Photo by: Jayjay402
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.
Can Twitter ever secure data privacy, like even once?
(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter releases private information affecting already hurting businesses, should this even be a surprise anymore? They have a history of privacy breaches.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the news within the past two years, but Facebook’s been under continuous scrutiny for privacy malpractices that affected millions of its users, so unless your goal is to be the next social network to infringe upon our first amendment right to privacy, I suggest you GET IT TOGETHER!
Over the weekend, users, specifically businesses, realized their billing information was being stored in their browsers cache. This is devastating news for business owners who rely on Twitter to promote their product, or stay in touch with their customers, who over the recent months have already faced monumental challenges. It is hard as a business owner to not feel this is an intentional overreach of privacy.
In an age where we have actual robots to vacuum our floors, and 3D printing, I speak for the people when I say this is unacceptable.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has been caught privacy breaching. A little over a year ago, Twitter announced that they were fixing a bug, many weren’t even aware of, that released phone numbers, location, and other personal data. AND GET THIS, even those who selected the option to keep their information private were affected, so what the hell is the point of asking us our preference in the first place?!!!
What about the time that Twitter accounts could be highjacked by ISIS and used to spread propaganda? All because Twitter didn’t require an email confirmation for account access. Or what about when Twitter stored your passwords in plaintext instead of something easily more secure. Flaws like these show a distinct ability of Twitter to just half ass things; to make it work, but not think about how to keep the users safe.
Like I said in the beginning, get it together Twitter.
Facebook’s Forecast wants ‘qualified’ predictions, but no one’s asking why
(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is asking a bunch of so-called experts to chime in on what the future holds, but can we trust them with the information we’re giving them?
These days, trolls don’t necessarily lurk beneath bridges in order to ensnare unsuspecting travelers. Instead, they hide out in the comment sections on social media posts, ready to incite wrath and stir up controversy with their incendiary remarks. Because Facebook knows how quickly reasonable discourse can quickly devolve thanks in part to these online trolls, they’ve made a move to establish intelligent discussions through their new “Forecast” app.
The premise of Forecast is fairly straightforward. Facebook has invited an assortment of so-called experts (whether they work in the medical field or academia, or some other field) to cast their vote on predictions about the future. Not only will they share their vote, though, they’ll also pitch in their own two cents about these predictions, sparking what is expected to be insightful and reasonable conversation about the topics.
However, while the premise is exciting (smart people! not basement dwellers! talking about serious stuff!), there’s more than a small amount of risk associated with Forecast. For starters, what exactly is Facebook planning on doing with all of this information that is being volunteered on their app? And secondly, are they going to take precautions to help prevent the spread of misinformation when these results are eventually published?
The fact is, Facebook is notorious for propagating and spreading misinformation. Now, I’m not blaming Facebook itself for this issue. Rather, the sheer volume of its user base inevitably leads to flame wars and dishonesty. You can’t spell “Fake News” with at least a couple of the same letters used in Facebook. Or something like that. The problem arises when people see the results of these polls, recognize that the information is being presented by these hand-picked experts, and then immediately takes them at face value.
It’s not so much that most people are simple minded or unable to think for themselves; rather, they’re primed to believe that the admittedly educated guesses from these experts are somehow better, smarter, than what would be presented to them by the average layperson. The bias is inherent in the selection process of who is and isn’t allowed to vote. By excluding everyday folks like you and me (I certainly wasn’t given an invite!), undue prestige may be attributed to these projections.
At the moment, many of these projections are silly bits of fluff. One question asks, “Will Tiger King on Netflix get a spinoff season?” Another one wonders, “Will Mulan debut on Disney+ at the same time as or instead of a theatrical release?” But other questions? Well, they’re a little more serious than that. And speculating on serious issues (such as COVID-19, or the presidential election) can lead to the spread of serious — and potentially dangerous — misinformation.
Facebook has implemented very strict guidelines about what types of questions are allowed and which ones are forbidden. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. It’s no secret that expectation can actually lead to the predicted outcomes, directly influencing actions and behaviors. While it’s too early to tell if Forecast will ever gain that much power, it undoubtedly puts us in a position of wondering if and when intervention may be necessary.
But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t exactly trust Facebook’s ability to put this cultivated information to good use. Sometimes a troll doesn’t have to be overtly provocative in order to be effective, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see someone in a position of power exploit the results of these polls to influence the public. It’ll be interesting to see if Forecast is still around in the next few years, but alas, there’s no option for me to submit my vote on that to find out.
Well established Pinterest has a new competitor, Google Keen
(SOCIAL MEDIA) Google is constantly playing catch up, their new target is Pinterest. They have a new photo sharing social media app called Google Keen.
It looks like Pinterest might finally have some competition: Google Keen. Notice the heavy emphasis on the word “might”.
It’s not hard to see why Google might feel a tad encroached upon by Pinterest, a photo-sharing and search-based platform; while Pinterest’s impact is relatively small in terms of taking traffic from the G-people themselves, any competition is unwelcome in Google’s eyes–perhaps justifying their move toward creating their own version of Pinterest.
Google Keen isn’t a direct ripoff–after all, they changed the name–but the general principle is the same: Users can create a “keen” for a specific visual topic, thus allowing them to search for, and add images of that topic. Google was quick to cite “bread” as a possible topic, which, according to Social Media Today, is a direct nod to recent Pinterest trends.
Subtlety never was Google’s strongest suit, and that seems to be a theme they’re reiterating here. Perhaps that’s why the Google Graveyard, a site we’ve addressed in the past, is full of tools that didn’t live up to their original inspiration (one of the latest additions being the half-baked Google Hangouts). Google Keen shows promise, but one can’t help but remember how Google’s Circles feature fared in Facebook’s shadow.
Keen is available for web and Android platforms, which answers one question while raising a few more. For example, while it makes sense that Google would brand Keen for their own smartphone audience, iPhone Google usage is notably high, and the Pinterest crowd loves a clean aesthetic (that’s another point in the Apple camp). As such, it might be in Google’s best Pinterests–I mean, interests–to implement an iPhone presence for the app as well.
It is worth noting that Google has taken deliberate inspiration from Pinterest in a lot of ways. So Keen may be a way for them to tout their adopted features and familiarize users with them so that, in the long run, they are able to begin migrating traffic back to their own platform from Pinterest. In a time in which any competition may open the door to disaster down the road, this is a move that, despite skepticism, makes sense.
After all, the Google Graveyard is operating at capacity, yet the tech behemoth continues to chug away. Who knows where their newest “innovation” may take them?
Idea: Color-coded face masks as the new social contract to combat COVID-19
New company beats Amazon with next morning delivery?
Gloves that translate sign language in real time
What to do when you can’t find your passion and you’re feeling lost
Google plans to pay publishers for content (a little too late)?
HEROES Act could increase unemployment stimulus benefits, add return to work bonus
LinkedIn: New retargeting options expand your marketing efforts
A closer look at the HEROES act, and who stands to benefit the most
The future of quantum computing is “Azure” bright and you can try it
The Apple Watch isn’t just a way to ignore calls, it could save your life
Anti-surveillance mask – creepy, ingenious, or potentially illegal?
Amy’s Ice Cream founder on Austin’s business risks and rewards #WhyAustin
Turns out a lot of people are in between introverted and extroverted
P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin
Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
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