Amidst all the hyperlocal froth people often forget that Facebook has a strong local neighbourhood component – not really by design, despite its origins in campus networks but more because people seem to love forming local area affinity groups. People define their own communities on the ground that reflect human rather than administrative geography. Anecdotal observation suggests that once people have their friends in th group the next thing they do is search out local ‘shout’ groups in Facebook and join them.
These Facebook groups can work powerfully with hyper or ultra local sites to cross over content and messages. I set up I Love Kings Cross as an experimental sideline to my Kings Cross community site. The 160 odd people in the Facebook group are about 75% different to the 140-odd people who sign up to my Feedburner emails from the community site.
You can see examples everywhere – even in a town as proud of its old world traditions as Barnsley in Yorkshire has several thousand people in local groups
Some good local campaigns run in Facebook too, despite its many limitations. In Birmingham’s Sandwell a local mum has set up a Facebook campaign to stop people dogging in a local beauty spot:
‘Reports of Dogging, Drug Dealing and Networking Homosexuals abusing the area for their antisocial behaviour. If I can get enough people to join this group I will use it to the local Councillor to help clean the place up and drive these animals away so that children and families can start reusing the area for it’s proper purpose’
In Scarborough in Yorkshire a local woman has set up a Facebook campaign about the proliferation of new traffic lights in the town centre.
‘… after dark .. .when everyone is asleep … the traffic lights in Scarborough have been getting together and mating .. resulting in EVEN MORE traffic lights. Surely this is the reason for the growing traffic light community, and surely the Council can’t be blamed for tearing up every roundabout and replacing it with yet more traffic slowing lights! I’m sure that if all the traffic lights in town are counted, and then divided by the towns population, we’ll have three each !!!!’
This group, now 1,900 strong crossed over into a local newspaper and an 800 signature petition to the council. Google doesn’t turn up much hyperlocal community activity online outside Facebook in Scarborough. There are also a range of affinity groups for Scarborough – the biggest with 16,000 members.
Facebook simply reduces the sunstantial communication and time barriers to forming local groups. Of course, Facebook is so yesterday for many of the digerati as they tweet away to each other and build new hyperlocal platforms. But they could do well to follow Terry Leahy’s old axiom and follow the customer. In real communities on the ground, people without the skills to build a better online pesence continue to vote with their feet for Facebook to find their ultra or hyperlocal voice.
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