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. 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 WV11.co.uk 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?