At the turn of the year we started what has now become quite a familiar promo push – advertising the start of another @Chelt52 year and trying to entice 52 more Cheltenham-based tweeters from all walks of life to get on-board the idea.
Sophie and I started @Chelt52 back in 2013 having been inspired by other similar accounts such as [PeopleOf] @Sweden and @Bristol52 (I took part in the latter for my job, @otrbristol, and was instantly enamored with the potentially fruitful mission of having a new, large audience to win over).
We wanted to create something similar for our hometown and celebrate the quirks, independent businesses and talented people of Cheltenham. I remember setting up the account and being really apprehensive about filling 52 slots – it seemed a daunting task and a lot of people to attract to a concept that was at that point a bit of an unknown quantity.
Fast-forward four years later and we haven’t had a single empty week; even weeks over Christmas, New Year and busy periods of the year have been hosted a different Cheltenham-based tweeter. Over three years that’s 156 hosts; 156 people we’ve introduced to the @Chelt52 audience. I’m very glad to have been wrong! ✌
That’s all well and good, but what’s the point? What have we accomplished?
Last year we moved to Bristol (I should clarify that we’re a couple – I don’t just follow Sophie around the country ) and found ourselves for the first time questioning if we should carry on with the project, worried that it would seem a bit disingenuous to ‘celebrate Cheltenham’ from a city 40 miles up the road.
Thankfully, in setting up Year 4 of @Chelt52 at the start of 2017, we’ve been reminded what @Chelt52 can achieve, how it can reach people, and why it’s an enjoyable thing to run (and no, we get asked all the time, but we don’t make money from it ✋). Here’s a little refresher on the benefits of @Chelt52 – for anyone considering applying for Year 4 as much as anything else.
In true listicle style and to mark the fourth year of the project, here are four reasons @Chelt52 can be a useful and fun thing for the kind folk of Cheltenham to get involved with:
1. It keeps people connected to Cheltenham
As mentioned, now we’re in Bristol we’re a little more disengaged with Cheltenham and the new stuff popping up around the town. Every time I come back, the Brewery looks a little less like a building site and more like a bustling complex with great new places to eat and drink. Moda has a new name. Pittville Park has an OH MY GOD WHERE DID ALL THOSE AMAZING PLAY THINGS COME FROM?
The point is, whether you live in Cheltenham or you’ve moved on, the @Chelt52 account can open your eyes to places you didn’t know existed. We ate in the Bottle of Sauce having read great things via comments on @Chelt52; I really want to check out the Jazz Festival for the first time this Spring; excited having heard their plans whilst organising their week on the account in April.
This was summed up quite beautifully at the end of 2016 when Liza Tait-Bailey, born and bred in Cheltenham but currently studying in Abu-Dhabi in the midst of travelling the world, took the @Chelt52 baton in December. The account helped her stay in touch with the town she loves.
2. Cheltenham isn’t often considered a diverse place, but @Chelt52 challenges that
Faye Hatcher at BBC Glos asked us “Who has been your favourite tweeter so far?” during this radio interview a few weeks back, and there were so many weird and wonderful people I wanted to give a shout-out to.
Instead what I would say is that everyone brings something different to the table. No week is the same. Last year we had a period where we rotated the account from a clown, to a magician, to a powerchair football club, then a chip shop.
If anyone doubts that Cheltenham has got much to offer, show them the previous line-ups for @Chelt52 (bottom of this page).
3. Charities and small businesses can reach new supporters and customers
Having worked in the third sector for five years, I know what a struggle it can be to reach new supporters. @Chelt52 gives a platform and a large, local audience to small charities who are looking for any means to spread a message, especially for free.
Over the years I’ve seen followers donate, fundraise and volunteer for charities having found them via @Chelt52.
The same can be said for start-ups and independent eateries. I’m always heartened when @Chelt52 followers discover a new place to grab a bite to eat via our account (goes for me too – I went through a stage of trying a different Shakes2Go each week… )
4. It’s a positive way to use Twitter – and that’s more welcome than ever
Particularly considering the year we’ve just had, where regardless of your politics, many online conversations seemed pretty tense, it feels more relevant than ever to do something positive and communal online.
Celebrating all things local, unearthing hidden talent, highlighting achievements of local people and places, and finding positive events and networks to get behind seems more necessary than ever, on a social platform that can at times be fraught.
@Chelt52 has maintained a nice tone so far, hosted healthy debates (and we’ve given the account to some quite divisive figures!), and long may that continue. Come and join in!
If you’re in Cheltenham; whether you want a crack on @Chelt52 in a personal capacity, or on behalf of a business, organisation, cause, or anything else – apply for Year 4 of the project here.