This post was originally published in March, 2016.
Ashley Caldwell will once again be serving as an instructor for the SPS’ popular Digital Marketing and Social Media workshop. This program consists of a series of entry-level seminars designed to help small business owners learn about digital marketing strategies, and inspire them to incorporates these practices into their marketing plans.
As a freshman at the University of Colorado, Ashley Caldwell was among a cohort of college students who were embracing new forms of online interaction, such as MySpace and the then newly-released Facebook. These emerging social platforms quickly became part of Caldwell’s everyday life, as would soon become the case for much of mainstream culture, and the Communications major began to see untapped possibilities for this new form of media.
Although it had been largely overlooked in the course content, Caldwell chose social networking as the topic for her capstone project in a senior-year “New Media” course, focusing on Facebook’s potential business applications - a relatively new concept at the time. “It was practically unheard of for a business to be thinking about using social networking,” explains Caldwell, “but seeing the human to human connection really sparked my interest.” It was this spark that would inspire Caldwell to develop her first social networking campaign, and lead her on the path toward becoming Charleston's go-to social media expert.Caldwell established The Modern Connection - a full service social media firm - in 2009, shortly after relocating to Charleston. Although local business owners were initially hesitant to take part in emerging digital marketing trends, Caldwell’s innovative techniques soon won them over, as she helped them to not only to modernize, but elevate their online presences. The Modern Connection has since grown to offer a range of services, both in-house and through partnering firms, with a continued focus on developing cutting-edge campaigns. “Goals certainly vary, but typically business owners are looking to us to give them direction or fully manage their accounts,” Caldwell says.
Contrary to the perception that she plays around on Facebook or Twitter all day, Caldwell employs a thorough research process, allowing her - and her Modern Connection team members - to design marketing plans that make sense for each client’s unique circumstances. Caldwell is also careful to ensure that clients understand the connection between the demographics of their customer base, and the demographics of those using specific social media platforms. “There are social networking sites that are so tailored and specific to unique segments based on age, education, gender, income, etc.” Caldwell explains. As the ever-widening digital marketing landscape can be overwhelming - even for the most internet-savvy business owner - Caldwell’s clients rely on her to guide them toward the social networking practices that will best benefit their brand. “It’s all about meeting your customer where they are online, and making sure you have the facts before you make (a) decision.”
While her career has centered on the intersection between social networking and marketing, Caldwell is quick to emphasize the importance of social media proficiency for individuals who work outside of the digital marketing industry. “Unless you completely remove yourself from any online presence, knowing how to navigate social media is so crucial,” Caldwell says. “…our actions online are defining who we are in business and in our personal lives. My motto is ‘Share with purpose'.”
As the social media and digital marketing industries continue to grow and mature, businesses will need to adapt in order to deliver continuously compelling and relevant content. For Ashley Caldwell and the Modern Connection, this situation presents a welcome challenge: “…it’s so exciting to think about the future,” says Caldwell. “…it’s constantly changing, so we all must stay fresh and educated every day to keep up. We’re constantly looking forward to what’s next!”