A letter to HoCo Food Bloggers (& those blog-curious)

This blog post probably isn’t for you. The information here is mostly aimed at food bloggers in Howard County, Maryland. Here’s an update on the social media, food blogging scene in HoCo.

Whether you are or aren’t a HoCoFood blogger, if you’d like more information about the gathering energy and awesomeness of this group of people blogging/tweeting/gramming about food, send an email to hocofoodies@gmail.com saying you’re interested.

Howard County food bloggers Pinterest board

Elizabeth at Three Beans on a String has created a Howard County Food Bloggers Board. For an invite, bloggers should go to  http://www.pinterest.com/3beansonastring/, follow her boards, and then leave a comment asking for an invite. (Pinterest requires a follow on boards in order to send an invite.)

HoCo food bloggers gathering

Seems there might be interest for a gathering of food bloggers to begin. We can provide email addresses for someone who’d like to start this up. Where you go from here … your call. We have 41 food bloggers in our database; not all are active, though many are. And there are probably 141+ more food bloggers in Howard County that we’ve yet to find.

HoCoFood on Facebook

There’s a HoCoFood page on Facebook that is a good place for food news for bloggers, restaurants and more. Facebook page analytics aren’t the best anymore but Facebook pages are GREAT for adding as a widget to your page. This FB page needs a person (a couple/few people) to give it some care and attention. I promise that there will be a way for this to get more eyeballs in the coming months!

@HoCoFood on Twitter needs some TLC

We started a @HoCoFood Twitter account that could use some love and TLC. The account currently follows all of the hoco restaurants we could find and some of the food bloggers. Interested in taking this on? It’s a project that could take 30 minutes a day or less to scan and RT tweets, to follow new restaurants and food bloggers and to announce hoco food-related events (hopefully, mostly done as RTs).

A list of local restaurants on Twitter

If you’re on Twitter, you probably know you can set up columns of tweets, e.g. in Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, to pull specific data out of Twitter. You can subscribe to and/or follow a list of Howard County restaurants, and you can follow #HoCoFood on Twitter. Perhaps someone has an interest in creating a Twitter list of HoCoFood bloggers; we can provide some starting information if you do.

HowChow’s hoco food blogger list

Are you listed on HowChow’s link list of hoco food bloggers? You’ll find it at the top in the far right column.

Guest post on HowChow’s blog

Got some local tips, some interesting perspective on the local food scene. Check in with HowChow to see if you can write a post. He gets great traffic on his blog and the notoriety of writing there may help bring some more readers to your site. (Even if you’re not yet an official food blogger, consider guest posting on HowChow’s site. Good local content is good local content.) Some recent examples –

Share restaurant news tips with HowChow

You may want to break HoCo restaurant news on your own site. That’s cool. Consider, too, sharing tips with HowChow. We keep HowChow’s email (howchowblog@gmail.com) in our phone and snap photos of “opening soon” and other news tidbits that we find when driving about that he can then share with his hocofood-focused readers.

Share local food source tips with Annie Rie

For locally sourced food, farms, CSAs and more, Annie Rie is a blessing to our community with her many posts and her locavore resources page. Whether you have a tip or write a post about local food, consider sharing it with her so that she can keep her locavore list as current and robust as possible.

#HoCoFood and #HoCoCooks

Hashtags. A whole new world of order. We encourage you to use #HoCoFood more for information, tweets and posts about food in Howard County, e.g. restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, CSAs, cooking classes and events; to use it less about food in and from your own kitchen. Think long term in social media and about foundations of social media use. If 30 (or 50, or 100) food bloggers are using #HoCoFood to mark tweets and posts about food that isn’t truly about “HoCo Food” then how would people find “Howard County food” info on social media. The tag is less about, we offer, the person tweeting and more about the content. Make sense? Try using #HoCoCooks for food coming from your own kitchen (unless it’s CSA, locally sourced or farmers market food).

More local hashtags

Use local hashtags. In particular —

Remember, hashtags can be used in Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter and more. They aren’t going away. Use them well and wisely.

Add the HoCoBlogs blogger badge

Have you added the *I’m a HoCoBlogs blogger* badge on your blog? We have that and others which you can find here. If someone wants to create a *I’m a HoCo Food Blogger* badge (or something similar), let us know. We’ll add it to our downloadable badges and help share the news.

Time for a HoCo food bloggers Google Group?

