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The Morale Booster: How Ashely Edwards Empower People On Social Media


(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)


I want to preface this piece by acknowledging how the world has changed significantly since 2019. My experience with the Dance Marathon differs considerably from current UCF students. Since graduating in 2019, the UCF student body has faced a pandemic and social changes. I commend current UCF students for continuing to care about the Greater Orlando community and raising funds for a great organization.



(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)




Marathons are not for the faint of heart. Marathons began on a battlefield when Pheidippidies ran 26.2 miles to notify Greek city-states of the Perisian forces' defeat. Yet, when you venture to a college campus, many students participate in a different kind of marathon, a dance marathon.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)



Children's Miracle Network Hospitals defines a dance marathon as" a student-led, year-round philanthropic movement, uniting students across the United States and Canada in raising critical funds for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals" (Children Miracle Network Hospitals, 2023). At the 2019 UCF Dance Marathon, students stood for 20 hours to raise funds for Children Miracle Network Hospitals.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)



Many high schools and universities have a dance marathon. Florida takes everything to the extreme. Unsurprisingly, students take the dance marathons seriously at Florida public universities (especially the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Central Florida). During my last year of college (2018-19), the dance marathon, also known as Knight-Thon, magically weaved different people and organizations together towards a common goal. There was one person responsible for this mass unity, Ashely Edwards.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)


Ashley Edwards, head of marketing for the 2019 Knighthon, had the Sisyphean task of creating a marketing campaign that connected everyone to the organization's mission and vision. So, she spearheaded What's your Why? This simple question resonated with all shareholders and helped the organization raise $1,288,360.23.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)



Edwards continues to apply the lessons she learned with Knight-Thon in her professional life. In almost five years since the 2019 dance marathon, Ashley continues her marketing journey as the Lead Marketing Specialist at UNATION's Stuff To Do in Orlando. They are many working in the social media realm. But I think she is in the top 1% of professionals who not only understand the role of social media but also leave the viewer feeling more positive. I recently had the chance to catch up with her to learn more about her social media marketing insights.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)




1. What is social media?

Social media is a tool that allows people to connect and maintain meaningful connections. In the post-COVID era, social media evolved from a marketing platform to an engine that drives and maintains meaningful connections.



(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)


2. How does social media impact consumers?

In the past, social media acted as a virtual storefront. In today's world, businesses and customers are part of a positive feedback loop for customer engagement and retention. From a business perspective, social media allows you to showcase products or services and reach new audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. Social media empowers consumer retention.



(Image courtesy of Getty.)





3. How has your perspective of social media evolved throughout your life?

Growing up, I was one of the many people who viewed social media as a way to create a fake reality. I would constantly compare myself to other people’s profiles, lifestyles, bodies, and success. Today, I have a much fuller picture of the image that social media creates. I now use social media is a create tool to showcase experiences, spotlight local businesses, and discover what’s new.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)




My view of social media evolved throughout my life. Growing up, I was one of the many people who viewed social media as a way to create a fake reality. I would compare myself to other people's bodies, successes, etc. Today, I use social media to preview experiences and find new places.


(Image courtesy of Getty.)





4. How did your time at UCF impact your life?

UCF's location allows students to join the greater Orlando community. UCF is the top-rated hospitality program in the U.S. Consequently, UCF students, especially Rosen students, have the chance to work at world-class theme parks and attractions. Rosen students have the chance to work at world-class theme parks and attractions. During my time at Rosen, I was able to complete my industry internships working as a performer at all three major Orlando theme parks: Disney, Universal, and Sea World. My favorite thing about UCF is how everyone supports other people's successes. When I was marketing director of Knight-Thon, I worked with supportive people across different departments to create a fantastic event.



(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)


After college, I went to graduate school at Southern New Hampshire University, studying Communications and Media studies. Being a graduate student during the pandemic, I realized how social media could help people feel less alone and bring joy. Since completing my graduate degree, I have worked as a freelancer and eventually joined the UNATION team showcasing local Orlando businesses.



(Images courtesy of Ashley Edwards. The images depict Edwards with Guy Fieri at one of his Orlando restaurants, The Chicken Guy.)


5. How do you incorporate your mission and vision into your work?

My mission is to create authentic positive content that resonates with people. My vision is to put my best foot forward every day to shine a light on the good things happening in the world.




(Image courtesy of Ashely Edwards.)




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Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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