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Creating a Hyper-Local Monster: Mix A Blog Energy Drink

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A Blog Energy Drink

Photo by: Jayjay402


It’s Alive

I’ve been in the shadows for a while now, building the monster I call a hyper-local news blog.  I had promised a series of articles chronicling the trials and tribulations of getting it going and making it a success.  What I have found is that success is hard to define, but it has something to do with traffic statistics.

I was inspired to go local purely for the challenge. I defined my target geographic area, decided on a platform (WordPress), and launched the site.  What I didn’t count on was how hard it would be to populate that thing with meaningful content.  It’s a big job.

Like all big jobs, I took it one step at a time… which means one post at a time.  My first post was the formal site announcement.  I felt I needed to define what the site was all about… and I did.  But that post was pretty meaningless since it did nothing but lie to my audience.  I promised them relevant local news and information… and sadly weeks passed and I hadn’t published diddly squat.

Make a Source List

So I decided to mix my first ‘local blog energy drink’: A set of hand-picked bookmarks I compiled under one handy drop-down menu that contained almost every local website with any updated local news and information.  It took a few hours to compile my first concoction.  I had about 25 sites in my brew, and all easily accessible with one click from my browser toolbar.  Why not an RSS reader?  Because fortunately for me most of the local sites are not taking advantage of the wonderful world of RSS.  Here are some source ideas:

  • Local Newspapers – this is a no-brainer, but there are quite a few more than I originally knew about.  We have the city-wide paper which has a local section just for my area of the city, and even a blog to go along with it.
  • Local EDC – The economic development council always has a nice juicy set of press releases published in it’s own news section
  • Local Chambers and Clubs – I was surprised to find that we have 2 chamber of commerce sites covering my area, a Rotary Club, and Exchange Club, Toastmasters, Charity organizations, and a handful of other ‘networking’ groups with websites that contain events calendars and local news releases.  These are great sources.
  • Local ‘free’ publications – We have a couple of local magazines and free weeklies that circulate in print, but also have an online presence.
  • School District PR Department – The press and communications section of the local school district sites has a ton of press-releases circulating every week. When I say a ton, I mean 3-5 per week.
  • Local Real Estate Blogs – Of all of the businesses out there, It was safe to say that real estate agents are the ones that are really blogging their hearts out.  Although the numbers are still low, it was rare to find a local blogger in my area that was actively publishing that wasn’t a real estate agent.  In my area, there are quite a few that are caught up in the Localism fever.  Hey, whatever works… but I would prefer to host my own blog.
  • Other Local Blogs – There are a few local businesses that maintain blogs not related to real estate.  A majority of small business and personal blogs were ‘mommy blogs’ having to do with perenting and kids activities.  Beleive it or not, these are some of my favorite news sources.  They tend to focus on fun stuff, events, and ways to save money in the area.
  • HOA Sites –  Compile a list of neighborhood HOA sites for a grab bag of sometimes petty but still useful news and information.  This is the stuff that great news is made of if you can compile the calendars for the month and re-post this information.
  • Church Websites – Some church sites contain event calendars, and some church event turn-outs are not too shabby.

After I referred to my list, finding subject matter for local content was easy.  I just bit the bullet and started to write.  One post turned into two, and now we are publishing up to 4 articles per day with no problem.

Be a Link Journalist

I refer to my site list almost daily, and I am never at a loss for things to post.  Press releases are extremely helpful, because you can legally post them in their entirety and add your own unique flavoring in the form of a paragraph at the beginning or end… or re-word them like a bonafide journalist.

Compiling this list is not unlike what a real journalist does for story research.  Many times I will find tht multiple sources will cover the same story or announcement.  This presents a great opportunity for combining the best information form multiple sources, quoting, and practicing good link journalism.

Events and Longevity

You may be saying to yourself… an event post will not be relevant when the event is over… It would be a waste of time.  You are right and wrong.  Articles announcing events are not-relevant after the event has passed, but some of my largest traffic spikes are due to event posts.  Events posts take less time to write, since a press release usually covers every detail and they are straight forward.  Another benefit to publishing upcoming events is that they make great link-bait.  I have acquired quite a few inbound links because of event articles.