Perhaps it’s time for a HoCo food bloggers Google group. Google Groups provide all kinds of amazing ways of sharing news, updates, events, links and more. If someone wants to take this on, we can seed the group by providing email addresses of people you can invite.

Know any more food bloggers?

We’re always looking for more bloggers on HoCoBlogs; it’s free to be listed! If the blogger is a person, org or biz located in Howard County, we’d love to have them on our site.

Help local restaurant owners rock social media in HoCo?

If you’re a hocofoodie, you probably already have some great relationships with restaurants you frequent. Lend them a hand by sharing this local Resource for Howard County Restaurant Owners. It’s all about how to use social media specific to HoCo and food.

Join the #HoCoInstagramSquad

If you’re a food blogger, you’re most likely often taking pics of food! Our #HoCoInstagramSquad is a hodge-podge of local people posting to HoCoBlogs’s IG page. It’s easy to join and there’s no obligation to produce any number of grams. Post as you like, especially as your out and about at local establishments. More info here. (Hint: Maybe there’s a HoCoFood IG page in the near future.)

We’re starting to host Instagram Brand Ambassador events at local restaurants. What’s that, you might ask? The restaurant creates an event for the Instagram Brand Ambassadors — a wine pairing, an introduction of their new fall menu, a beer flight, a cooking demonstration … basically any one- to two-hour event that they feel highlights their business. HoCoBlogs then brings in a posse of local Instagrammers and sets the requirments for participation, e.g. the number of grams they need to post, the hashtags to use, and so on. You’ll probably want to be on the invite list for these events, so get your IG accounts up and running, robust and filled with many local followers.

Any more tips/bits to add? Email hocofoodies@gmail.com with your suggestions.


Welcome, new bloggers

Welcome, new bloggers.

The political scene is heating up, and so is our list of new bloggers!

Join the HoCo Blogging Community!

It’s October, and that means there’s an election right around the corner. Join our blogging community and share your political knowledge and/or opinions. Not politically minded? That’s okay, you can talk about anything you want…just join in the local conversation! Submit your blog now!

The election is less than a month away, so let’s talk politics!

Follow (and use) #HoCoPolitics on Twitter. For more information on local politics, visit http://hocoblogs.com/elections2014.php. Don’t forget to use the hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and more.

You can always find our list of local hashtags here.

Are you one of our candidates or elected officials?

Visit http://hocoblogs.wordpress.com/for-elected-officials/ for information that is just for you!

#HoCivil: A most lovely party at Seasons 52. Thank you, all!

While I do enjoy each and every HoCoBlogs party, there are times when it seems the elements and pieces weave together ever so perfectly. Last night was one of these nights. After a rainy start to the morning, the weather cleared and was utterly perfect, being neither too chilly nor too warm. The place (the outdoor seating area of Seasons 52) was beautiful and tastefully decorated. The passed appetizers were scrumptious and flowing. The drinks were easy to get with no lines. The serving staff was attentive, friendly and present. And, of course, the guests — the party goers — were, as always, wonderful. There was a lovely mix of regulars and new people, bloggers and readers.

One of the comments I often receive from people is how *interesting* the people are at the parties. Yes! The parties are great places to mingle, to talk about community, life, blogging, whatever. There’s no agenda other than to connect.

I believe one of the energizing and specific factors that made the party seem just *that* much better is that it was probably the first time I’d ever been at event in Howard County that felt like it was in a city. Large, small, medium … doesn’t matter; it felt like being in the city, and the reason is that as we were enjoying the party, there was a stream of hundreds of people over the course of the evening who walked past our part into and out of the mall. This is quite a different experience than being in the backroom or private room, or even the bar area, of a restaurant in the suburbs, in a stripmall shopping center or village center. The addition of others — the chance opportunity to see or be seen by a friend, neighbor or colleague — made the party, to me, all that much more energized and fun.

From a behind-the-scenes perspective, the HoCo Library is always a great partner for an event. With ultra professional, capable staff and the back drop of Choose Civility, the process of planning and executing this event was incredibly easy … made even more so by Michelle, the event management/group sales director at Seasons 52. She was generous, prompt and calmly and capably in charge as they set up and received our group of 80+ people.

As life would have it, there was a Terri Hill fundraiser in a room nearby and we had a lot of visitors come by from that party as well, making the evening even more enjoyable.

