How To Use Your Local Patch Effectively

blank-notes-1082963-mI recently outlined some issues I see with many Patch sites. With that said, can you use the Patch effectively as part of a communications strategy, and if so, how?

The answer to the first question (can you use The Patch effectively) is, as always, it depends. As with any social site, you need to spend some time there reading the posts and comments before jumping in. Get an idea of who is there and what they come for. It may turn out that your exact demographic uses the Patch regularly, or it may be that they ignore it altogether. You need to have a sense of the users before coming up with a strategy.

Assuming that people you want to target actually use your local Patch, the next step is to figure out how to tap into them. Things to include in your thinking:

Your Identity

If you’re using The Patch to do business, get votes or otherwise influence your audience, you’ll likely be posting under an accurate identity. The Patch doesn’t require this and you’ll see many commenters using fake names. You can’t build credibility if you’re not willing to use your name.

Should you use your name or your organization’s name? Again, it depends. Are you trying to build a brand and awareness for yourself, or for a separate entity? The answer to this question will tell you whether to create a personal Patch account or to create one under your organization’s name.

The Spitting Match

Before creating your own post, ¬†you may want to participate by commenting on other posts. But The Patch has a way of letting comments get out of control. My theory is that the more train-wreck-esque the comments, the more a certain crowd will read them. Reloading the page drives up their page views (though not unique visitors) and I’m betting that someone is measured on this.

Comment knowing that your Patch Editors may be more interested in driving eyeballs to drama than in building a cohesive, constructive community. And decide how many back and forths you’re willing to get into based on that.

What To Post

You’ve spent some time reading and commenting on posts. You’ve gotten a feel for who comes on a regular basis both by reading comments and by knowing your community. Now, is it time to post?

If you’re audience is there and you have something to say, dig in. Anyone can become a Patch blogger so you don’t have to wait for your Editor to do a story on you (though if you have something newsworthy, give it a shot – content posted by the Editor will be more prominent on the homepage than a blog post).

If you’re looking to build credibility, consider two approaches. You can post regularly about your niche, creating an editorial calendar for yourself with content you’ll create and share consistently. Alternatively, you can post only when a topic is timely. For instance, a local political organization may not have the resources or content to post weekly. But it may need to monitor topics and weigh in on things like the budget, local elections and other governmental issues.

The Patch is no different than any other social site. We may think it is, because it poses as news (and in some cases, it is). But the considerations are the same: who you post as, what you post and how to best interact with others.

What’s your local Patch site like?

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