Marketers Help Area Businesses Focus Social Media Efforts

CANFIELD, Ohio – “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” P.T. Barnum once said. However, marketers and communication experts might disagree with all the options available today.

“I don’t think every single business out there should be on social media and should have a huge budget or a huge priority on social media,” said Steve Cross, founder and creative director of iSynergy. “I tell people if you’re not going to do it well, then don’t do it at all, because bad social media is worse than no social media at all.”

As the ways to reach customers continue to grow and evolve, local business owners can depend on several quality marketing firms based in the Mahoning Valley. The Business Journal Roundtable Series invited representatives of six local marketing and communications firms to the Courtyard Waypoint in Canfield on Aug. 22 to discuss issues in marketing.

Besides Cross, those participating were George Farris, CEO of Farris Marketing; Jeff Hedrich, president of The Prodigal Company; Adrienne Sabo, founder and creative director at Clever; Rebecca Bayley, consultant at Pecchia Communications; and Cailyn Chrystal, account manager at 898 Marketing.

National and regional influencers on social media are a growing segment, but their efforts work only if a business knows its audience and can get a positive financial return.

Case in point: Bud Light.

NeilsonIQ data has shown Bud Light sales dropped up to 30% in the weeks following the spring partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, knocking the beer giant off the podium of top beer in the United States.

“That brings up a bigger issue,” Farris said. “How much should our clients be involved in, and make commentary on, political issues?”

From a marketing perspective, Farris notes, you must be very careful what you say because what makes one customer happy can turn off another.

Cross agreed that Bud Light’s marketing team may have been too consumed with expanding into new markets to realize what research should have said would upset or turn off their customer base.

“There are lots of other alcohols who use influencers of many persuasions that you don’t see that pushback, so it was just kind of a monumental error on their part of not understanding their audience and that this would not be acceptable,” said Hedrich, adding the solution for Bud Light may just be the passage of time.

While there may not be a lot of local products pushed by national influencers or even many local influencers, Bayley said it is important for the influencer chosen to be someone with whom the prospective customer can relate.

Too many influencers have a lifestyle foreign to most customers.

“Their lives have become unattainable,” said Sabo, who noted there has been a shift toward more specific areas of interest, such as fitness, food or home décor, making them more of an expert in a particular topic a consumer might be interested in.

Influencers who are doing it right market themselves in different ways on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, Sabo said.

Athletes have always been a big part of marketing, and Chrystal talked about the impact of the new name, image, likeness (NIL) effort for college athletes.

Farris notes he has brought Cleveland Browns players down to make pitches in local commercials for car dealerships, but after delivering their lines, they probably drove a different make of vehicle back to Cleveland. Yet their connection with the dealership had an impact during the season.

“There is a whole lot more work involved on [the social media influencer’s] part,” Farris said. “They’re not coming down here and giving three lines and saying, ‘Hey, don’t forget to shop here.’ They are investing some time in learning about the product, explaining it and recommending it, so they’re a little bit busier. But they also have a great reward possible for a long time.”

Social media is a rapidly growing way to market, but it can also confound business owners.

Farris cited a Forbes article that notes 93% of small-business owners struggle with social media. He points out about half of the last social media posts of Mahoning Valley businesses are probably from the end of 2022, expressing holiday wishes to their customers. Business owners who do not have time to do their own social media marketing should hire a marketing company for the task, Farris said.

“I think it is important for [business owners] to understand what each type of media is and what it’s good for, but I think coming to people like us can help them navigate that,” Chrystal said. “We can help them decide what type of media is best.”

During the roundtable, the panelists further touched on building a brand, content marketing, search engine optimization, artificial intelligence and more.

More coverage of the marketing roundtable, including a full transcript, will be published in the MidSeptember issue of The Business Journal and online at

Pictured at top: Front row, from left: Adrienne Sabo, Rebecca Bayley and Caitlyn Chrystal; back row, from left: Steve Cross, Jeff Hedrich and George Farris.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.