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Ventana’s David Dennis on Creating an Engaging, Authentic Social Media Strategy

Ventana’s David Dennis on Creating an Engaging, Authentic Social Media Strategy

Social media is an essential business tool. Whether you love it, hate it, are good at it, or terrible at it, social media is a powerful way to strengthen your brand and connect directly with customers.

Ventana Surfboards & Supplies is a company that understands the importance of a strong social media presence. The Ventana team is excellent at creating posts that engage, inspire and inform. As Ventana co-founder David Dennis explains, social media is an invaluable, essentially free way to get your message out to a highly-targeted audience. For Ventana, that means having authentic conversations with their community of customers and social media community.

“We try to keep a constant conversation going with people who are interested in, or should be interested in, our brand,” Dennis says. “We’re constantly telling our story in compelling and innovative ways on all the main social networks that matter.”

The social networks that matter are different for every business, but they include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and LinkedIn. Ventana has a presence on numerous platforms, but finds organic reach on Instagram particularly effective.

“We have a great visual story to tell with our surfboards and other supplies,” Dennis says. “But a lot of it has to do with Instagram’s reach, the way people consume it, and the algorithms they use to help target your content to the right people. It’s the place where we get the most engagement from the world.”

Dennis encourages companies to focus on storytelling on social media. He points out that “nobody wants to see a graphic that says 20% off.” They want to feel connected to the story you’re trying to tell.

“Marketing is storytelling,” he says. “You’re trying to create unique, compelling and differentiated stories that resonate with your target audience. Understanding what your target audience cares about, in both business and life, and telling stories that incorporate your brand in an authentic way is the right way to do it.”

Dennis suggests wrapping your message in a story rather than a pitch. Social media isn’t a direct sell—it’s a way to express brand values, touch people on an emotional level and share visuals that represent your brand. Dennis offers the following as an example of the type of post he might share to promote an event with Ventana co-founder Martijn Stiphout, and shirt line launch:

"Come out and meet master craftsman Martijn, see this incredible new board we built that incorporates wood from John Steinbeck’s Western Flyer boat, and check out our new shirt line that goes along with it."

A common mistakes tech companies make on social media is that, as Dennis puts it, they “drank their own Kool-Aid to the point that they believe whatever they’ve created is so inherently amazing that it’s self-evident and everybody else is obviously going to feel the same way.”

These companies tend to share social media posts announcing version 2 of an app, or a new set of features they’ve created. These types of posts miss the mark.

“Even if it’s the coolest thing in the world, you have to show people what the benefits are,” says Dennis. “You have to be constantly telling your story, in a whole bunch of different ways, over and over and over.”

A longtime Microsoft employee, Dennis says that the tech giant has focused their marketing on storytelling —in particular, stories about people achieving amazing things with Microsoft products. The company shares stories of how their technology has helped people with disabilities; how it powers social movements; how Microsoft supports nonprofits around the world; and how the company's tech allows people to do things like easily creating 3D art in a way that was never possible before.

“We’re telling stories about our customers that amplify how we’ve empowered them,” says Dennis. “That puts yourself in someone else’s shoes, as opposed to saying, ‘50% off Office 365.’”

David Dennis shared his thoughts on social media at a recent Santa Cruz Works event. To see upcoming Santa Cruz Works events, including member only gatherings, visit santacruzworks.org/events. Become a Santa Cruz Works member at santacruzworks.org/membership.

Photo: Dave Alexander of Salty Breeze Surf Art & Photography