CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Social media can be a powerful tool for small businesses.
In 2022, more than 200 million businesses used Instagram to grow their brand.
But what happens when access is taken away?
For some small business owners, their company can consume their lives.
Maggie Jenkins’ consumes her small home office and Belmont.
“I’ve always been kind of an entrepreneur, and I’m like a Pinterest mom,” Jenkins said, laughing. “I am the most extra person you will ever meet.”
The mom of two moved to North Carolina during the pandemic on a mission to start her own business.
“I think I am going to start a balloon company, and they all looked at me like I was crazy, and they were like, ‘how are you going to do that?’ I don’t know,” she said. “So, I just started calling my friends, ‘hey can I drop off balloons for your daughters’ birthday?’ Or ‘hey, can I do this for your baby shower? I know you can’t celebrate it, but can we do this by like a drive-by?'”
What started through the world of mouth eventually went digital. Jenkins posted her balloon displays on Instagram to gain traction and book more clients.
“It blew up overnight,” she said.
Two years later, her work is showcased at malls, company parties, baby showers, and sporting events.
She said 90% of her inquiries came through social media.
“Instagram brings me the most in-person installs because it is more of a local following,” Jenkins said. “Everyone in Charlotte follows me.”
Pop Charlotte Balloons is among millions of small businesses utilizing social media.
Instagram says about 50% of its users follow at least one business.
“If their main presence or main customer is on social media, then it is going to be like gasoline with fire, where it is just going to ever-grow from there,” owner of Premier Marketing Jarrell Hibler said.
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Hibler encourages clients to grow an online presence if that’s where their customer base is primarily located. Since the pandemic, more consumers have relied on social media to feel out about businesses and shop online.
“Because once the customer, your end user, sees value, they will be able to kind of relate to you a little bit more,” Hibler said. “Have trust in you to be able to win over a business that you are looking for.”
“It felt like I was almost a mini-celebrity. I wasn’t by any means, but it was neat to show up to a customer, and they are like, ‘I love watching you do this online. It’s so cool to see it in person,'” Jenkins said. “People wanted to hire me because they enjoyed following me.”
Last month, Jenkins’ business deflated.
Her social media sites were swiped off the internet.
Her customers and nearly 9,000 followers were left in the dark. Her inquiries slowed down to almost zero.
“I’m gone. They think I went out of business,” Jenkins said. “How am I supposed to pay bills?”
She did what anyone would do in her situation — reach out to Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, to see what was going on.
“So, I emailed, emailed, emailed, and all they would respond back with is: ‘We found you ineligible. You violated the terms and conditions. Due to privacy, we cannot tell you why,'” Jenkins explained. “Like what? This is my business; what happened?”
Queen City News reached out to Meta regarding her account and has yet to get a response.
About 48 hours later, her platforms were back online.
“I am going to use this as a learning lesson to not rely on social media. It is not reliable by any means,” Jenkins said. “It’s not just happening to my company but a lot of other businesses across the country, and it is scary.”
Overnight, she saw her growing business disappear into thin air, giving her a new outlook and appreciation for her craft and the experiences she helps create.
“Now I get to walk into my customers’ houses or companies, and they are so happy for me to walk through the door,” Jenkins said. “It makes me happy bringing joy to them and being part of all of these special moments.”