What to Cover

A local blog can cover a lot.  New developments, business openings, community events, school awards and recognition, sports coverage, job market changes, freeway and road developments, city meetings, chamber events, accomplishments by local people, top 10 lists, restaurant reviews, neighborhood profiles, and all kinds of other things.

Some experts suggest that a real estate blog should stick to real estate.  All I can say is, the local blog covering anything and everything that has to do with my little corner of the earth in Katy, Texas is averaging over 250 unique (and local) visitors per day in a little over 4 months.  Although every visitor is not looking to buy or sell a home, there are many stages in the customer life cycle.  Sean Purcell at Bloodhound Blog offers another perspective:

The goal of almost all real estate marketing has been, and continues to be, relating your expertise in the community.  The question you want to put in their head is: who better to help them sell their home than you?  You know the neighborhood inside and out.  More important still is the conversation they will have with a family member, friend or co-worker.  It begins with the future client saying: “I have been thinking about moving to your neighborhood.  I hear the schools are great, the homes are beautiful and everyone turns out for the 4th of July parade.”

There is more to the story… but I am happy with the results so far.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan

    October 14, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Carson –

    Thanks for this. I’m in the process of building another hyper local blog from scratch, and I’d forgotten just how much work it is to get started and to populate it. It’s a lot of work and time! What’s frustrating for me is that this new one doesn’t have local bloggers with whom to network … but that’s just another opportunity.

    Now … to sign up for the school pressers …

  2. Jonathan Dalton

    October 14, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Here’s my question … why a full-on blog and not just a blogsite? Is there sufficient competition in this hyper local area that it’s the only way to differentiate yourself?

    Not trying to be argumentative, in all honesty. But I’ve come to believe you can accomplish as much in terms of lead generation with a hyper local blogsite with the only dynamic changes being the listings than you can by killing yourself searching for content.

    At least, that’s what I’m seeing here.

  3. Ryan Hukill

    October 14, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Carson, thanks for the in-depth explanation of your thought process and how you got there. I have a similar blog in my area, and also struggle with what to post at times, so your list here gave me a few ideas. Sounds like you’re approach is working.

  4. Kim Wood

    October 14, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Perfect timing, Carson. I am in the process of building a few neighborhood focused blogs.

    Your source list is awesome! Lots of work to set up, lots of work to keep content flowing… but hopefully the benefits will roll in! I’m hoping to find one or two local bloggers/residents that will help to post as well.

  5. Susan Milner

    October 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Ok, I need to do this. Wow, what a lot of work.

  6. ines

    October 14, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Congratulations – I know it can be a lot of work. There is a hyperlocal blog here in Miami (not real estate related) but has become the place to go for news that pulls links from all kinds of sources. The author posts 3 times or more per day – a morning sift with interesting news from local blogs, a water cooler with links to actual news from the media and an evening sift (sometimes he even does personal posts with his take on things). – Talk about work!!! but he has become the place to go for the latest and greatest.

  7. Mark Eckenrode

    October 14, 2008 at 9:44 am

    the blog looks great.. nice content, too.

    now, i need to echo dalton’s comments and ask why a full blown local events blog? if the purpose of the blog (and i may have this wrong) is to build your real estate business, then why create a site that functions as a newspaper of sorts? i’m not seeing how the blog builds your real estate name or funnels clicks to your real estate blog.

    if your purpose was to build a good looking blog with great content about your local area, i think you’ve succeeded. if the purpose was to build a blog that builds your brand name and generates leads, i’m sorry but i don’t see it.

  8. Bob

    October 14, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Echoing Mark and Jonathan here. Why re-create Topix? It is a huge time and labor commitment, but the biggest concern I see is that this commitment never ends. If you could generate the same traffic and business, would you still do it this way?

  9. Kay Baker Wilmington NC Real Estate

    October 14, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Truly loved ideas for blogging. They really work, too!