Social Capital

Ever and always the advocate of using one’s social capital, I asked each of the attendees — blogger or reader — to do ONE thing with social media: to tweet about the party, post a pic on IG, write a review of Seasons 52 on Facebook, post a FB update about the upcoming #HoCoCivil event the library is having or, if possible, to blog about the party.

Everyone *gets* it. They *get* that the way we can have these parties is that the attendees *give* the restaurant and the co-hosts some social media love and to do so with social media intelligence: good hashtags, using the right twitter account handle in a tweet, acknowledging the party and the fun they had on Facebook with updates, pics, location information and more. What each person does is there business. That each person participates is key. We’re not an entitled group, invited to eat and drink on someone else’s dime … just because. We’re invited to enjoy a place and space, food and wine, because we deliver. We deliver local, connected, engaged, thoughtful, considerate, civil social media goodness — our social capital in our own local networks.

Blog posts

Some of the blog posts mentioning the party that I’ve seen so far include these –

(Did I miss any? LMK)


Plus, some of the promotional actions HoCoBlogs and the Library took include –

  • Two emails sent to a database of nearly 500 bloggers,
  • Emails to the library’s Choose Civility Alliance Partners,
  • Multiple tweets (about a dozen over a few weeks) from @hocoblogs to our nearly 4000 local followers and to the library’s following
  • Shout-outs on both hocoblogs and the library’s Facebook pages
  • Near-impossible to track Facebook mentions from many of the attendees,
  • An event page,
  • A Facebook invite, and
  • Invitations to over a hundred local people to like Seasons 52’s FB page.

In Twitter, FB and Instagram, there were dozens of posts, many of which are hard to see and track as they are in that individual’s personal stream and may not be public. Some of these posts are here -


howard county instagram seasons 52


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HoCoBlogs Seasons 52 party - facebook  responses

Facebook restaurant reviews Seasons 52 in columbia - mall in columbia - hocoblogs party

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Video: Getting to know blogger Bill Woodcock of The 53

Robin (the cofounder of HoCoBlogs) and I have been wanting to have videos highlighting local bloggers in Howard County for some time now. Here is our first! Meet Bill Woodcock, who writes as the Marshmallow Man, of the blog, The 53. Bill started blogging in 2008 and is — and has been for a while — one of the most frequent (prolific?) local bloggers listed on HoCoBlogs.com

Here are the links for Bill’s blog, his blog Facebook  page and his Twitter feed; and you can read below Bill’s responses to some questions we asked him.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Howard County native and I’ve been active in local political, community, and civic affairs for the last twenty-five years. Currently I live in the Stevens Forest neighborhood in the Village of Oakland Mills. Professionally, I work for the Baltimore City Health Department as their Director of Business Operations– essentially, their Chief Operating Officer. I have a Bachelor’s in Biology and a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University.

How did you choose your blog’s name?

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted my blog to be about.  Eventually, I took the advice that it should be about what I wanted it to be about. So I wanted it to be about my thoughts on everything! But how do I capture that in a name?  Here in Oakland Mills, the old Last Chance Saloon used to have a slogan, “53 Beers On Tap”, that reflected the diversity of the brews they offer. I felt that would be an apt symbol of the variety of my blog. However, my blog is NOT about beer, so a couple years ago I shortened it to “The 53”.

What keeps you motivated to blog?

I think that Howard County, like many places, is a place where the sense of community is driven by perception.  And I think those perceptions can either be ones that expand our boundaries and sense of what we can be as a community, or they can constrain us into feelings of insecurity.

The overall point of my blog is through the eyes of the Marshmallow Man, to challenge those perceptions, both positive and negative.  To validate them or to repudiate them.  Or simply, to shine a light on those perceptions and show them for a broader audience to see.

What three tips would you give a novice blogger?
  1. Write often.  Like with many other things, you develop a skill by practicing that skill. Blog writing is no different.
  2. Consider your audience.Yes, you are writing a post that literally anyone in the world might read. But write as if you are talking to a single person.
  3. Have fun. This is a very individualized, personal exercise. It is you. This should be a thing that you enjoy and that is a pleasure. If it becomes a chore to you, or something you gotta do “just because”, then give it up.
If you’ve come to any of the HoCoBlogs parties, what do you like best about them?

