Category Archives: WV11

Hyperlocals and Facebook

At the 2013 Talk About Local Unconference this last weekend I pitched a session to start a conversation around Hyperlocal and Other Social Media. We’ve had so much interest on our facebook page I wanted to find out what other Hyperlocals were using as well. Talk About Local Sessioni Proposal Post It As it turns out (most unsurprisingly for someone with a mouth the size of mine) I did most the talking –  I was asked lots about our experience of using Facebook particularly, and so this led me to ask the question – If you were looking to start your hyperlocal site now – could you just use a facebook page?

I didn’t answer this myself at the time – but my answer is no. I still see as our site and Facebook is an extension of that, it’s our discussion forum – If Wv11 is the place I live in – Facebook is the pub I go to talk about the stuff that happens there, with the people that live there.  BUT to expand on that –  I don’t think our hyperlocal would have been as successful as it has been without Facebook and with the experience I’ve gained I definitely wouldn’t try to launch a Hyperlocal without some kind of presence there.

We use other sites too – but this is definitely our communities platform of choice.


The original plan for Wv11 wasn’t for it to be news site as all – but a community discussion board.  A forum for local people to discuss local issues online.  we then added the resource page because we though “what else would be useful” and only then did the news feed appear as a way of  adding as a bit of google juice for people to find the forum when they were looking for information on the area.

We still wanted a way of promoting the forum to local people so we played with what was then a new feature of facebook, pages. We set it up with the same name and branding as the website and invited a few local friends  to become a fans.  We posted links to news articles from the site to the page (we still do) but still tried to kick conversations off on the sites forum – that didn’t last long.

6 months after launching the site we archived the discussion board, we simply had no local interest in it – people who had never used the internet socially before didn’t want to move from a platform they were familiar with  to discussions on the forum – they don’t even use the simple comment form in WordPress – but they didn’t have to. Our fans started commenting on links we had posted to facebook and other conversations naturally started to happen there.  We continued to post longer form news articles to the site but we focused our engagement where the people already were and it’s worked well.

Tip Top Tips

4 and a bit years on we have over 5000 facebook  fans  and  I think we have learned a lot about how to make the most of our page for the community we’ve built there. These are my 3 top tips.

1.Think mobile. When we post links to stories on the main site we try and summarise that content for mobile only readers – some people still wont or cant click on on external links from the page, especially those with contracts or PAYG mobiles that include free facebook browsing but not a lot of other data.

2. Photos, photos and more photos. Anything we post with an image is guaranteed to the get more love than either text or video.  It takes the lowest amount of effort from the reader to take in the information so they engage with it, which improves your reach. You can also invite readers to tag themselves and friends in photos from events. Videos are also popular but get less views from mobile than desktop. I think this maybe down to the data usage again.

3.Timing. Facebook insights are a wonderful thing. They are broken down to such an extent that we can even know when our fans are online – We get a graph that averages hourly visitor numbers over days  – but we can also see data for each day of the week which allows us to post when potentially the most people are online to reach the widest audience.

There are plenty more I could add to this, but what I’d actually like to know is what are your top facebook tips?

Unconferencing & Hyperlocal Blogging. My personal journey

This weekend was the 5th Talk About Local UnConference TAL13 for hyperlocal / community bloggers. I went along and it was while I was there it was I realised the TAL unconconfernce could be used to benchmark my very  personal “hyperlocal”  journey.

2009 – Stoke on Trent

Back in 2009 at TAL09  I was new to the Hyperlocal Scene. James and I had been running Wv11 for a very short period of time and  went along out of curiosity more than anything else. We set up the site not even knowing “hyperlocal” was a word let alone that there was an entire network of people running “hyperlocal” sites like ours across the country so it was to find out more about the people behind the sites and what motivated them to run them.

It was my first experience of the unconference format and I loved it even if I can’t even remember what sessions I attended but I remember the people.

