Several years ago I set up a hyperlocal blog to rant about my concerns with the goings on my local community. I had started to see a big deterioration in the high street and wanted to know if others shared my views and what if anything we could do about it.
After setting up the blog and a Twitter account I was amazed at how many locals read and commented on my posts. I soon realised though that rants weren’t enough, I had to get away from my computer and attend local meetings. I really never imagined myself ‘doing’ things for the betterment of my local area but people change.
It’s amazing how many people turn to you for information once you set up a hyperlocal blog. People expect you to know where all the good restaurants are, what is being built in the recently vacated plot of land and who has a knitting circle.
I was blogging for me but I was happy to share information with the local people. I didn’t see this as my responsibility; it was something I wanted to do. It wasn’t until a local on Twitter pulled me up that I realised that as a hyperlocal blogger I was perceived as having some responsibility for the community and that I was expected to give a balanced and bipartisan view in all things politics. GTFOH!
It was the time of Government elections and I had retweeted a funny tweet about David Cameron, a man I cannot abide. I feel I should be allowed to express my feelings right? Apparently not from my community account so I was told by this one guy who had only recently started following me.
I accepted his admonishment publicly but privately I was raging inside. Who the heck was this guy to tell me how to run MY Twitter? I ranted for day’s offline to family and friends until I came to the realisation that maybe he was right.
Running a hyperlocal blog is different from citizen journalism where you can take a politic stance and focus on causes that personally resonate with you. A hyperlocal blogger is responsible for getting the relevant information to the people so that they can act on it in the way that they choose. It’s not for me to put my spin on it in order to shape there thinking.
This realisation gave me no comfort and for a while I stopped blogging and toyed with the idea of shutting the blog down, I can be so childish when I’m annoyed. But I have another Twitter account where I can be as non-bipartisan as I want, I can air whatever views I want because it is MY Twitter, not the local community’s. And I have this blog where I can be as random as I please. After several months away from the blog I came back ready to embrace the responsibility foisted on me.
I’m glad I didn’t turn my back on the blog as I really do care about my community. I got a buzz from helping to galvanise the masses to march to save our local hospital.
And I don’t really have to go searching for information about what is happening in the area any more as our local Council and other local business send me press releases.
If you are thinking of starting a hyper-local blog here are some tips to get you started:
- Get yourself on council and community mailing lists so that you receive press releases and details of local events.
- Be prepared to attend some meetings so that you can report back either live via Twitter or with a video later.
- Make sure you connect with other hyper-local blogs and link to them, they will link back.
- Try to keep your leaning towards one political party to yourself.
- Keep an eye out for photo opportunities when you are out and about. Local pictures are better than stock photos when you’re writing about the area.
- Do it for love because ads barely cover your hosting costs.
- If you want to make some money set up a classifieds section but don’t be greedy. Some locals actually prefer not to pay.
Be prepared to attend the occasional high profile community meeting.
If the Olympic Torch Relay comes to your town try to get a better view
Finally, if you stop enjoying what you are doing, take a break and recharge your batteries.