What I like best about them is that they’re a way for us as bloggers to interact with a lot of people we wouldn’t meet otherwise in our daily lives– and surprisingly, that means other bloggers and the readers of our blogs! And it’s great networking to get feedback on our work and to offer suggestions to help and support others. As much as I adore social media, there is no substitute for face to face communication and that’s what the blog parties offer.

Beach or mountains?

Beach, but mountains can be just as fun, especially if there is water involved.  Anywhere where there is the opportunity for tranquility works for me.


Want to be a part of the #HoCoInstagramSquad?

“What’s this?” you might ask.

instagram logoA #HoCoInstagramSquad? “Never heard of such a thing,” you might tell yourself. And you’d be right. We’ve never heard of such a thing either, but we’d like to start one. Here’s what we envision and how you might participate. http://instagram.com/hocoblogs

  • A local Instagram account focused on people, places and things in Howard County.
  • An account where a handful (or more) of people have access and can upload images.
  • A site using and focused on #HoCoHashtags such as these and many more.
  • A joyful, visual, happy way of sharing what you love about Howard County.
  • A low-committment project and something that is fun (vs a chore!).
  • An account that might have a few posts a day, none, or lots. No worries. No pressure.
  • You’ll need to read the TOS and send an email saying you agree to abide by them.
  • You’ll be given posting privileges on the account.
  • You can give yourself credit for a photo posted. (We encourage regramming.)
  • You can label your photos, such as those done by @EastCoastPhotog.
  • People of all ages — and all levels of photographic skill — are welcome to participate.
  • Participating in the squad is an upaid volunteer position and one with no particular time or posting frequency requirement.
  • You’re encouraged to help get more followers on the account and to “heart” others’ posts.
  • You’re encouraged to promote local events, charities and businesses.
  • You’re encouraged to capture people at work, play and daily living in Howard County (with their permission, of course).
  • You’re asked to use the #HoCoHashtags well and wisely.
  • We manage HoCoBlogs.com and would love to have an Instagram feed on our page … one that comes through the eyes of people in our community. We’ll post the photos on our site.
  • We reserve the right to delete a photo or uninvite a participant, though we’ll tell you why and give you time to adjust your posts, if such a sitch comes up.

Give a holler to Jessie Newburn by email or text: 443-794-7521.

Welcome, new bloggers

Welcome, new bloggers.

September is back to school time, where learning is a number one priority, just like our bloggers are to the HoCoBlogs community!

Join the HoCo Blogging Community!

September means new learning, so let’s help educate our community on things that are important to you. Submit your blog today and teach us all about the things you know!

Let’s try to come together and make our HoCo a better place!

Follow (and use) #TellHoCo on Twitter. And if you see something that needs to be taken care of in our community, report it online by going to http://www.co.ho.md.us/TellHoCo.htm! Don’t forget to use the hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and more.

You can always find our list of local hashtags here.

save that date!

On Oct 1st from 5:30-7:30 p.m., the HoCoLibrary and Seasons 52 will be co-hosting the next HoCoBlogs party. Find out all about it here.

HoCoBlogs’ #HoCoCivil Party at Seasons 52

Join us! As Howard County’s Library System gears up for its annual Choose Civility Week and symposium, they’re co-hosting the next HoCoBlogs party along with — and at — Seasons 52 in the new outdoor wing of the Mall in Columbia. 

RSVP here.

Come by! As always, there will be interesting people and great conversations; and Seasons 52 is being quite generous by offering beer and wine on the earlier side of the party, a variety of flatbreads (yum!) and chicken skewers. Mak sure you save room for the minis, the scrumptious little desserts they serve. Weather permitting, we’ll be outside in their adorable and spacious patio; weather notpermitting, we’ll be inside at one of their lush and cozy private rooms. 

And tune in to the Choose Civility annual symposium. This year’s theme is “The Ball’s in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Coexist?” The symposium is October 9th, 6:30-8:30 pm, held at the HCLS Miller Branch and free, of course. More info and register at http://bit.ly/ChooseCvility14.

See you all real soon!



Be social

You know what to do: Tweet, like these groups/orgs/businesses on Facebook, follow them on Instagram … share your social capital!  #HoCoCivil, #HoCoEvents 

HoCoLibrary & Choose Civility – FB, Twitter, Instagram
Choose Civility – FB, Twitter
Seasons 52 – FB, Twitter and Instagram
Hocoblogs – FB, Twitter, Instagram