As a teenager, Ashley Mason had a fashion and lifestyle blog that resulted in brand partnerships.
“Society doesn’t exactly encourage you to start a business at a young age, so I thought that I had to go to college, get my degree, build up a successful 20+ year career at a big marketing agency, and then go off and start my own agency,” she notes on her website.
Mason started her business in 2019, when she was 19 and still a student at Stonehill College, founded on her belief that a social media-focused marketing strategy was a proven road to successfully launching and building a brand. Today, Dash of Social has a staff of six and more than 50 clients.
Not too long ago, promoting services or products was accomplished via advertising in newspapers, TV or radio and press releases sent to media outlets who’d ideally find your pitch a great story for their publication. As Mason’s business demonstrates, internet and social media drastically changed the marketing strategy for startups as well as established businesses. At the very least, today’s business must have a website. If you’re a restaurant, online ordering was a lifeline for many dining establishments during the pandemic shutdowns. And Facebook and Instagram are not just for posting your latest exploits and photos of your kids.
Social media, once considered a realm for friends keeping in touch with each other, was harnessed as an additional way to reach audiences for services and products in immediate and cost-effective ways.
“Social media allows you to reach a much larger audience than you currently have and allows you to target your audience,” says Mason. “There’s a potential for referrals. It also builds your credibility and drives traffic to your website.”
Having a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, for example, isn’t a ticket to success. Your account can get hacked, or if you violate a social media platform’s rule of engagement, you can lose that account. It’s especially important for small enterprises to have separate accounts for business and personal. Keep business business.
“It’s important to diversify, I tell clients,” says Mason. “Businesses tend to think they should be on every social media platform. It’s only important to focus where your target audience is; start small, consistency is better than constancy.”
Judy Crocker had a career in marketing and advertising, including for a radio station, which she left in 2019 to start her own business at the encouragement of clients. She built her business Make It Known Marketing after identifying a need for an outsourced CMO for small- to medium-sized businesses.
“Most SMB owners are dividing marketing tasks among multiple employees or themselves and the job is just not getting done in an organized and consistent fashion,” Crocker says. “Most of these SMB owners could use an in-house marketing person, but the resources just aren’t there.
I came up with the idea of being your Chief CMO, my company is more of a partner, meeting monthly to discuss strategy and deal with vendors; we make recommendations and we implement. We do everything an employee does, without the internal costs of payroll, taxes, etc.”
While her background in more traditional marketing strategy, she instantly realized the immediacy of the message through digital and social marketing and its lower cost.
“Digital marketing allows you to micro-target and target geographically. We have to make sure we’re still using traditional marketing.”
Businesses should be able to easily sum up what is unique about themselves, but often, when dealing with first-time clients, they find that hard to summarize.
“Ask yourself, what do you do well? Don’t tell me, ‘locally focused and operated.’ Don’t give me a laundry list of what you offer,” Crocker advises. “Drill down on that and determine what is your unique aspect. “
Sarah Jane Tolman calls herself an Instagram specialist but loves creating content for Youtube, Tiktok and even Pinterest. She founded Valoisa Media in 2021 after spending five years managing the content, marketing and social media branding for several highly successful women entrepreneurs.
“These fierce ladies inspired me to launch my own business, pandemic be damned!” she says on her website.
Her focus is growing women-owned brands through social media especially through Instagram. Her clients include the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, brick and mortar businesses, real estate companies, personal trainers, and a sign company.
“My Instagram audit is designed to evaluate the overall health of your socials,” she explains. “I take a deep dive into your account to identify the key components that will make your business socials a well-oiled, result-producing machine.”
She designs a tailored social strategy for clients including content, engagement, trends, insights and growth.
“I think people underestimated the power of social media, that you can absolutely build a business on it,” Tolman says. “Some people are fearful of it; I tell them to just do it! A lot of social media is trial and error.”
Instagram Reels, short videos posted on that platform, are a particular focus for her company.
“Video is a great tool; it’s a one-stop shop, it’s more immediate and people feel like they are part of something.”
Steven Hall would totally agree.
The marketing company he founded, Craft Media, Inc. in 2008 is a content marketing agency that works with brands that want to be better, visually.
“All of the professional photo and video is captured in-house, meaning we don’t subcontract out work and maintain creative control. We own a studio here in Plymouth where we capture commercial content for our clients. We serve clients from Asheville, N.C., to Dubai to right here in New England,” he notes.
Hall has a background in healthcare marketing, working as an Sales and Marketing Account Manager for a large hospital group.
“Just like many entrepreneurs my side hustle quickly eclipsed my day job and Craft Media, Inc was born,” he says.
While social media has become a focus of marketing efforts these days, especially with start-ups, Hall says the way to grow a brand has not changed.
“The way to grow a brand at its core is the same as it always has been, your marketing needs to focus on the benefits of the product/service,” he explains. “Social media gives us more avenues to do this on. It is without a doubt essential for many businesses but that is largely dependent on your offering. You have little to lose telling your story on social … and a lot to gain. “
C&P Business Media Marketing Summit, presented by Brabo Payroll, will take place Wednesday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to noon at Alden Park Bar & Grill, 160 Colony Place, Plymouth. Tickets are $35 and include breakfast buffet, raffles and presentations. For tickets visit: capeplymouthbusiness.com/event