Definitions are easy.
Damian Radcliffe defined hyperlocal as “offering an online news or content service pertaining to a small community such as a town, village or single postcode.”
I think that is a great definition except for the online part, because I have been a hyperlocal journalist for more than 20 years even though we didn’t have the word “hyperlocal” when I started. We used to call it community news, but it is the same thing.
It is true, however, that the delivery system has changed dramatically. Now your news comes to you on your smart phone instead of the once common small town newspaper.
Why am I trying to remind social media marketers in 2017 about something that’s been around since Benjamin Franklin was printing fliers in Philly? Two reasons:
1. You can’t advertise without an audience.
2. You can’t get an audience without content.
Simple, isn’t it? Consider the goal of content marketing:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
So marketers today create relevant, related content to build brand awareness and they distribute that content on social media platforms to build an audience.
It is a plan that works very well, particularly for big brands.
But what about smaller businesses? The lawyer, dentist or car dealership in a small town, for instance? Then your industry-related content doesn’t reach enough of your client base on a regular basis to build a valuable audience.
That’s where hyperlocal comes in.
Readers have too many choices to stay with someone who is only trying to set them up for a sales pitch. Today’s online reader has highly-tuned radar when it comes to advertising, and if they sense that is all you are about, then they will be gone before even registering in your analytics.
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EVERYTHING
Hyperlocal news is a great option for small business owners trying to grow an audience, particularly if you focus on a connected niche. Think of a pizza place sharing Little League baseball info or the local bank sharing business news.
That idea of adding value is important and one I preach to any would-be social media marketer regardless of overall strategy. It is the heart of content marketing. Give your potential customers “added value” by posting about something important to them.
Here are some examples:
From youth leagues all the way up to the pros, we love our sports. There is a long history of using sports in marketing and you don’t have to be the King of Beers or lounging in a bathtub overlooking a cliff to join the club.
You can post schedules, game reports, scoring updates, standings, podcasts with coaches, photos, preview upcoming games, look in on rival teams. You can also get readers to help by providing photos and game updates.
In a small community, it is common for everyone to support the local school teams so pick a niche to stand out. I know an obstetrician who promotes women’s sports to great success. If I had an ice cream parlor or a snow cone stand, I would concentrate on youth sports from t-ball to 10.
There are a lot of events happening in your town — from bake sales to festivals, there is something going on all the time.
You could build a nice audience by announcing upcoming events and keeping an online calendar for the community. Drill down to a particular kind of event — local live music, for instance — to build a loyal following.
Head out to one or two events a week to promote your business and take photos and you will quickly have a growing hyperlocal site. TIP: If you are taking photos, get lots of faces and invite your readers to tag their friends.
The nice thing about this type of site is it appeals to every member of your community and once you getting it going, the community will provide most of the content for you.
Faith is an important component of the small town lifestyle and the church is often the center of a vibrant community.
Create a site announcing events from your town’s churches, share ministry photos and links to sermons, and post faith-based inspirational quotes and memes and you can build a substantial online community.
So there you go, three content options that can help grow your business at the same time you are building your community and your reputation.
IT DOES WORK
I know this can work because I have done it. In January 2013 I was hired by attorney Jeff Weinstein to create a hyperlocal news site for a town of 12,000 with him as the only advertiser. By 2017 we have nearly 27,000 Facebook followers and an average weekly reach of 40,000 to 50,000, with a one-week high of more than a million.
Because the site is completely free to readers, Jeff is now seen as a benefactor to the community and he is one of the most well-known personalities in the area.
Brand awareness, influence and good will; it is a win-win-win that works.