Calling all Champions of Local: Become a HereCast Ambassador!

What is a HereCast Ambassador?

They are champions of local, committed to connecting fellow locals in their community and empowering others to share what’s happening around them in order to create a thriving local here and now network. 

Does that sound like you? Read on! 

HereCast Ambassadors…

  • Provide the team at HereCast with regular feedback and ideas about updates and features

  • Sport their HereCast swag

  • Spread the word about HereCast through word of mouth, online, in their communities etc…

And they get…

  • One-of-a-kind t-shirts, notepads and stickers for themselves and to share with friends.

  • Intel on upcoming features and events

  • Invites to paid user testing sessions

If you’d like to become a HereCast Ambassador, shoot me (Jennifer) an email to jennifer@herecast.us and I’ll dub thee HereCast Ambassador for life.

New on HereCast: Like Counts

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Starting today, you will see an update to the like button. Likes will now be counted! Months ago we changed what was the bookmark, which allowed users to save a post for later, to a heart. Since then we’ve decided to enhance the feature. The like count will appear next to the heart on all posts. By doing so, we want to give readers the power to show their support for posts they love and keep track of everything they’ve liked. 

You may have heard that Instagram and Facebook might be doing away with like counts all together. Why go against the trends of Instagram and Facebook? Well first of all, we aren’t trying to be them. 

We are building HereCast to be a place for locals to post and discover what’s happening around them, as well as show their love for local. We see like counts as a way for readers to be able to show their support for those who post beyond just a pageview, and give fellow readers a sense of what others in their area find important. In order to like a post you must be a registered user, so you can trust that engaged locals are the ones providing the feedback. 

We hope you will see this feature as a way to thank your neighbors and community members for taking their time to share local information with you. Whether it’s an upcoming event, a story about a new restaurant, town information… whatever it might be, if you like it, click the heart! 

Got feedback for us? Let us know what you think by emailing us at help@herecast.us

Best, 

The HereCast team 


Tips from 4 HereCast Contributors on How to Build A Following

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We asked 4 different locals about their pages, what got them interested in sharing local information with their community, and how they built a following:

Here’s what they had to say. 

What is the name of your page and what do you generally write about?

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I write about things to do in the area and beyond on my blog, Upper Valley Fun.

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My page is e-Ticker News of Claremont, which is my e-newspaper.  I publish a new edition each Monday which is accessible via our website or by email.  Since I am in the news business, my posts are news-slated but are a combination of both hard and soft news stories.


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On my blog About Norwich, I write about people and events in and around Norwich, VT. 

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The name of my page is Old Roads, Rivers and Rails. I generally write about old routes, and historical things of interest using old maps:  Things like taking hikes to find old, hidden, overgrown cemeteries, old foundations in the woods, lost highways, and hiking in search of things seen depicted on old maps. I also enjoy nature photography, and making videos, using music I've written and recorded.


How do you decide what to write about? Do you plan your posts ahead of time or write them on the spot?

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I started (Upper Valley Fun) to create a local resource where people can find things to do.  I would constantly be feeling like there was nothing to do and search online for ideas. I thought, well maybe other people want ideas of things to do too. The blog has also been a place to help find those hidden gems and local spots… 

I started writing about adventures I took with my sons, mostly walks… When I think about what to write I think of some place everyone might know about, like the Montshire Museum of Science.  Then I think, what might people not know about this place? How can I put a new twist on a local favorite? I think about what I want to know and struggles I have in the area, like what to do on a rainy/winter day with two kids or where to get a great cake

The local Facebook group (Upper Valley VT/NH)  is an excellent resource to gauge what to write about because people post questions and recommendations all the time.  I have a growing list of post ideas. Facebook groups and comments on an article in general provide content ideas. 

I have limited time to write, so I plan out post ideas and sometimes even outline them ahead of time.  Then when I go to write I'm not sitting at a blank screen. Sometimes I write a post on the spot, but only if I come across something in my research I think is quite timely....


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My posts are a combination of stories we cover, some of which come up between the weekly editions of the e-Ticker.  They may be breaking news stories, items of interest that come up during the week or stories that may be featured in the weekly edition.  While hard news attracts a wide audience, I will try to post softer stories of general interest as well, perhaps a feature on an individual or program, a special event coming up, something along those lines.



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I started posting because often times you don’t know anything about someone until they die. If people have a story to tell then now is the time to do it and I want to help with that. I was also Postmaster for Norwich, VT for a long time and I know a lot of people with interesting stories that I thought should be told.  

