By Rachel Goff

“Life is too short to feel like a loser if you’re not tweeting every day,” Rob Williams said in the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce’s HigherMind Mediaworks workshop designed to help its members incorporate more forms of emergent media into their everyday business practice without feeling overwhelmed by the increasing number of options available.

“You have to be conscious of a balance,” Williams told representatives from Paradise Market & Deli, Barrie Fisher Photographers, Mad River Web and Artisans’ Gallery, who came together at Quench Art Space on Thursday, June 21, for the workshop.

While social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook help businesses start conversations about their products or services, those conversations can continue with only the smallest amount of effort on the part of the small business owner if he or she can establish connections within the online community.

“Conversation is queen, but collaboration is king,” Williams said, and he repeated this phrase many times over the following two hours, stressing that by working together businesses can greatly expand their audiences.

For example, a photo that Barrie Fisher Photographers posts to Facebook will get many more “likes” if Artisans’ Gallery then shares it with their Facebook fans. Effectively utilizing emergent media, Williams explained, “is really about how much you can get other people to talk about what you’re doing.”

While the workshop’s attendees came to understand the larger collaborative network that drives new media, still many of them do not know how to use it. Many small business owners don’t know where to put a hash tag on a Twitter post. Many don’t even know how to upload a profile picture to Facebook. “I just don’t know what buttons to press,” one member said in exasperation.

So while the workshop was successful on a theoretical level, many small business owners would benefit from sitting down with someone who is well-versed in social media and having them walk them through the steps needed to create and maintain an emergent media site.

But don’t hire someone to do emergent media for you,” Williams advised. “Hire someone to teach you how to do it,” he said.

“The way we process and share information is changing more and more each day, and the better a business can keep up with emergent media, the greater the chance they’ll be successful,” he said.