7 lessons we learnt building a hyperlocal website in Leckhampton (so far)

Last year we launched www.leckhamptononline.co.uk. Leckhampton is a small area of Cheltenham that is home to 5000 residents.

7 months since launching, leckhamptonOnline now reaches a quarter of all Leckhampton residents and is growing 15% every month.

Here are 7 lessons that we have learnt so far. As ever it would be great to hear your experiences and feedback.

Lesson #1 – Map the community

Before we launched LeckhamptonOnline we mapped out the local community.  We wrote a long list of all the key people and all the institutions in our local area. More importantly, we planned how we were going to engage with them and encourage them to use the website.

Lesson #2 – Choose the right technology

We use WordPress and BuddyPress as the technology for LeckhamptonOnline. We use a self hosted WordPress platform because we want to be in complete control of our own technology. So we can make changes as quickly as our community changed (and grew).

Lesson #3 – Is there a local ad market?

How are you going to sustain the time and energy it takes to run your hyperlocal website?

One way is to charge local advertisers to have space on your website.  We get 3 local print directories through our door every month. We worked out the total page yield for the combined directories and therefore had a good idea of the advertising market for Leckhampton.  It was a surprisingly large number!

Lesson #4  – Social media is vital

We use Twitter and Facebook every day.  We use them to engage with the local community and drive conversations back to LeckhamptonOnline.

Lesson #5 – Content is still king

We make good use of video interviews. They are quick to do and get good viewing stats. Amazingly the local print press still doesn’t do them.

Lesson #6 – Make User Generated Content easy

Buddypress adds a social networking layer to WordPress. It’s an important component. User generated content is key part of LeckhamptonOnline.

Buddypress makes it easy for your members to create their own content – posting ‘twitter-like’ updates, creating groups and finding other members of the local community.

Lesson #7 – The hours are long

Running an online community is hard work. It is not 9-5. You need to be online all hours of the day.  Responding to conversations, nudging discussions and answering questions.

But the effort is worth it!