I mostly write about what I strikes me at the moment, however I do write about event happenings and do not discriminate so I stay pretty busy. I also refuse to do any political stories. I used to film municipal board meetings for several communities in the Upper Valley and was turned off by politics. 



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Boy, that's a good question!  One day last winter I wanted to write a post, but had a mental block.  So I went out and did some cross-country skiing. I ended up taking photos and videos while I skied out my front door, and edited them into a video/slideshow with some music I wrote and played in the background.  But usually, I just wait for an opportunity to write about something fun, and it usually relates to something I was researching or learning about that I wanted to investigate further. I also have several drafts I've started, and sometimes I go back and finish one of them.

Mostly I plan my posts ahead of time.  Many of them take hours and often over several days, before I'm done putting the finishing touches on a post.  When I'm finally done, I usually publish mine early in the morning, but sometimes I'll publish on the spot, like the ones I did about the big staircase coming down at the "Big Dig" in Hanover.  Most of what I publish though, is anything but breaking news!



What advice would you give to other contributors that are trying to find their audience and build a following?

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Find your niche. There are plenty of topics people aren't talking about… We are all unique and have stories to offer. Embrace this and your voice will help you grow a following. A lot of bloggers get followers because the stories they tell resonate with others. Cancered Plans and The Mothership are great examples.  

Kerry from Cancered Plans talks about her experience with a terminal illness in a frank and inviting way, helping us with tough situations with a beautiful perspective.  Her posts are enlightening and inspiring, often getting many comments. The lovely lady from the Mothership also writes about her experiences. She uses funny titles and pictures to really draw you in and tells little stories from her life many of us can relate to.  


Share on Social Media and Talk to Other Bloggers 

Use Facebook groups, your own Facebook, write with someone else who has a greater following or do a combined feature… talk to other people and share your writing.  Remember you're not just limited to people in the area, go bigger if you want. Want to write about local history? Maybe there's an online website that would love you to post about that. 

Be Patient and Kind to Yourself.  

Don't worry if it takes a while.  My other blog the Thankful Spoon is still a work in progress trying to figure out what locals want.  Some posts get no hits, some get a few, some get more... Sometimes it's a guessing game. Don't give up.  Ask people what they want to know. Have friends and people you trust provide you with feedback on your posts.  Is it your photo, headline, post format? I know I still have to work on catchy headlines… I started with really long posts and now write shorter ones (because we're all busy).  You'll get there. It just takes time and be open to where it takes you.  


Try Different Post Types 

Surveys, Q and As etc.  I like this article on post templates and this article is also good on how to write a really good post.


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Focus on what interests you the most and write about that.  Don’t spread yourself too thin by being too general or trying to cover too many topics.  Write about what you know and love, what's important to you!  

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Reach out to the community and the people around you, as everyone has a story to tell and most love telling it.


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I would say to write about what you find interesting, and see if it interests anyone else out there, and just go from there. I figure that if you put your best effort out there, someone will hopefully appreciate it and encourage you. For instance, I'll bet there are birders out there that are also good at presenting photos and useful, interesting information to the public about birds.  There's a lot of topics for folks to focus on.

When I get emails or comments from readers, I try to respond, converse, and learn from them.  Many reader comments and emails have encouraged me to continue with the blog, and also have helped guide me to what sort of things I wanted to blog about.  When I started last December, I thought I would use the blog mostly as a platform for my music videos, but I quickly realized that was more of a side thing.  I really like maps and history, and it turns out, so does a bunch of other folks. I really like using photographs and images along with text to tell a story, and inspire imagination, thought and comment.  Sometimes I'll do it with a video too.  


What platform or resources have you found to be most helpful with spreading the word about your page/posts?

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Facebook groups has been the most helpful, but make sure you don't overwhelm the group with too many of your posts, and make sure you read the rules... My posts about meals on a hot day should not go in the Upper Valley Facebook group.  I find a different audience and platform for that and know that broader, more popular topics take a lot longer to grow because so many people are talking about it.

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Once I post a story on Herecast and the link is ready, I post that link on the e-Ticker News Facebook page.  With over 13,800 followers from a wide area on Facebook now, that gives us a ready audience for Herecast. It’s a great partnership for us. 

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I am very active in my community and serve on several non-profit boards... I reach out to them and they reach out to me about posts. The word is "communication”... it is a two way street.  The only tools you need are the ability to listen and… provide feedback that is honest/genuine and… treat people as you would want to be treated, and that is with "respect".

