Social media has helped keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic, says Ashley Rector

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

As a small business owner, finding your ideal customer in a world filled with 6-foot social distancing restrictions and mandatory masks has been challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It wasn’t the warm smile of a friendly face or the tight smile of a handshake. Many of us have had to find new ways to connect and connect with our customers in a real way.

Social media was the only way to do it — and I know: the #1 thing I tell my clients looking for marketing help. 1 is a tip.

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

From funny bookstore owners sharing their favorite vintage comics every week to artists hosting art classes for young people, it’s been amazing to see brands throw themselves into the most unlikely of situations.

By far, the biggest shift I’ve seen in the last few years is the adoption of social media. This pillar can be a daunting learning curve for some organizations. However, once you’ve learned the ropes, it’s easy to see why it’s important to compete in the wild west of organic and paid social media.

I have been through this transition myself. I went from being a freelance social media manager doing everything by myself to a team of 12 in less than three years.

The secret sauce of how to post — but post in a way that engages your audience — is what everyone wants to get their hands on. When I talk to potential businesses to see if they’re a good fit for a social media micro agency, one thing is always true: consumers will search for you on social media before they even consider your website.

The shift in trust and loyalty from the web to social is remarkable.

The demand for new and engaging content has increased dramatically, leading me to open Plum Hill Creative Studio Lakewood, a boutique studio focused on bringing together the local creative and business community to rent space for content creation and meetings.

It’s no secret that along with the good side of social networking sites comes the downside. As a result, there are always ongoing debates about regulation on social channels, which can have a profound effect on our interactions with social media.

As an Ohioan, it was important to me to meet with Sen. Sherred Brown’s office in Washington, D.C. as part of the Meta Boost Gatherer, a group of small businesses to meet with Brown staff on issues that matter to us.

Sitting around a long table, we shared the huge impact social media has had on our ability to not only run our businesses, but to thrive. Story after story had one basic message: Without social media, these businesses would not have survived the pandemic.

These are the steps businesses have taken to tap into social media and use 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 effect of the puzzle on the table. And I hope the senator’s office sees that perverse effect as well.

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