Nadworny: Social media as community

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(HOST) Commentator Rich Nadworny is noticing a pandemic sweeping Vermont, but it’s not spelled H1N1. It’s spelled Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

(NADWORNY) This summer I was part of founding and launching something called Burlington Social Media Breakfasts. When I put together the original event I was hoping to generate interest and to help build community and connections. Now, after the second event, what I found is that we’ve tapped into a topic that brings people together with a passion. Maybe, when it comes to digital media, Vermont’s time has arrived.

I helped organize the first breakfast started for two reasons: For one, I had missed a big conference in Austin back in March. For the other, after 10 years back in Vermont, I felt frustrated that we had such a lousy digital community. Boston, where I worked for several years, has a great community. I thought, this is Vermont; we should be good at this. But we weren’t.

At the two events this summer, it was great to see everyone, from the small, business like Tall Paul’s and Cynthea’s Spa, to the great, Vermont brands like Burton Snowboard and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Everyone is trying to get a handle on this thing called social media.

At the first conference, Boston based maven C. C. Chapman put it best as he crafted a presentation for us called "Social Media is Like Small Town USA." When I talked to C. C. before the event and described the mix of people who most likely would come, he got it right away. C. C.’s a Lebanon, N.H. native and he understands northern New England people.

His angle was that in towns and villages like ours, there are personal connections wherever we go and with whomever we meet. Social media is like that. Rather than being big and impersonal, like advertising, social media is about relationships between real people.

We here in Vermont have always hailed the Internet as something that should help our businesses compete, since we don’t have big cities and companies here don’t have big advertising budgets. Since the Net removes geographic barriers to commerce, that should aid our geographically challenged state. But the reality is that so far the Internet hasn’t helped Vermont more than anyone else.

Maybe social media is the game changer we’ve been looking for. There’s something special about living in Vermont, in our openness and in the way we treat people. It’s why so many, I believe, end up moving their families here.

If Vermont businesses can capture this quality and project it into social media, we might have a winning combination. Places like Magic Hat are already doing it.

There certainly is a lot of interest. I’m sensing a sort of social media contagion: every business meeting I attend ends up talking about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The social media breakfasts and the club we’re putting together, give Vermont businesses a chance to connect regularly and get smarter about this fast moving area. My hope is that we can provide a needed catalyst for the whole state.

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