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 sharing their passions online.

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Graeme Simpson helps bring the world to the Redwoods via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His company, Blue Dog Media, promotes the Rotorua Bike Festival and the Rotorua Trails Trust. He says social media is about telling good stories, not just locally, but across the globe, as well. "...for the Mountain Bike World Championships we had 400 people come from overseas...engaging on social media meant we could keep in constant contact." Connecting online has downsides, including the ability to suck time like a vampire, according to Graeme. He also cites privacy concerns. "One aspect of all of this is Big Data - knowing everything about everyone, psychographically. That is exciting and also sinister." Graeme, who writes a weekly column for the Rotorua Daily Post, says he loves creating a conversation with other people about one of his favourite activities - mountain biking. The Bike Festival alone has 15,000 likes on Facebook. Another client, Q E Health Spa, has around 2500 likes. Graeme says his company uses social media in all its communications and can track results using data from Facebook and Google. "It has a dual function - to keep the business operating on a day-to-day basis; also, raising awareness." He says using photos and videos boosts engagement. "With Facebook, their algorithm tends to favour video at the moment." Stacey Kemeys likes including her children in videos she posts to her blog. The Tauranga mum has three children under four years of age: Archer, who's 3; Ada, aged 2, and Eloise, 15 months. On the deck of her home, Stacey sets a plateful of fresh fruit - apples cut into circles with holes in the middle, plus mandarins and pears. Ada holds a mixing bowl of cookie dough. "We're making ant biscuits," the toddler 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 Kemeys
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 8,000. "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." 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. "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 has been vlogging, posting videos to You Tube 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. She writes in an email to 48 Hours, "I want to better myself in skills I have learnt at Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC) in Hamilton like sound, editing and lighting. 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 called "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. Kid food blogger Stacey Kemeys says she's enjoying teaching other parents about feeding children 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: mykidslickthebowl.com firstwetakemanhattan.org youtube.com/user/hanstrea Social media expert shares advice for newbies 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, YouTube 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