Dawn is a reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Big Read: Rise of the Cyber Citizens

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While you might post photos of your children, grandchildren or pets online for dozens of friends and family, some of the Bay's most active social media users are connecting with thousands of strangers. 48 Hours reporter Dawn Picken spoke with local bloggers, vloggers and other cyber citizens who shared online successes and mistakes.
Stacey Kemeys is a local blogger who writes about feeding kids. Stacey Kemeys with Eloise. Photo/George Novak
Stacey Kemeys is a local blogger who writes about feeding kids. Stacey Kemeys with Eloise. Photo/George Novak

Stacey Kemey's Tauranga home is filled with light - and children. We're greeted at the door by Archer, who's almost four years old, followed by two-year-old Ada.

Fifteen-month-old Eloise clamps Mummy's hip. On the deck, Stacey sets a plateful of fresh fruit - circle-cut apples, plus mandarins and pears. Ada holds a mixing bowl of cookie dough.

"We're making ant biscuits," she says. Stacey explains the dough is for Anzac biscuits. Archer and Ada spoon the mixture into their mouths. Baby Eloise cries out for her share. "I'm a kitchen mum," says Stacey. "I'm always in the kitchen."

That's why the qualified dietitian and former research nutritionist decided to start a blog more than a year ago called mykidslickthebowl.com.

The site includes recipes, nutrition articles, restaurant and product reviews, plus videos. In one clip, Ada pours and mixes bliss ball ingredients using a food processor. In another, Archer goes 'pea fishing' with vegetable mash.

Stacey says all her social media relates to kids and food, drawing on practical experience and evidence-based science.

"Once I had kids I realised how many mums were on social media. So many people were putting opinions on social media, I thought, if they can do it, so can I."

Stacey says working online is a sanity saver, too.

"I'm surrounded by small people. I wanted to feel I was doing some adulting, as well."

She first created a website, then added a Facebook page, Snapchat and Pinterest, plus Instagram, where she has her largest following - this week, about 8000.

"My growth in followers is about 30 per cent every week. It has just gone crazy, which is exciting." She says 85 per cent of her Instagram traffic comes from outside Australasia. She started a network of kid food bloggers who collaborate online.

"Blogging can be quite isolating and quite lonely. It's lovely to have virtual colleagues who are doing similar things."

So far, Stacey says she's not earning money from the blog, but occasionally gets product samples.

"I only will be dealing with products I would endorse."
She spends up to 30 hours a week on activities supporting the blog, writing when her children sleep or on weekends when her husband is home.

She encourages would-be bloggers to find a niche and be prepared to invest time.
"It's a lot more work than you would ever think it would be. Write about something you love and are passionate about, because you may or may not be paid. If you wouldn't write about it anyway, you shouldn't blog."

Once I had kids I realised how many mums were on social media. So many people were putting opinions on social media, I thought, if they can do it, so can I
Stacey Kemey

Graham Cameron's passion is politics.

The Tauranga father, tutor and future PhD candidate teaches about issues surrounding biculturalism and the Treaty of Waitangi.

His blog, called FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN explores topics such as homelessness, Maori issues and rape culture.

Graham says he loves writing and spends a few hours per week on social media.

He started his blog after discovering an unusual club at a Trinity Roots concert in 2013.

"I thought I want to tell people about this weird place. I've always written for myself about stuff that interests me."

He has nearly 1000 followers on Twitter and says while he doesn't expect to change anyone's mind, he enjoys connecting.

"People who read my blogs and follow my Twitter account, most agree with my views already ... I write because that's what's fascinating me at the time. I'm fascinated by politics." Graham says he tries not to descend into the rabbit hole of online comments.

LOCAL ACTIVIST: Graham Cameron writes about politics on Twitter and on his blog called FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN. Photo/supplied
LOCAL ACTIVIST: Graham Cameron writes about politics on Twitter and on his blog called FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN. Photo/supplied

"It's not just about having a thick skin. It's about having the discipline to say I don't need to know what everyone thinks."

His biggest online response came after one of his blog posts hit social media aggregator and discussion site Reddit. Graham says his musings about Maori in Australia got 200,000 views. "That was insane. That was the one time I thought about just stopping because there were so many comments. It felt like the windows turned inwards - all these people have an opinion about you."

