "trolls." I once had a "hater" who put a negative comment on everything I put out there. They weren't able to get their way with one thing, so they tried to put us down in public. I made the mistake of trying to engage with them on Twitter, which just led to more hatred.

I learned that the correct path is to publicly deal with it just once, and then take the conversation offline to see if it can be solved. Trolls are also like fires: the more you fan it, the bigger it gets. If you walk away and ignore it, it dies down.