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Small business owners say social media feedback really clicks

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Fast, friendly, and free: All good reasons for business owners to give a big thumbs up to social media. Cory Schifter of Casale Jewelers says entrepreneurs need to go where the customers are and where they are is Facebook.

"You know people spend a lot of their day on Facebook," says Schifter. "I think you can stay in touch with your customers, stay in touch with future customers and have them always keep you in mind. It's a constant reminder that we're there.'

Whether hosting his annual online Race for the Ring contest or keeping his friends aware of what charities he's involved with, judging from his number of fans -- close to 16,000 -- clearly he's doing something right. The key to using social media successfully is to be social. At least, that's the philosophy Kyotofu co-founder Michael Berl subscribes to.

"That's why people go on social media. They don't go necessarily just to get information. They go to get a sense that they are part of this broader community or this restaurant or another business. And they are. That's how we communicate with our customers," says Berl.

And that communication is a two way street. He encourages his customers at Kyotofu to post pictures of their food on Facebook and Twitter, and to let him know what they thought of his tofu and soy-based desserts.

"We get feedback from our customers, you know, things that they like, hopefully not too often things they don't like and also what they are looking for. We change our menu seasonally so there is a lot of opportunity to get feedback from customers and we have made decisions based on the input that we're getting via social media," says Berl.

Pearl Chin of Knitty City also encourages her customers to posts pictures online -- not of her products but of theirs.

"It's a way of showing our customers that we really appreciate what they are doing and how they are using their yarn," says Chin.

She says by allowing customers to contribute content on her page, they're helping stitch together a true picture of what a knitting community is really about.

"People when they come to the store, they might come in, buy something and go out. They don't know what's going on inside the store, what makes the business tick. And I think social media does that," says Chin.

Voting in the Big Break for Small Business Contest runs through Aug. 31.

To find out more about these and other finalists around the country, visit facebook.com/OPEN.

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