  10. Jason Sandquist

    October 14, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    The site has definitely come along way since I last visited, looks good BTW.

    Not going to repeat what Jonathan and Mark said, but don’t see the branding. Are any of the realtors seeing any clicks thru to their sites, any successes? How is the workload trying to keep up on everything?

  11. Daniel Bates

    October 14, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Carson, I’m a hard person to impress but I am truly amazed by your website. I’ve been hyper blogging for over a year now and I’ve learned a lot of the same sources you’ve provided. I’d also add that forums are a great source for traffic. I think you’re doing a great job at taking a tool like blogging to the next level with things like advertising, video, multiple authors, etc.

    I noticed that you come up on the first page of Google for “Katy TX’ and “Katy Texas” searches. I’ve achieved the same thing in my town and found that while not every visitor is a current buyer you are building a great long term marketing strategy. It’s also great place to advertise the vacation rentals that I manage. Most readers are either going to be local (in which case statistics show they’ll probably sell their home in the next 7 years), visiting (need a place to stay), or considering moving there (want to buy or rent a home). That is every aspect of our profession covered with one effort.

    I’d like to offer my answer to everyone’s question: Yes, it is a lot of time and work (but it beats paying for leads or costly mailouts and print advertising) and it IS worth it because readers can tell the difference between quality articles and regurgitated feeds from other sites. Topix is hardly all inclusive and is watered down with useless information. Running a blog like this allows you to filter the news and provide relevant material to your readers and build a larger following.

    PS – Once you’ve been blogging for a year and cover reoccurring events you can link to the new post from the old post and often gain very high search results. My suggestion to the naysayers is to never under estimate the power of helping people, because it will be returned to you.

  12. Carson Coots

    October 15, 2008 at 5:39 am

    Thanks for the compliments on the site…

    Daniel – Thank you for addressing some of the issues with the strategy, your answer aligns with my reasoning also.

    I mentioned the customer life-cycle in the post to explain why I think this approach is worthwhile. The news-style blog building I am describing helps you create an online resource that would/could be noted, bookmarked and hopefully returned to repeatedly by residents in your local area…the ones you would be wanting to target if you were to spend money on an ad. The repeat exposure is exactly what an agent needs…

    It definitely doesn’t present itself as a real estate site. Of the people who land on the site looking for various local topics, many can tell right away that it is serving as a ‘media’ outlet first, on par with the local paper or magazines. This gives it “3rd party” street cred. So we get credibility combined with repeat exposure.

    I notice real estate companies and builders placing ads month after month in local publications. They are aiming to catch readers in the market and hopefully increase name recognition. The scope of content is going way beyond real estate, but it presents more opportunities to publish relevant stories. It’s no different than running an ad or renting billboard space on a local street.

    My #1 goal has been to build a base of local traffic… not sure what I am going to do with it outside of placing ads yet. It’s a work in progress. But I bet a real estate agent would like to own it if I were to offer it.

    One thing is for sure… it’s a ton of work. I am not a Realtor, but have local writers contributing on the site so they trade content for exposure…and the aggregate of the efforts benefit the group as a whole when it comes to traffic – much like AG. The content would not flow as well without them. I have not added a home search feature or any messages aiming to convert real estate leads yet.

    I’m working through the process and sharing what I have learned so far.

  13. tony - forsalebylocals

    October 15, 2008 at 6:41 am

    One of the things that we’ve come up with to help is a local content feed for just about every town in the US – here’s the page for Miami Shores, FL for instance:

    https://forsalebylocals.com/localdata/m/english/united+states/fl/miami+shores

    There is an RSS feed in the upper right hand corner to which anyone can subscribe and a search mechanism to find your local area at the bottom of the page. All of the the marketing reporting reports are geolocated by lat/long so they know where they are in relation to other content. We have a process that works in the background to constantly improve initial results based on 5 relevance measures – you can see examples of changes that have been made by the automatic process at https://forsalebylocals.com/tools/selfcorrectingcontent.asp.

    Hopefully, this can be make the list as another free resource to help those looking for local content.