Graham encourages people with heaps to say to start their own blog rather than post several comments on his.

He says his social media activity lead to a regular column in Mana magazine. He's careful to label his work as commentary and opinion and offers this caution. "You play with Maori politics at your peril. It's very personal, and a small political scene ... Also, be aware when you put it out there, it's not just yours anymore."

Another Bay native using social media to hone professional skills is Hannah Wilson. The 20-year-old student from Otumoetai has been vlogging, posting videos to YouTube since she was 13. Her channel, called Hanstrea, has more than 300 subscribers. Hannah also has 1000 followers on Twitter, but says she's not concerned with numbers.

It started as somewhere to put my library book reviews. Within six months I started to get emails from authors and publishers from all over the world saying would you review my book
Paula Phillips

"I want to better myself in skills I have learnt at Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC) in Hamilton like sound, editing and lighting," she writes in an email to 48 Hours.

"YouTube is a perfect way to do this without any pressure. I just want to enjoy what I'm posting, learn something and have fun." One video, Just a Day in the Flat features her friends hanging out. Another short clip shows her group visiting attractions in Auckland.

While experts say Facebook's autoplay and live video options are gaining more views, YouTube is still the top site for watching video. YouTube attracts 1 billion monthly users.

The top New Zealand stars, according to VidstatsX are beauty vlogger Shaaanxo (Shannon Harris), with 2.7 million subscribers, and Hawke's Bay teen Jamie Curry, with nearly 1.4 million subscribers.

On a much smaller scale, Tauranga's Tessa Watters' YouTube channel, called BlondeBeauty, has 185 subscribers.

Her videos feature makeup tutorials and snippets of the teen's life - moving from the lower North Island to Tauranga and walking the Mount with friends. In one video, she tells the camera, "I do want to vlog a lot more. It's something I enjoy."

The Bay News last month profiled book blogger and Greerton librarian Paula Phillips, whose site, the Phantom Paragrapher, was ranked fifth in the world for best book-related blog.

Blogger and book reviewer The Phantom Paragrapher AKA Paula Phillips. Photo/Stuart Whitaker
Blogger and book reviewer The Phantom Paragrapher AKA Paula Phillips. Photo/Stuart Whitaker

Paula will be part of a panel discussion at one of the biggest book bloggers' and authors' conventions in the United States next year. She told reporter Stuart Whitaker the invitation happened thanks to a blog she created six years ago.

"It started as somewhere to put my library book reviews. Within six months I started to get emails from authors and publishers from all over the world saying would you review my book."

Kid food blogger Stacey Kemeys says she's enjoying teaching other parents about feeding kids and sharing other bloggers' content. She says it's important to discuss not just triumphs, but challenges, too.

"Sometimes social media shows motherhood through rose-tinted glasses. If more people on social media were honest about how being a mum is actually for them, it would reduce everyone's expectations and make them feel better about themselves."

Online
* My kidslickthebowl.com
* firstwetakemanhatten.org
* youtube.com/user/hanstrea
* thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.co.nz

Rachel Warrender, marketing director or Dubzz Digital. Photo/supplied
Rachel Warrender, marketing director or Dubzz Digital. Photo/supplied

Tips for social media users
Dubzz Digital Marketing director Rachel Warrender runs a media business in Rotorua. She tells would-be users of social media to make a plan before diving into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, You Tube and other online platforms.

"People need to think about what they're trying to achieve and who their audience is. Also think about what resources you'll put towards it."

Rachel says spending money on things such as boosting a Facebook post can be a cost-effective way to market directly to a target audience. She says tourism operators especially must engage with potential customers from around the world.
"There's a huge opportunity there. If you have a tourism business, you should have something on social media."

Rachel encourages newbies to find other people who are using social media well and either study their sites or talk to them for tips. She says common mistakes include setting up a social media platform and neglecting it, and not engaging in two-way conversation.
"Also, blurring the lines between business and personal accounts. I recommend keeping your personal account separate and setting up new accounts for business."

Learn more online: dubzz.co.nz

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