Ellen Matis is all about connection. As the owner of Hello Social Co., a boutique digital media agency, you might guess that. But for Matis, the connection goes deeper than any vanity metric or sales number.
“The people I can really help are businesses who have a genuine desire to connect with people and just need help with social media,” she says. “They don’t want to do 100 percent ad campaigns — they just want to genuinely connect with people in the area.” In a world of social media managers and virtual assistants, Matis focuses on the in-person aspect of local business, digging deep into a business as a brand rather than a sales pitch. “I love businesses that are part of people’s everyday lives, not trying to sell to the whole world.”
Matis’ background is in journalism, with a bachelor’s from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“Indiana was a great place for me to get my start, especially in my internship in social media with the university,” she says.
Her first job was at The Indiana Gazette writing obituaries before transitioning to social media management. Like a lot of papers at the time, The Indiana Gazette was opening an in-house digital media agency offering website design, social management and advertising. And while they had social media accounts, the Gazette wasn’t sure how to use them.
“I knew I could do something new and different when it came to connecting with readers,” says Matis. Within weeks, the traffic to The Indiana Gazette’s website had completely changed and readers were engaged in regular, interesting ways. Matis became the full-time media coordinator — the first for the Gazette. She knew then that her “thing” was about engaging people in a genuine way.
Though her career began at the Gazette, her creative exploration with the internet began at an early age. “I built my first webpage when I was 10,” she says. “It was ‘ellenlovespuppies.com’ and had pictures of puppies and glitter falling from the top of the page.” And while everyone was changing their Myspace themes, Matis was building her own.
Now that childhood love of the internet has become Matis’ livelihood and the central expression of her passion for helping businesses in smaller towns thrive. “Somewhere along the lines, someone told small businesses they had to do it all — that they wouldn’t survive unless they did marketing, social media, accounting, bookkeeping, all of it themselves. But no single person can do that.” Instead, Hello Social Co. allows the weight to fall on someone who loves the social media game. “When I do my job, business owners get to do what they love doing and what makes them happy — not spending hours posting on Instagram.”
That kind of support, says Matis, allows a local business community to grow. “Small towns need small businesses to survive and thrive. Without small businesses, there are no beautiful towns like Bellefonte.” Or like Susquehanna, a small northeastern Pennsylvania town where Matis grew up. “My family was always entrepreneurial. My grandfather restored a historic train station and owned a few businesses. My dad owned a few businesses. My brother was the mayor of our town. I’ve always been very connected to my community because of them.”
Now in Bellefonte, Matis feels right at home. “I can’t even explain how much I love this town,” she says. “It’s really an amazing place to start a business.”
The first occupant and manager of the Bellefonte incubator space SpringBoard, Matis is also on the board of Bellefonte Keystone Community Development Association — BelleKey for short — the group behind the recent “First Sunday” events in Bellefonte. And that’s all in one year; she moved to Bellefonte in May 2017.
“It was kismet. I met so many people that first week I moved here and they all set me on this path.” She had considered moving to larger cities like Pittsburgh but realized there was a greater need for her work in Centre County, and it had the small, tight community feel she valued.
Looking forward, Matis is excited to keep growing her business with a focus on local — and in turn helping her clients grow. “I’m always asking how I can provide resources for my clients and other local businesses. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”