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Getting a first idea who's online in your area

By September 30, 20112 Comments

At Public-i, we often tell people that ‘there’s a conversation going on out there that’s about you, but you’re not always taking part in it’. But how do you know that for yourselves?

Here are a few tips that can start to give you an idea of who is out there in your area using social media…

1). Starting a dummy Facebook ad gives you some idea of how many people are using Facebook in a given town or city. You can add settlements, one by one, to add up to the area you’re interested in. Dan Slee, who showed me how to do this, has a great post here, explaining how.

Advertise on Facebook


2). Look for lists: Some people will keep public lists – including Twitter lists and lists on their blogs – that give you some idea of who’s who in a given area. These may be some indication of how much social media there is. Often big users of Twitter are curating local lists of other Twitter users. Matt Holland and others have compiled great lists of Twitter accounts in Lewes, which we discovered while auditing social media activity in East Sussex. Have a look at the Twitter profile and then see if they’ve created or are followed by any local lists.

Matt Holland's Lewesian lists

3). Create your own Twitter list. You can set up a search column, using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, which picks up the name of the place (or places) you’re looking for. When it picks up tweets you can add the tweeter to your list. It’s something that Catherine Howe has been doing for Pulborough, where she lives and says it’s really helping to provide a good picture of the people who are online and living near her.

Pulborough Folks

4). See what others are doing. Look for the big presences that are already operating online in your area. It’s unlikely that you’re the first person who is operating in your ‘space’, locally. On both Facebook and Twitter you can find other organisations that have already built up a following – so you can get a picture of how many people are following them and who those people are. Try sports clubs (the ones that are part of communities, rather than professional teams), charities and other public organisations.

5). Check the links to you. The social web is a web (unsurprisingly) of links and when people refer to you they sometimes link to you. You can search for links to your organisation in a number of ways – a sufficient number, in fact, to make it a fairly complicated business. But that doesn’t mean a quick search can’t help you in some instances. You can get a good idea, for example, of the number of Facebook groups that are linking to you by using a ‘link search’ on Google. Try typing ‘’’ into the search bar. You’ll probably get a mix of your own official groups and pages as well as things that other people have set up. It can be an interesting and revealing little inquiry.

Searching for links on Facebook

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Thanks for mentioning my list!

    All great advice. I mainly build up my list by keeping a running search for ‘Lewes’ open on tweetdeck/hootsuite. If I’m feeling particularly keen I’ll search for “moving + lewes” or “moved + lewes” to find newcomers so the burgeoning Lewes twitter community can welcome them in promptly.

    And of course there’s also the blunt instrument of using all the various user search sites to find people who’ve listed your town/village/city/county as their home.

    Nice blog. Consider me subscribed 🙂

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