Social media helped maintain small companies throughout 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 full of 6-foot social distancing restrictions and mandatory masking was a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warm smile of a friendly face or firm grasp of a handshake didn’t exist. Many of us had to find new ways to connect and remain in contact with our customers in an authentic way.

Social media was virtually the only way to do so — and I would know: that’s the no. 1 tip I tell my clients who are seeking marketing help.

After just three years of running my social media marketing business, I’ve seen so much growth with my clients. Business owners from all over the world came up with new ways to showcase their products and get in front of their consumers.

From comic bookstore owners sharing their favorite vintage comics on a weekly basis to artists hosting painting classes for youth, it was amazing to see brands flourish when thrown into the most unlikely of circumstances.

By far, the biggest transition I’ve seen over the last few years is the adoption of social media. This pivot can be daunting, as it is a tough learning curve for some organizations. But, once shown the ropes, 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 went from being a freelance social media manager executing everything by myself to a team of 12 in less than three years.

The secret sauce on how to post — but post in a way that engages your audience — is something everyone wants to get their hands on. When I talk to potential businesses to see if they are a good fit for my social media micro-agency, one thing always rings true: Consumers look you up on social media before they even consider your website.

The shift in trust and credibility from web to social is astonishing.

The need for new and engaging content has risen dramatically, leading me to open Plum Hill Creative Studio in Lakewood, a boutique studio that focuses on renting space out for content creation and meetings while bringing the local creative and business community together.

It isn’t a secret that along with the good of social media may come the bad. As a result, there are always ongoing debates about regulation on social channels, which could have a tremendous impact on the way we interact with social media altogether.

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

Sitting at a long table, we shared the huge impact social media had on our ability to not only run our businesses, but to thrive. Story after story had one underlying message: These businesses wouldn’t have survived the pandemic if it weren’t for social media.

These businesses took the leap to dive into social media and really leverage it to their advantage, and their success stories allow a business like mine to grow and help other businesses.

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

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