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My focus… has been to build subscribers. That way, if I don't really try to spread the word, I know that at least that many readers have been reached.  Mostly, I think… (the) HereCast platform… have been extremely helpful in spreading the word! Thanks for providing the platform for us. 

Stay Organized: Create a Content Calendar to Free You From Writer’s Block

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Some posts come easy, while other posts… not so much. To avoid getting stuck and jump start your mind, get organized with a local content calendar. 

By creating a local content calendar you aren’t just keeping yourself organized, if your posts are more consistent in tone and topic it will also help you grow your readership. Here are some tips to help you keep track of sources, local information and upcoming events that you might one day want to post about.

Take note of seasonal happenings

If you’re posting about what’s happening around you, take note of seasonal events and activities. Take 10 minutes and quickly jot down a list of local events or topics you might like to write about in the upcoming months. 

Take this list for example: 

September: 

  • Town Labor day parade 

  • Community Supper (September 4th)

  • Selectboard meeting (September 8th) 

  • Apple pie recipes

  • Favorite hiking trails 

  • Local fair (September 12-15)

  • Foliage 

  • Apple picking

  • Art opening (September 19th) 

(repeat for the coming months) 

This doesn’t mean that you will write about everything on your list, it will just allow you to plan ahead and might spark some ideas for posts. 

Subscribe to local mailing lists or newsletters 

Being a contributor means you are a champion of local (Yes, you are and it’s awesome. Own it!) The more organized you are, the easier and more fun it will be to share local info with those on HereCast and beyond. Whether it’s a restaurant you love, an organization you volunteer for, or your town’s email list, be sure to subscribe to their email list or bookmark their website.


There’s a #National___day for everything. Get in on the fun!

There truly is a day for everything. National Pizza Day (February 9th), National Margarita Day (February 22nd), National Dog Day (August 26th) the list goes on. And on. 

Although these days might seem silly, (looking at you National No Socks Day) they also provide you with a prompt.

For example: in preparation for National Eat Outside Day (August 31st) you could write about or compile a list of your favorite local spots to eat outside, whether that be a restaurant, local park, a trail, or even your own backyard. 

If you want to lose an afternoon of your life - you can read all of the national holidays here

Your local content calendar doesn’t need to be fancy. It could be a simple word doc where you store your ideas, your calendar app on your phone, or an actual paper calendar where you jot down ideas and events. Whatever works!  The most important thing is that you feel ready and excited to post, when you want to post. 


Are you already doing something like this? Send me your tips to help@herecast.us and I’ll include them at the end of this post.

Why Your Featured Image Matters and How to Choose One Readers Will Remember

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Choosing the right featured image is important. Think of it as the icing on the cake! No post is complete without an engaging image.  Along with your title, your featured image plays a huge role in someone deciding to take their time to click on your post.

When choosing a featured image, lean towards a photo that:

  • Catches the eye

  • Is of a specific location

  • Is of a person. 

  • Is bright, or has good lighting

And avoid using:

  • A small or pixelated image

  • A photo with words on it. Why? Words can be distracting and can get distorted or cropped when shared on other sites or social media platforms. In some cases it can work, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid it.

If you are unable to use a photo you took yourself or a photo you have been given permission to use, you can use the following free stock photo sites. 

  1. Upsplash

  2. Stocksnap.io

  3. Creative Commons

There are thousands of incredible (and free!) photos taken by professionals on these sites, which is great, but can be overwhelming to wade through if you aren’t sure what kind of photo you are looking for.

Searching for images on stock photo sites:

Most stock photo sites require you to type in keywords to sort images. Instead of typing in a string of keywords, simply type in one keyword that might apply to the general theme of your post. 

For example, if you have a post about an upcoming music event you could type in “guitar” or “music”. If you are searching for an image from Vermont or New Hampshire, simply type in “Vermont” or “New Hampshire”. Most of these stock photo sites have a small selection of local images. 

Looking for more options? Using Google you can find free images as well. 

To find fair use images on Google:

  1. Go to Google.com 

  2. Type in what you are looking for 

  3. Select “Images”

  4. Click “Tools”

  5. Click “Usage rights”

  6. Select “Labeled for reuse” 

Looking for photo size guidelines? We got you. View them here.

Stand Out Online: Your Guide to Titling your Post

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You did it. You created a post and you’re ready to publish. But wait… you need a title, and you’re stuck. Before you throw out the first title that comes to mind, take a minute to ask yourself:

  • What problem does your post solve? 