    Tony

  14. Kim Wood

    October 15, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I do believe the neighborhood focused blogs can be successful. It’s not about us, as agents or whomever to just talk about the community. It’s about getting the community itself talking to each other – but using your blog to do so.

    It is imperative that it does not scream “advertisement” or “real estate agent trying to sell a house”, however.

    Also agreed, that maybe not a “full blown blog” where you update content constantly – but to stay on top, you do have to update periodically.

  15. Vicki Moore

    October 15, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I like to add posts that are unrelated to real estate. Although the main topic of my blog is real estate, there’s more to me thus more to my blog than that.

    I “re-posted” an article from the local online paper that has gotten more interest/comments than a lot of others. I just need to get in front of people. If a post about the police does it, I’ll take it. Each person knows – what 300 people? I don’t make a habit of it, but I get tired of talking/writing about real estate.

    I read my blog more than anybody else. I want to enjoy it and want others to as well. I think if readers see my enthusiasm it will be contagious.

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Social Media

*New* TikTok Insights launch: Content creators finally get audience analytics

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The popular short-form app, TikTok, finally launches the anticipated Insights feature, where content creators can view target audience data.

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Two girls filming on TikTok.

Marketers searching for the zeitgeist which means TikTok scrollers pause to watch their content and then click through to buy a product have a new tool to help make that happen.

  • TikTok Insights offers marketers bite-size bits of user demographic information that will help build content that leads to sales.
  • With TikTok Insights you can learn more about your audience’s behavior, their interests, and their general sentiment toward brands.
  • TikTok Insights is free to use. Marketers can find TikTok user demographics by using filters to determine what they’re looking for.

The demographic info can be age-focused, focused on specific types of marketing, or even as specific as holiday or event marketing.

This is a step in the direction marketers have been asking for as they create content for the TikTok platform; however, creators looking for detailed analytics like they get from meta need to wait. Insights doesn’t offer that for now.

Like TikTok says in its own analytic information,

“While analytics are helpful in understanding the performance of your videos, you don’t need to create future videos based primarily around them. It’s best to consider the bigger picture, lean lightly on analytics, and use them as a source for insight rather than strategy.”

Marketers trying to key into reaching TikTok’s billion users worldwide are left, right now, searching for the magic that leads to consumers making the jump from the platform to using their purchasing power.

For marketers that means keeping things creative and collaborative, two key factors in TikTok’s success. And that success is huge. Users spend an average of 52 minutes on the platform when they log in and a staggering 90% of users say they log on every day.

TikTok Insights will help marketers find ways to connect, but the content TikTok is looking for is authentic.

And while entrepreneurs can bid for advertising like other social media platforms, they need to remember when planning that spend, that most TikTok marketing success stories are more accidental than planned. Have fun with that knowledge. Instead of pressure to create the perfect plan, TikTok Insights allows marketers to keep it creative and to find a way to tie it into what they enjoy about the platform.

Like all other social media marketing, focus on creating content that stops the consumer from their continual scroll. Make it a challenge and keep it real.

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Grindr got busted for selling users’ data locations to advertisers

(SOCIAL MEDIA) User data has been a hot topic in the tech world. It’s often shared haphazardly or not protected, and the app Grindr, follows suit.

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Grindr on phone in man's hands

If you’re like me, you probably get spam calls a lot. Information is no longer private in this day and age; companies will buy and sell whatever information they can get their hands on for a quick buck. Which is annoying, but not necessarily outright dangerous, right?

Wrong.

Grindr has admitted to selling their user’s data, however, they are specifically selling the location of their users without regard for liability concerns. Grindr, a gay hook-up app, is an app where a marginalized community is revealing their location to find a person to connect to. Sure, Grindr claims they have been doing this less and less since 2020, but the issue still remains: they have been selling the location of people who are in a marginalized community – a community that has faced a huge amount of oppression in the past and is still facing it to this day.

