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?
I write about things to do in the area and beyond on my blog, Upper Valley Fun.
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.
On my blog About Norwich, I write about people and events in and around Norwich, VT.
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?
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....
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.
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.
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?
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
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!
Reach out to the community and the people around you, as everyone has a story to tell and most love telling it.
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?
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.
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.
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".
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.