When Washington Trust Bank employees shoveled the sidewalk in front of a blind couple’s home after a snow storm, Mike Ellis was there to capture the event on his cell phone.
He turned the 30-second video into a Facebook post with more than 3,000 views, showcasing the volunteer efforts of workers at the Spokane-based bank.
“People are uncomfortable tooting their own horn,” Ellis said. “When you are the story, sometimes it’s hard to tell it to others.”
That’s where Ellis comes in. He’s a contract social media manager and brand influencer who helps local companies get positive messages out about their businesses.
Ellis, 56, launched SPI Media about six years ago. He’d previously worked in radio sales, marketing and public relations, and he could see the power of social media to help companies burnish their image and brands.
Ellis pitched the idea to a former employer, KXLY Radio 920, which hired him as a contractor. Ellis develops social media for the Spokane station and some of its advertising customers. He also works with a few independent clients. Most of his work appears on Facebook and Twitter.
The Swinging Doors, a family-owned restaurant and sports bar in North Spokane, has worked with Ellis as a KXLY Radio client for about three years.
Social media is “a cost-effective way to get our name out there,” said Lisa Ruggles, Swinging Door’s manager. “It definitely creates a buzz.”
A Facebook post Ellis created for one of the restaurant’s Bloody Mary specials was shared 12,000 times. While it’s hard to put a dollar value on that kind of exposure, the special became so popular that Swinging Doors ran out of the German sausages served as a side, Ruggles said.
Ellis also shares the posts on his personal Facebook page and Twitter account, which have several thousand followers, helping extend their reach. They also get shared on KXLY Radio’s social media.
Clients like Ellis’ approach, which has a word-of-mouth type feel, said Tery Garras, the station’s radio market manager.
“They’re happy with his work,” she said. “It’s a far-reaching audience.”
When people ask Ellis about getting started on social media marketing, he encourages them to develop a consistent style, one that will give them credibility with viewers.
Ellis strives for emotional impact in his posts, which he calls “heart.” When he filmed Washington Trust Bank employees paying for gas as part of a “random acts of kindness” post, he focused on a grateful woman.
“She said she only had $3 left in her purse, and she hadn’t been able to fill up her tank in a long time,” he said.
Ellis also is realistic about the time commitment. Working as a social media manager means being constantly plugged in. His work days start at 6 a.m. and end after 8 p.m. Clients pay him a monthly retainer.
“If someone paid me by the hour, they’d never be able to afford me,” he said.