  • What question does your post answer?

And here’s why:

Keep in mind organic search

What is organic search? Organic search is when an individual types a string of search terms into a browser. Results are based on how the search algorithm rates how well a piece of content matches the user’s search terms.

For example, imagine someone is looking for fun events in Vermont this weekend. They might search for “Events in Vermont” or “Things to do in Vermont this weekend.” If your post answers the question “What should I do this weekend” then you could title your post “5 Things to do in Vermont this Weekend.” 

Organic search is a simple way for a reader to discover your posts and become a returning reader. When writing your posts think about what someone might search to find what you’ve written.  Your prospective audience doesn’t just live on HereCast, they live all over the world wide web.

Title your post appropriately

Keep in mind that online is no place to be vague. 

  • If you are writing about a specific person, include their name in the title. 

  • If you are writing about a specific business or location, include that business’s name and the name of the town in your title. 

  • The title should inform readers what the post is about while making them want to read more. 

Examples of really simple, yet engaging local content titles are:

"Brownsville Butcher & Pantry is delightful" 

The question that would come from reading this headline is “Why is it delightful?” and then a user might click through to find out what exactly makes it delightful. Also adding in the name of the town is a way to attract people who are specifically interested in that town or the surrounding area.

"Sgt. Frank on Norwich, Vermont: 'I just fell in love with the community'" 

Again this places the reader in the town of Norwich Vermont and a quote is a nice way to draw people in. It doesn’t have to be a fancy headline at all. Just something that is understandable and makes people want to read more. 

Avoid click-baity post titles that include phrases such as: 

  • “You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next”

  • “Click To Find Out”

  • “10 Things You Didn’t Know About…” 

You want a reader to click and feel good about spending their time reading your post. Don’t try to trick them into clicking on it, just to get a view. This could lead readers to think your posts are untrustworthy.

It all started as a word doc: Mitzi Cunningham and how she created the page Weekend Wanderers

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By: Jennifer Sensenich

Mitzi Cunningham is organized. She loves lists, “especially bucket lists” she quickly adds. It’s no surprise considering she started Weekend Wanderers, which is now one of the region’s go-to resources for family-friendly events and activities in the Upper Valley. 

Before creating her page Mitzi regularly created a word doc for her neighbors and friends filled with lists of day trips, kid-friendly hikes and weekend events. She explains how at the time her friend suggested she start her own blog, but the prospect of creating and managing a website deterred her. 

In late 2015 Mitzi found a home for these word docs by joining the site and posting weekly, but this time her audience grew past her friends and neighbors, to the rest of the Upper Valley community. “It felt natural since I was doing it already. I love to research events… and (with HereCast) you can be your own boss.” 

Nearly 4 years later, Weekend Wanderers now has close to 700 local subscribers on HereCast and over 1,000 Facebook followers. One Upper Valley local expressed her love for Weekend Wanderers in a local publication Seven Days back in March 2017 saying “she plans her weekend using Mitzi Cunningham's regular ‘5 Upper Valley Weekend Events’ post.” Since day 1 she has used her page on Facebook to promote her posts. “I saw the response to pages on Facebook and saw it as a huge source to grow my readership.”

When asked what she liked most about writing these posts she quickly answered “The response was very positive and it helped me feel more connected to my community… People were recognizing me and telling me ‘I read it all the time’… There are so many people that I met that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Got a secret word doc or blog you only share with a select few? Reach fellow locals and create a following by sharing to HereCast.

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Note: Mitzi Cunningham recently moved out of New England and has passed Weekend Wanderers to another Upper Valley local. She explained to us that it was important she pass it on. “I will probably continue to find and share awesome events… I’m a very organized person and like making lists.”

Happy 500th Post: Susan Apel’s not-so-secret-secrets to writing about arts and culture around Vermont and New Hampshire

Lucky’s Cafe in Lebanon, NH | Photo: Susan Apel

Lucky’s Cafe in Lebanon, NH | Photo: Susan Apel

By: Jennifer Sensenich

For almost 4 years, Susan Apel has been writing about the arts and culture in and around Vermont and New Hampshire on her page ArtfulEdge. From performances to art exhibits, local eats and new businesses, Susan always seems to have her finger on the pulse of what locals want to know. Recently, one of her most read posts was about how she discovered a local donut shop. (And yes, what we do need more of in this world is great donut shops. I dare you to disagree.) 

