Have you ever wondered what impact social media can bring to a community?
Over the last few months I have been amazed at the growth and social interaction of a local group on Facebook called “Wokingham Gossip Girls“. This is a great example of a real social community.
Wokingham Gossip Girls was created by Rachel Bradley, from local business Jon Bradley Photography. Rachel and her husband Jon had moved to Wokingham from the West Country with their young boys. Being new to the area Rachel found herself asking around for personal recommendations for local suppliers and trades like plumbers and electricians, to get ideas of where to take the boys on a rainy day and all the local insider stuff that is valuable when new to an area.
Rachel decided the ideal forum to ask and share information was on Facebook. Despite the word gossip being in the group title, this is not what it is about. Its purpose is for members to offer trusted recommendations, advice and to support the local community, businesses and trades. Since launching the group in March 2011, it has flourished with active membership of 850+ members and the buzz continues to grow on a daily basis.
I wanted to know more and managed to catch up with Rachel over a coffee to find out all about the Wokingham Gossip Girls.
What were your initial expectations when you created the group?
Being new to the area I kept asking the same people where to go for this and that, who were the best suppliers in the area and so on, my black book was empty. So I created Wokingham Gossip Girls and thought maybe it would grow to around 200 members.
It has totally exceeded my expectations and the activity and participation has been incredible. The group members started out mainly being other Mum’s and now includes all local women, regardless of age and what they do for a living.
What are your highlights?
Seeing new people join, the numbers have increased dramatically and of course the community spirit and participation. Without this it wouldn’t work. People really pull together to help one another out, support local businesses and have become friends. Even if they have never met the other person, everyone always offers advice and rally’s round. It’s incredible how supportive people can be. I am very proud of the group and hearing that people are talking about it and inviting their friends and connections to join makes it very special.
Being the group Administrator, what are the challenges?
There are guidelines and boundaries for members to follow and this does have to be adhered to, otherwise I receive a barrage of requests to send out reminders or remove posts. And that is something I really don’t enjoy or have the time to do. As the face of the group the responsibility often falls on my shoulders, especially if members feel a post is inappropriate or others are advertising when they shouldn’t be. But on the whole everyone has embraced the spirit of the group and has become very passionate about supporting it within the local area.
What do the members talk about?
Everything and anything including requests for recommendations or asking questions, members can take the opportunity to post items for sale and share a business update once a month. Responses are often very swift and you get valuable feedback quickly. Even a request for a Bagpipe player received a speedy response and two members recommended the same one!
Where do you see this social community heading?
I would like to welcome more members and to see the Wokingham Gossip Girls continue to grow. We are looking to bring people together in real life as well as the virtual one and discussions are taking place about holding a summer event. So watch this space.
What is your advice to other towns and communities about creating a group similar to Wokingham Gossip Girls?
Every town should have one!
Rachel asked the other members for their feedback about the group and I collated the responses in to the word picture.
Pretty impressive feedback isn’t it?
All the words that we associate with a social community including friendly, helpful, informative and trustworthy.
One of the best quotes I saw was Feeling like you belong to a bigger community that you can call on is special. It most certainly is and I believe this is social media at its finest.
And being a Wokingham Gossip Girl I can also highly recommend joining if you are female and live in and around Wokingham. (Sorry chaps, ladies only!)
Here are the details of the group and my thanks to the lovely Rachel Bradley for her time, a great chat and of course for creating Wokingham Gossip Girls!
Join here Wokingham Gossip Girls on Facebook.
Jon Bradley is a corporate photographer who has been working professionally for over 20 years. With an enviable list of clients Jon has a proven ability to translate client briefs into fantastic pictures. Jon specialises in corporate photography press launches, conferences, parties, PR and marketing images, head shots, interiors, branding and portraits. www.jonbradley.co.uk