Who in their right mind thought this was okay? Grindr initially did so to create “real-time ad exchanges” for their users, to find places super close to their location. Which makes sense, sort of. The root of the issue is that the LGBTQAI+ community is a community at risk. How does Grindr know if all of their users are out? Do they know exactly who they’re selling this information to? How do they know that those who bought the information are going to use it properly?

They don’t have any way of knowing this and they put all of their users at risk by selling their location data. And the data is still commercially available! Historical data could still be obtained and the information was able to be purchased in 2017. Even if somebody stopped using Grindr in, say, 2019, the fact they used Grindr is still out there. And yeah, the data that’s been released has anonymized, Grindr claims, but it’s really easy to reverse that and pin a specific person to a specific location and time.

This is such a huge violation of privacy and it puts people in real, actual danger. It would be so easy for bigots to get that information and use it for something other than ads. It would be so easy for people to out others who aren’t ready to come out. It’s ridiculous and, yeah, Grindr claims they’re doing it less, but the knowledge of what they have done is still out there. There’s still that question of “what if they do it again” and, with how the world is right now, it’s really messed up and problematic.

If somebody is attacked because of the data that Grindr sold, is Grindr complicit in that hate crime, legally or otherwise?

So, moral of the story?

Yeah, selling data can get you a quick buck, but don’t do it.

You have no idea who you’re putting at risk by selling that data and, if people find out you’ve done it, chances are your customers (and employees) will lose trust in you and could potentially leave you to find something else. Don’t risk it!

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BeReal: Youngsters are flocking in droves to this Instagram competitor app

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As Instagram loses steam due to its standards of “perfection posting,” users are drawn to a similar app with a different approach, BeReal.

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social media - bereal app

BeReal is one of several “Real” apps exploding in growth with young users who crave real connections with people they know in real life.

According to data.ai, BeReal ranks 4th by downloads in the US, the UK, and France for Q1 2022 to date, behind only Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

BeReal flies in the face of what social media has become. Instead of curated looks that focus on the beautiful parts of life, BeReal users showcase what they’re doing at the moment and share those real photos with their friends. Their real friends.

It’s real. And real is different for a generation of social media users who have been raised on influencers and filters.

As the app says when you go to its page:

Be Real.

Your Friends

for Real.

Every day at a different time, BeReal users are notified simultaneously to capture and share a Photo in 2 Minutes.

A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.

BeReal app

The app has seen monthly users increase by more than 315% according to Apptopia, which tracks and analyzes app performance.

“Push notifications are sent around the world simultaneously at different times each day,” the company said in a statement. “It’s a secret on how the time is chosen every day, it’s not random.”

The app allows no edits and no filters. They want users to show a “slice of their lives.”

Today’s social media users have seen their lives online inundated with ultra-curated social media. The pandemic led to more time spent online than ever. Social media became a way to escape. Reality was ugly. Social media was funny, pretty, and exciting.

And fake.

Enter BeReal where users are asked to share two moments of real life on a surprise schedule. New apps are fun often because they’re new. However, the huge growth in the use of BeReal by college-aged users points to something more than the new factor.

For the past several years, experts have warned that social media was dangerous to our mental health. The dopamine hits of likes and shares are based on photos and videos filled with second and third takes, lens changes, lighting improvements, and filters. Constant comparisons are the norm. And even though we know the world we present on our social pages isn’t exactly an honest portrayal of life, we can’t help but experience FOMO when we see our friends and followers and those we follow having the times of their lives, buying their new it thing, trying the new perfect product, playing in their Pinterest-worthy decorated spaces we wish we could have.

None of what we see is actually real on our apps. We delete our media that isn’t what we want to portray and try again from a different angle and shoot second and third and forth takes that make us look just a little better.

We spend hours flipping through videos on our For You walls and Instagram stories picked by algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves.

BeReal is the opposite of that. It’s simple, fast, and real. It’s community and fun, but it’s a moment instead of turning into the time-sink of our usual social media that, while fun, is also meant to ultimately sell stuff, including all our data.

It will be interesting to watch BeReal and see if it continues down its promised path and whether the growth continues. People are looking for something. Maybe reality is that answer.

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