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June 30, 2009

Defining “Local” Online

In this post: Jaimy defines her “local network” online, and how it’s evolving …

Jaimy SyzmanskiWhen I first began using Tweetdeck to manage my Twitter stream, I was a bit overwhelmed – especially by the possibility of creating infinite groups of followers. One such group – what I call my ‘Local’ group – includes tweeps from the immediate geographic area (Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay), but also the state of Wisconsin as a whole. I’ve found that grouping interesting; it flows into relevant pods that help me better connect with people and keep up with their tweets.

Building my Local group on Tweetdeck was difficult at first. I tried to remember as many Twitter handles as I could and search them out to add to the group, but I obviously missed many. So, periodically (still doing it as we speak!), I’d catch a local tweet passing in the ‘All Friends’ group and quickly add them to my Local group to keep better tabs.

Based on my crazy-Type-A-personality-anal-retentive method described above, you can probably imagine how anxious I became when I realized that, come mid-August of this year, I’d be moving to Davenport, Iowa, changing my perception of ‘local’ completely.

My prediction? Once I’m down in Davenport, my Local group will include both Iowan tweeps and Wisconsinites. I’ll still be working for Blue Door virtually, traveling back a few times per year, so I don’t want to lose touch with New North folks. At the same time, I know that I’d go through withdrawal if I didn’t have any immediate-area tweeps to connect with in person.

And so, my search has already begun for interesting Davenport-area follows. Rewind my life a couple years, and I never would’ve predicted that I’d be using a micro-blogging platform to connect with people 4.5 hours away to foster online relationships that will hopefully grow into friendships.

I’ve found a couple methods useful for finding tweeps in a certain geographic area:

  • I started off utilizing Twitter search. Choosing the ‘advanced search’ option, I was able to select tweets coming through the stream from a specific geographic zip code or city area within a specified mileage radius. This was useful, although it does return a large array of results -some of which were simply tweeps passing through the area, not actual residents of the Quad Cities.
  • Another useful online tool to find people on Twitter in a certain geographic area is TwellowHood. TwellowHood allows you to search the worldwide Twellow database by city or zip code. I found this useful, because if a tweep takes the time to register on Twellow, I’d assume they’re avid Twitter users and that their profile location is correct.

Using both methods above, I’ve already found a couple interesting, friendly follows (@erindelicious, @mckra1g), who I am excited to meet in person come August. If you’re searching out other methods of finding Twitter users by location, check out this Mashable post from June 2009 that outlines nine search methods more in-depth.

As you can see, the definition of ‘local’ for me is definitely evolving. What’s your definition of ‘local’ on the Web? Although the easy answer would be, ‘Everyone is local, because you can connect to people anywhere in the world using a variety of social platforms,’ realistically, I don’t buy that. At some point, I think everyone has boundaries and a unique, personal lens for who they consider a ‘local’ connection.

Connect with me on Twitter – @jaimy_marie