Skip (some of) The Parties and Create a Digital Brand: How Social Media Can Change Your Future.
by Alaina Shearer, President and Founder of Cement Marketing, OU Alumnus 2001
People ask me all of the time, “How did you start a digital advertising agency?” My answer is always the same, “I don’t know, I just had to do it. Something inside of me wouldn’t shut up until I did.”
For you the tug at your gut may be something else. In fact, the truth is not everyone is cut out for starting a business. Maybe your gut is telling you to find a job you love, outdoors or with kids or fill in the blank. Maybe you don’t want a traditional job at all and want to work from home when you graduate. Whatever your goal is, it’s within reach when you learn how to master digital marketing.
Digital marketing offers endless tools for each of us, no matter what our focus, whether we are physicians, scientists or writers. I truly believe this, and I am a living example of the power of personal branding.
Ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to make your dreams a reality?
Ultimately, we all want something. But not all of us have the courage to chase that something and make it a reality. I’m here to tell you all it takes is courage, perseverance and dedication. And the easiest time to do it, is now– while you’re young, have the energy, the learning capacity and the drive to get it done.
First you need to accept that there is no way to predict what the future holds. Accept that fact and everything becomes a bit easier. Only focus on what you can control. Right now, that’s your personal brand and your reputation.
When I graduated from Ohio University’s EW Scripps School of Journalism in 2001, I thought I knew exactly where my career would take me. In fact, I was so determined, no one could tell me otherwise. My internship at Power 105 in Athens turned to a part time, on air position by my Junior year and then another internship on 610 WTVN in Columbus turned into a weekend night shift air position and then a full time job offer when I graduated. All of my hard work had paid off and I was on my way, full steam ahead to my dream career.
But, then something happened, once there I realized that radio wasn’t perhaps the best fit to suit my highly opinionated and passionate personality type. So, there I was, in my dream job but frightfully unhappy and even depressed at times.
In 2004, I made a very brave decision and completely switched careers. I started over as an assistant at a public relations and advertising agency in Columbus Ohio. There, I learned the basics. My excellent writing skills propelled me and I caught on quickly.
Now, all the while I was sitting on my journalism skills. They were just waiting for the perfect storm in 2007. It was then I found myself a new single mother to a beautiful baby boy. Life had led me on such an unpredictable path. During the day I was working my dream job as a copywriter at a large advertising agency in Columbus, Ohio. At night, I took on a new hobby - blogging. I had discovered Wordpress and thought blogging would be the perfect way to tell my story about becoming a single mother. Most importantly, I couldn’t find any answers online on how to best be a single mom. All of the information was super conservative and didn’t fit with my progressive dating lifestyle, one which I knew I wasn’t alone in practicing. Women dated and women with children certainly wanted to date. I felt compelled to offer advice where I could and also genuinely needed the advice of other single moms out there.
So, I started blogging and called my persona Ms. Single Mama.
Every night I would write a new post or, on off nights, I would read other blogs in the arena and leave insightful comments linking back to my blog. Slowly, day by day, week by week and month by month, my readership increased. After the first year I added videos into the mix of content I created. Here’s where all of those years in radio paid off. I could concisely offer advice with clear delivery. The videos were a hit and to date, they still receive thousands of views on YouTube. I also started using Twitter and Facebook to promote my website and connect with other single parents. Within a few years I had 30,000 readers per month. Astounding!
Now, by day, I was still at the advertising agency. Thanks to my passion for blogging I now came into work completely qualified to speak on the power of search engine optimization (SEO), social marketing, digital copywriting, blogging and even content management and content management systems like Wordpress. This experience coupled with my marketing background, journalism background and passion equalled quite a force to be reckoned with. Also, it was the perfect storm in 2007-09 when all of this was happening.
After repeated attempts to change the larger agency from within, I felt they weren't moving fast enough. In fact, one of my managers even told me to “slow down”. Well, with the world of digital marketing moving as fast as it was, there was no way I was prepared to slow down because that would mean slowing down my own learning and experience.
Instead, I started plotting ways to leave and start my own agency. Why not? I thought. I know how to do all of this stuff. I just have to find contractors and boom - I could do it. Another huge reason, I wanted to stay home more with my son and have a flexible work life balance. The two factors combined drove me to take the leap of faith and start Cement Marketing.
Since day one I have been applying my own digital know how to the marketing of Cement. We now rank in the top three positions in the search engines for terms like “Ohio SEO Agency”, “Columbus Ohio Advertising Agency” and “Columbus Ohio marketing firm”. Now, at 13 employees strong and sales of 1.2 million in 2015, we are gunning for other markets and hope to soon open an advertising agency in Austin, Texas. To do that, guess what I’ll have to use? All of those skills I learned years ago blogging in order to help single moms and to help myself out of a rough personal time.
When you set out to help others, your personal brand will take on a life of its own. But in order to succeed, the secret ingredient of helping others must be present.