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Consultant helps businesses with social media trends

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Observing the ever-changing marketing trend away from the phone book and toward Facebook, WV Social Media Consultants LLC was created to help businesses keep pace.

Based in Parkersburg since 2010, Kristin Meeks said her business specializes in e-marketing and social media training for nonprofit organizations and businesses on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other networks.

"I saw such a need in the area," said Meeks, who had initially implemented social media marketing for Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio, and her father's small business endeavors in Wood County.

That soon led to a nonprofit, an election campaign, a local photographer and a real estate agent who were searching for help. To date, Meeks says she has assisted more than 100 customers with anything from website navigation to integrated marketing communication. As demand increases, she plans to hire an intern this year.

Although business is growing, WV Social Media Consultants will remain "small and personal."

"I think that really goes hand-in-hand with social media being such a personal thing," said Meeks, who received degrees from Marietta College and West Virginia University.

"We've really seen a shift in marketing," she said. "The business of local business has changed. Maybe they are not seeing the typical return on investment from the traditional advertising avenues as they have seen in the past. So much of marketing is now communication. The competition is not just the business down the block. It's all over the world."

Social media, and thus her business, is evolving. 

"It started with more of the middle age people needing to take their business to the next level but didn't know how," said Meeks, who teaches occasionally at area colleges. "Now, I see a shift and get all ages, from their early 20s to retirees."

Social media changes so quickly, some clients want refresher sessions to stay up-to-date. 

"Social media is always changing," Meeks said. "That's what is great about my business. I have the same people coming back for more training. Some people may be intimidated by all of the changes and quit using it. That's not good."

A recent college graduate recently requested a session on how to generate leads with LinkedIn. 

"We're seeing a huge growth with social media," she said. "There's a great opportunity to grow business that way. If that's where people are, that's where your business needs to be."

What's the most common mistake?

"There all of these different social media popping up left and right," she said. "They may think that they have to be on all of them. That's not necessarily true. They may start out too big and get overwhelmed. It may not be beneficial for them to be on a ton of social media. I always tell people to start small. They should start where they are the most comfortable. That's where they will be the most successful."

For some, the best return on investment may be as simple as communicating through email.

"A lot folks are new to the online world," she said. "Email may be the only communication tool that they use."

Meeks is offering a social media "boot camp" from 8 a.m. until noon Feb. 27 at Grand Point Conference Center in Vienna. It will focus on the "big four" business-related social media of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. It's a hands-on experience with registration limited to 20 participants.

"I encourage people to bring their tablet, phone, laptop and actually implement these," she said.

Launched in 2004, Facebook now claims to have more than a billion active users. Users must register, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as friends and exchange messages. Meeks said businesses may find that it is a good way to create awareness and to get your name mentioned and products and services out there.

Around since 2003, LinkedIn is for those in professional occupations. As of June 2012, it reported more than 175 million registered users in more than 200 countries. 

Twitter is a networking and "micro-blogging" service that enables users to send and read text messages of up to 140 characters. Created in 2006, the network of 500 million users generates an estimated 340 million tweets daily. It's a good way to connect with others in your industry and be a good lead generator, according to Meeks.

Created in 2010, Pinterest is one of the latest fads available to the business world. It allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests and hobbies. Pinterest's mission is to "connect everyone in the world through things they find interesting." Meeks said it's more of a "fun, show-me" site.