Social media helped sustain small businesses during the pandemic: Ashley Rector

Guest columnist Ashley Rector is the founder of Laura Alexandria Marketing and the newly opened Plum Hill Creative Studio in Lakewood.

As a small business owner, reaching your ideal customer in a world of 6-foot social distancing restrictions and mask requirements has been challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warm smile of a friendly face or the firm grip of a handshake didn’t exist. Many of us have had to find new ways to authentically connect and stay in touch with our customers.

Social media has been pretty much the only way to do this – and I would know: that’s the #1 tip I give my clients who are looking for marketing help.

After only three years of running my social media marketing business, I have seen so much growth with my clients. Business owners from around the world have come up with new ways to showcase their products and get themselves in front of their consumers.

From comic bookstore owners who share their favorite vintage comics weekly to artists who run painting classes for teens, it’s been amazing to see brands thrive when faced with the most unlikely of circumstances.

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By far the biggest change I’ve seen in recent years is the introduction of social media. This fulcrum can be daunting as it represents a hard learning curve for some organizations. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier to understand why it’s important to compete in the wonderful wild west of organic and paid social media.

I’ve even gone through this transition myself. I’ve grown from a freelance social media manager doing everything on my own to a team of 12 in less than three years.

The secret recipe to posting – but in a way that engages your audience – is something everyone wants to get their hands on. When I speak to potential businesses to see if they’re a good fit for my social media micro-agency, one thing is always true: consumers will seek you out on social media before they even consider your site.

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The shift in trust and credibility from the web to the social network is amazing.

The need for new and engaging content has increased dramatically, which prompted me to open Plum Hill Creative Studio in Lakewood, a boutique studio focused on renting space for content creation and meetings while also supporting the local brings together the creative and business worlds.

It’s no secret that with the good social media comes the bad. As a result, there are ongoing debates about the regulation of social channels, which could have a huge impact on how we interact with social media overall.

As an Ohioan, it was important to me to meet Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office as part of the Meta Boost Gather in Washington DC. A group of small businesses met with Brown’s employees to discuss issues important to us.

We sat at a long table and talked about the tremendous impact social media has had on our ability not only to run our businesses, but to thrive. Story after story had a fundamental message: these companies would not have survived the pandemic if it weren’t for social media.

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These companies have taken the plunge in diving into social media and really using it to their advantage, and their success stories allow a company like mine to grow and help other companies.

Social media is important to small business owners in Ohio, and using your voice to speak out is important. I could see the ripple effect right on the table. And I hope the senator’s office saw that ripple effect too.

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