Tourism publications will tell you that when you enter Calaveras County in eastern California, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Gold Rush era, and while there’s some truth in this, this corner of my state has become one of my favorite places because visiting there is like going back some 30 years in time. This relatively large county is very modestly populated, has a very low median income and high unemployment rate. What’s the charm? The lack of crowding and the ‘problem’ economy have relieved Calaveras County of the pretentious Disneyland quality one encounters too often in the majority of tourist destinations along the West Coat. Calaveras County has an honesty you’ll be hard pressed to discover amid the ‘Frisco’ of San Francisco or the la-de-da of the Wine Country. The people of the Gold Country can pride themselves on never stooping to silliness.
Yet, money troubles are no one’s idea of a good time and I see excellent opportunity for a Hyperlocal Blogger to do quite a bit of good in Calaveras County. The locals have made consistent efforts to bill their region as a great place to visit, and the county does depend on the tourism revenues won from skiers in winter and nature lovers in the spring and early summer. They hold festivals honoring Mark Twain and offer the chance to re-enact Gold Rush living in places like Colombia State Park. With incomparable natural wonders like Big Trees State Park and all of the weird and wonderful natural caves at his fingertips, the Hyperlocal Blogger can surely find plenty to write about for the tourist crowd. But how about for the neighbors?
Before moving on with this article, I hope you’ll read the first 2 parts in this series:
Hyperlocal Blogging, Marin County CA
Hyperlocal Blogging, Sonoma County CA
To summarize the SEO copywriting tips we’ve covered so far, here are 6 possible approaches to take to blogging about your hometown:
1) Tapping into the hometown pride
2) Recognizing community concerns
3) Being an ambassador
4) Getting into local controversy – with care
5) Getting down to business – your business
6) Remembering the good old days
Today, we’ll discuss a new approach to hyperlocal blogging that I feel is especially relevant to a locale like Calaveras County.
Hyperlocal Blogging Tip #7:
Be Generous With Your Expertise
Dependence on tourism means an employment scene that swells and contracts with the seasons. It creates instability if there’s not much else going on to get families through the lean times. Last year, my family considered relocating to Calaveras County because we so appreciate the utter lack of urban sensibility present there. Geographically, it’s gorgeous beyond belief and we could really picture ourselves living quite a good life there. But, in getting to know the area, I followed local news and any other local forum-type entities I could find (see idea #2 – recognizing community concerns) and was really saddened to read that money troubles are so significant in the Gold Country that the people are earnestly debating whether bringing in big box stores like Wal-mart can save their communities.
Having grown up in a California town that went from 70’s Charming to 80’s Ugly because of the introduction of chain stores and the death of Mom & Pop, I so wanted to reach out to the Calaveras folks and tell them what they will get if they put their future in the hands of monster stores.
They’ll get low wage jobs from companies infamous for their lack of respect for humanity, they’ll get cheap, imported toxic products, and they’ll watch the businesses that are local traditions close up shop, one-by-one.
I kept following this issue, determined that if we did move to Calaveras, I was going to try to help the people there. As I read interviews with local small business owners, it became apparent that some marketing advice could be a big help. Many of the businesses I read about didn’t even bother to put signs on their stores.
I recall one feed store owner who couldn’t understand why locals didn’t know they could come to her shop to buy blue jeans rather than driving all the way to the big mall in Stockton. The answer was obvious – no one is going to think a feed store sells garments unless the owners invest time and money in making that known. The more I read, the more I felt a powerful urge to share what little I know with these struggling businesses in order to help them create a self-sufficient community that serves all the local needs rather than obliging locals to drive outside the county for basics and luxuries, or, perish the thought, let Wal-mart ruin the landscape of mountain towns like Pioneer or valley gems like Angels Camp.
But we didn’t end up moving to Calaveras County, so this idea of mine was shelved and is just sitting there for the right hyperlocal blogger to come along and take it.
I believe that a skilled hyperlocal blogger could benefit Calaveras’ people not only by helping them serve one another from their brick-and-mortar locations, but from taking this community onto the web. Imagine what a difference it could make to a family where the father has only part-time work during skiing season if his wife was running an e-commerce website, selling something that is specifically local, to the whole rest of the country.
Think Idaho – Think Potatoes
Think Black Hills – Think Gold
Think Wisconsin – Think Cheese
Think Sonoma – Think Wine
Think Louisiana – Think Cajun Food and Music
Regions become known for things that are special about them. A smart hyperlocal blogger could inspire his community to start thinking about what is specifically Calaveras. Mark Twain and the jumping frog can only go so far. Even if small business owners and work-at-home parents enjoyed only modest success on the web, whether selling Calaveras products or something completely different, it could make a meaningful difference in the local economy.
And, in the case where the hyperlocal blogger’s expertise isn’t really web technology, he can still share what he knows to improve the state of business in his community. The realtor can give online tips for home staging in the style of HGTV to help families maximize home sale profits. The organic farmer can make a video about double digging a bed and dealing with all the rocks in the soil in Copperopolis. The contractor can offer do-it-yourself tutorials for small, easy home repair jobs. The accountant can explain new tax laws that affect small businesses. Whatever the blogger’s special skills are, if he shares them, he’s going to achieve two valuable things:
By making your hyperlocal blog your classroom where you teach what you know, your generosity may be handsomely repaid with excellent local visibility, good will and the paid work you’re hoping for.
On a final, personal note, I really would love to see a Calaveras County native take my idea and run with it. It makes me so sad to think that the peaceful, unique atmosphere of places like Arnold, Valley Springs, Moke Hill, Mountain Ranch or Murphy’s might lose their character by letting in the big box stores. These entities do us no favors, and homogenize our communities to the point where one town after another looks identical along our once-scenic highways. By turning to the Internet for extra income, Calaveras County could keep its honest appeal and lessen local worries about making ends meet.
Please journey back to the SEOigloo Blog soon for Part 4 of our Hyperlocal Blogging series.