Miller Meet: Ashley Cherry

Where social media and digital marketing intersect and why it matters, with Miller Ink’s Ashley Cherry.

The COVID-19 pandemic electrified the social media and digital marketing space as Americans spent an average of 82 minutes per day on social platforms in 2020, a seven-minute daily increase from 2019. This forced brands and organizations to intensify their focus on social media content and bolster their digital marketing efforts. We recently sat down with Ashley Cherry, Miller Ink’s Digital Marketing Manager, to discuss this paradigm shift as well as how businesses can best utilize the tools that social media platforms offer to reach their target audiences.

Many business owners and executives think of public relations as pitching stories to reporters. Why should social media marketing also be a core part of any comprehensive communications strategy?

The main reason is that social media is tangible. It’s an easy and fast way to connect with your audience. Millions — and likely billions — of people use it every day. Traditional PR is an involved process where it could take weeks to get something published, and you’d have a lot of correspondence during that time. With social media, it’s an owned channel where a brand can share a message immediately, without having to go through any intermediaries.

What is the relationship between social media and digital marketing? Are they two spheres that interact with each other or are they separate domains?

The answer is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For a business, social media is 100 percent digital marketing because you’re using it to connect with a specific audience. For an individual, social media is not necessarily digital marketing. It’s more social and organic — a way of connecting with your friends.

How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced digital marketing? With people stuck inside, have businesses devoted greater or less attention and resources to this?

The pandemic definitely affected digital marketing in several ways. I actually spoke with a Pinterest representative recently who mentioned that during the pandemic daily active users grew by over one million. So more people were on social media because we were at home and bored. Businesses that already had a social media presence were ahead of the curve while those that weren’t utilizing digital marketing had to really quickly catch up in order to continue operating.

What are some of the most important digital marketing tools out there, and what is the best way that a business could implement a marketing campaign using these tools?

You have to start with the top three social media platforms, which are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It depends on your business verticals, but I’d start with those three. Then post organic content a few times per week, or on a schedule you can be consistent with. That’s one way to build an audience on social media.

Paid advertising is the next step for businesses because social media is a space where you have to pay to play. If you really want to maximize reach and engagement, as well as send people to your website or have them engage with your business, you have to be willing to devote ad dollars on social channels. There is good news and bad news here. While it is becoming more expensive to advertise on social media as more creators and brands join every year, social media advertising is still the cheapest way to advertise versus other channels.

What are some ways businesses or organizations can distinguish themselves on social media? Is it mainly content generation, or is it a combination of organic, boosted, and paid media?

A lot of people say, “content is king,” a phrase that is overused. But the essence of it is still kind of true. If you have amazing content — especially short video content — that will do well on social media. But quality is also a factor. If you’re posting consistently on social media, but the content is not valuable, then it won’t perform well because it doesn’t resonate with your audience. It’s about finding the balance of what your audience wants to see and how you can add value for them. To maximize exposure and impressions, I would also recommend that businesses utilize the advertising tools offered by these platforms, from boosted posts to targeted campaigns.

How does a strategic communications firm factor into this equation? Is it most helpful to integrate social media and digital marketing campaigns into a businesses’ ongoing strategic communications capability? How can those two services dovetail with one another to help the company achieve its goals and ambitions?

It’s important to have every social channel meld into one holistic plan. How a brand uses a public relations firm for strategic communications and how it communicates to certain audiences should definitely translate into your social channels, email marketing, and any other digital channels.

How could digital marketing and social media be affected by potential regulations either from federal institutions or self-regulation from platforms themselves? And how do you think the industry can hedge against unforeseen restrictions?

It depends on what industry you’re in. In 2020, anything that was political or social issue related faced restrictions. The alcohol and tobacco industries, for instance, are permanently restricted and you can’t advertise at all. So it definitely depends on your industry, but I’d point out that television and more traditional media outlets have already had some of these restrictions in place that companies must abide by.