I remember meeting Dan Slee for the first time in person – the only council press officer in a room full of council press officer bashing bloggers. I met for the first time my (now) boss Nick Booth,  who inspired me and reassured me that with  WV11 we were doing the right thing aiming to be community building news, not a council bashing / political news site in a room full of people who at the time it seemed were way more interested in politics and councils.   And Simon and Sally Perry from the then named Ventnor Blog – who had traveled to Stoke on Trent from the Isle of Wight to take part in the proceedings and countless other people from across the country who I stay in touch with via social media.

I also remember feeling out of my depth – I didn’t know yet who or what WV11 was – although I knew what I wanted it to be, I couldn’t hold my own in conversations about councils and policies and politics when I had no opinion and no experience to base them on. The thought of pitching and running a session terrified me . Despite this James and I did end up kind of running a conversation when the person who had pitched an idea didn’t turn up  and we had a group of people to talk to – I remember just asking a question about / giving an opinion on community engagement, comment moderation etc and ending up in a conversation about whether we were journalists or community volunteers.

I argued for the latter – but probably quite defensively as I quite keenly remember feeling my lack of experience against the big boys of Ed Walker from Blog Preston and Mike Rawlins from  (the now on a permanent break? ) Pits and Pots  among others.

In 2009 my Talk About Local unconference – was my trial by fire – BUT  I enjoyed every minute of it – and it started me on a journey to other events such Local Gov Camps and other unconfernces to continue my learning .  Although I didn’t get chance to attend another Talk About Local unconference until  2012.

2012 – Birmingham

2012 was a good year again for learning again. And despite at this point having won the Pride of Wolverhampton award for the work we’ve done with site  I still didn’t pitch for a session. For all the experience / success we’d had locally  I was still at the stage where I thought others had much more to share, so I went along  because I wanted to reconnect with other bloggers and also talk about our experiences running a hyperlocal site during the summer riots. Our readership had exploded – we’d jumped from a few hundred to a few thousand people connecting with us and I wanted more advice from the “Big boys”.

I found it easier this time to ask the questions I wanted answers to – because I knew what I wanted to learn and to take part in conversations and share stories. We’d worked on the site building an audience, developing our skills finding our identity as a community site. I had experiences to talk about.

At the same time I’d not long started working with Podnosh so I was just finding my feet there and I felt like I had a duel identity at this event – I wasn’t sure if I was wearing my Wv11 or work hat as the cross over between what I do for a living and the volunteering I do is vast at times and that left me unsure of where and when to express an opinion  – or maybe give advice  and so I felt my contributions were disjointed.

2013 – Middlesbrough

Fast forward to this years conference what a different experience.

5 years of running Wv11, countless encounters with bloggers  and  nearly 2 years into my job working at Podnosh, working with community groups, volunteers and local government helping them to get to grips with digital, social media and Hyperlocal and being forced (not literally) into public speaking. Talking to my peers and developing my skills – I went along feeling I had much much more to contribute and with a clear vision of what I wanted from the day and more importantly where I, and WV11 stand in the Hyperlocal landscape.

I had the confidence to go and get what I wanted from the groups – I had conversations with other hyperlocal bloggers and felt on par with them – had the confidence to go and get what I wanted from the groups –  I feel more secure knowing where the line is between work and WV11  and I had opinions and knowledge born from experience in both my voluntary and work roles that I could share and I felt I could contribute.

I pitched and facilitated 2 sessions – one around hyperlocal and OTHER social media – looking at the tools we use away from our main sites and one about Hyperlocal and running / helping with consultations focusing on a public art consultation we were involved in – I’m going to write about these separately. But the fact I had pitched for sessions rather than just sitting back and slotting myself into others spoke volumes.

I feel TAL 2013  is the year I realised I’ve found my feet as  hyperlocal blogger & in the hyperlocal community. Having these conferences as a benchmark to look back on how the both site and my confidence, in and out of the hyperlocal world has grown is a lovely thing.

I started WV11 with a clear idea of why I was doing it,  but with no idea of where it would take me both personally and professionally.  I have had so many wonderful unexpected experiences , made so many friends both online and off  through running the site – it even got me my job

I can’t wait until my next TAL so I can look back again and see where the next part of my journey takes me.