WILMINGTON -- A hands-on workshop will offer local nonprofits and other organizations the opportunity to improve or create a social media presence.

"I believe that social media is really an effective marketing tool to grow whatever their nonprofit, farm or town is," said Wilmington Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk. "It's a good communication tool. With a library, it would be to increase readership or use of the library. So, it's really key advertising and it's free."

On April 23, any local non-profit organization, farm or municipal organization is invited to attend this workshop at the Twin Valley High School library in Wilmington. It will run from 5 to 7 p.m. and there will be free pizza.

Experts on the subject will be performing "social media surgeries" that will assist nonprofits with reaching audiences through the medium.

Approximately 18 groups can sign up to participate. Havreluk says it's important to register beforehand, otherwise groups cannot attend.

The workshop is part of the Vermont Digital Economy grant that Wilmington received, which resulted in the installation of a wi-fi hotspot downtown. The stated goal of the grant work is to build more resilient communities by using new technology and improving communication through the Internet.

This workshop will likely be the last one provided through the grant in Wilmington. In general, other Digital Economy workshops hosted in Wilmington did not have a high turn-out, Havreluk told the Reformer.


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At this event, experts will be giving their attention and focus to individual groups' Facebook and other social media accounts. If the group does not have an account, one will be created there.

"This isn't like any other workshop most of these nonprofits have attended," said Rob Fish, Non-profit Advisor and Community Organizer for the Digital Economy Project. "There's no long PowerPoint presentations. We're going to be immediately breaking off into groups and the nonprofits will be matched with a social media surgeon. They will be working one-on-one or in very small groups, two to three maximum."

Along with Facebook, Twitter and Front Porch Forum will be discussed by the experts, who will be working to improve the groups' social media presence. Wilmington recently entered the Front Porch Forum by having enough community members sign up for the service.

Fish told the Reformer that evaluations regarding the workshops in other areas were overwhelmingly positive.

"Groups seem to benefit from one-on-one attention," he said. "Everyone that's attended has left with a better Facebook page or a better understanding of how to use Twitter."

According to Fish, there is an expectation from modern consumers that organizations have a professional online presence. Hosting these types of workshops can present the challenge of addressing different ability levels of the attendees.

"No matter what you cover, somebody will already know what you're explaining and somebody else will feel left behind. It's a very difficult balance," he said. "The purpose of social media surgeries is to help people achieve small victories and breakthroughs in their understanding of social media. These small victories lead to stronger organizations and stronger communities."

There are two other social media workshops scheduled in the region. On May 1, there will be one at the Bennington Free Library from 6 to 8 p.m. and another will be held on June 18 at the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro from 6 to 8 p.m.

Typically, organizers get 15 to 20 groups signed up and have five to 10 surgeons available for consulting. Small businesses were not invited to attend the Digital Economy Project workshops because the Vermont Small Business Development Center is hosting similar workshops.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.