Just last week Susan shared her 500th post on HereCast thanking her readers by expressing, “A profound and heartfelt thank you to each and every reader and subscriber. It’s been quite the ride.” As a local content creator, this is a big milestone. It’s one thing to write, but to write consistently & authentically while building your audience is a gift. 

So how does she do it? 

Love what you do, do what you love

First of all, she loves what she is writing about. It’s a whole lot easier to write about something that is already a big part of your life. If you’re looking to write more, immerse yourself in what you love to do. Get out in your community and start talking to people, attending events… discovering. 

And most importantly...

Walk

Yes, really. Walk. Susan explains how she has discovered so much about her community on accident. “There is a raft of other stories that fall right into my metaphorical lap as I simply walk, run, or dance through what would otherwise be just an ordinary day.” Whether it’s discovering a new restaurant she never noticed, or coming upon an archeological dig, there is so much going on around us that we might not notice otherwise. I give you permission, put that computer down and get outside. 

Bookmark your resources

Have a Facebook page? Be sure to follow pages and groups that relate to what you want to write about. Many businesses, organizations or people post regular updates on their Facebook pages that can lead to inspiration for posts. (Pro tip: When you go to follow a page be sure to click “See first” in your newsfeed so you don’t have to wade through cat videos to get there. Well, unless of course you want to.) 

Sign up for local newsletters. Become an expert on what’s going on around you by getting relevant info delivered straight to your inbox. Whether it’s a local business, organization or new source, if they’ve got a newsletter, click subscribe. 

Write authentically 

As content contributors for our communities, sometimes we might feel like we are waiting for the perfect post idea that will get ‘enough reads’. Boy is that a lot of pressure! There is a reason why Instagram has started hiding likes from users’ posts. Our world has become so obsessed with getting more likes, more views, more comments that we’ve left our authentic voices behind to simply get “more” whatever that might be. So, I’m just here to remind you that whatever you write about matters. It matters because you care about it. Be authentic and you will find your audience. You might even find yourself like Susan, 500 posts in with so many more stories to share. 

Happy 500th post, Susan!  All of us at HereCast would like to thank Susan for her contributions. All thanks to her, local readers are 500 posts richer in knowing things they might not have known before. You can read Susan’s 500th post here.

HereCast & local news

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As we continue to grow HereCast into an information resource for local communities, we’d like to offer some of our thoughts about how HereCast fits into the overall online content ecosystem.

First of all, we’re not a news organization. We have no editorial staff or reporters and we don’t assign or approve stories before they are published. 

Second, we designed our platform to allow existing local news organizations, freelancers and and any other locals who care about their community to share their updates and perspectives. We are complementary to other sources of information, and ownership of the content remains with the contributors. If local news organizations want to distribute any or all of their stories on our platform, they can get paid for their content and build awareness and readership.

Finally, the HereCast experience will be defined by you and the people around you. We rely on the individuals and organizations in each community to help define what is interesting and important to them based on how they use the site. Much like walking up to a public bulletin board in the middle of town, we hope to see a diverse collection of content made readily available to browse for any location. Some posts are going to be professionally written, highly relevant and extremely interesting, while others may seem incomplete or unnecessary. Your participation will influence how it is used.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to continue our expansion, and we hope that you will join us and give us your feedback so we can best serve the needs of locals.

Using HereCast for your local community

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Our mission at HereCast is to help keep people informed and aware of the things that are important to their local community. We encourage people working to strengthen their communities to add HereCast to their toolset for reaching their fellow locals. 

Here are a couple of ways community builders can use HereCast:

Drive awareness and get people involved

HereCast is an open, easy to use and free platform. Municipal officials and nonprofit leaders can quickly create a page on HereCast and start posting to your local community. It’s like a free digital bulletin board to post your announcements, updates, news and more. 

By posting on HereCast, organizations can reach their people to share information about upcoming efforts and decisions, and to drive awareness of all that they do with the broader community. 

Share the hidden stories that make your town special

So much about a local community is locked in the memories and conversations of the people who experience the place. Much of it fades away, not documented for the others who love the town to experience and cherish for years to come.

By finding and sharing these stories online, you can help give new power to these hidden tales, helping others discover the richness of interesting people and places that surround you. Increase pride in your community by making your town’s stories accessible and discoverable.

How could HereCast help strengthen your community? We’re just getting started and would love to know how we can help you achieve your goals. Please join us and give us your feedback to help us be the best place to share and discover local information.