When the Internet came out and social media platforms started to emerge, it was a bit of a free-for-all. There were no rules initially, so you could do whatever you wanted. Today, the laws and restrictions are kind of catching up, so it is important to take these restrictions seriously because we’re going to see it across every social media and advertising channel that comes out moving forward.

If there are external events that prevent businesses from continuing with an ad campaign as normal, what approach would you recommend? What are the best ways to keep up the momentum of a digital campaign despite potential external shocks?

The truth is that Facebook isn’t the only advertising platform. It’s worth expanding to other platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, and Tik Tok. I also think influencer marketing is a sweet spot and a work around, although it can get pretty expensive.

With the return to normalcy, it seems people will have less free time and will likely spend less time online. How do you think this will contribute to trends in the digital marketing space in the next 2 to 3 years?

It was an interesting time when everyone was at home and we were glued to our phones and social media. As the world goes to go back to normal there will be fewer people on social media, or at least they’ll be spending less time on social media. Still, it’s important for brands to be everywhere your audiences are, which means utilizing social media, email marketing, and digital.

Ten to 15 years from now, do you think people in the marketing field are going to look back at 2020 and say that this was the peak of digital marketing? Or do you believe that even with a return to normal, digital marketing and social media will continue to grow?

I see it growing further from here. The Internet was created in the 1990s, and social media was created in the mid 2000s. When we look back at 2008 and the big recession, people were still on Facebook and MySpace and these platforms were growing. I really think we’re going to reflect in 10 years and say, “Wow, social media was so cheap to advertise on.”

How long have you been with Miller Ink and what is your professional background?

I’ve been at Miller Ink for over six months, so I’m still pretty new. I’ve worked in digital marketing for about 7 years. I started at a small boutique agency in Diamond Bar, CA working with the restaurant industry.

I’ve worked at various agencies in Los Angeles across many different industries such as restaurant, food and beverage, and hospitality, which include resorts, hotels, and travel. I’ve also worked with clients in finance, automotive, and e-commerce, so my experience is pretty broad. As far as my experience with marketing channels, my focus has been in social media and advertising, meaning social ads, Google ads, and some programmatic ad buying. I’ve done a little bit of email marketing, SEO, website work as well.

What are some of the main projects you’ve worked on so far at Miller Ink?

My position at Miller Ink is a little unorthodox. Most employees work with their clients as assigned, whereas I work across all clients at the agency. I have worked more heavily with 3 or 4 clients, like building out a digital infrastructure with American Friends Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO). We also managed a large scale video production and advertising project in December for Our Common Destiny.

What is your favorite thing about working at Miller Ink?

It’s definitely the people. I’ve worked at a lot of different agencies. At some, I’ve made lifelong friends. At others, it’s been a toxic work environment. At Miller Ink, there’s more understanding and positivity, and it’s nice to be around that in a working environment.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Generally, I like planning and hosting events with my friends, like wedding or baby showers, and bachelorette or birthday parties. Of course, I haven’t done any of that during COVID. My husband and I bought a house last year, so we’ve been organizing our house. Often, I’m doing something around the house, and there’s always something to do.

If you were a punctuation mark, which one would you be?

I would be the double exclamation point. I can be a pretty loud and expressive person. Anything I say, whether it’s in ALL CAPS or lowercase, I end with a double exclamation mark. It’s also the emoji I use most often.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about social media or digital marketing?

A lot of people believe that because they use social media in their personal time that they can do social media for a business. But personal and business social media are distinct things. Brand / business marketing is about understanding who your target audience is, and then crafting a message and content that not only pair well together, but are made for each unique social channel. For the advertising component, there are more complicated tools and features Facebook offers like the Ads Manager and the Business Manager. It’s an entire world that people aren’t aware of and don’t know how to utilize to its fullest. It’s smarter and more strategic to hire for what you don’t know and bring in an agency. That’s the value that Miller Ink provides.

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