I get asked quite often how did I come up with the idea for Elk Grove Laguna Forums? Before I get into how it was created, I have to share that ever since I was a kid I always kept up with news. I read the newspapers and watched TV. I would often write letters to the editor of the Sacramento Bee and Elk Grove Citizen, since I was 12 years old. I was never shy about saying what was on my mind.
There is sometimes questions or confusion about what Elk Grove Laguna Forums is and who runs it and what the purpose is. It is not affiliated with the city of Elk Grove, although I am one of the biggest supporters of the city. I do have a really good relationship with the city and the city leaders. As well as good relationship with what I think is the best law enforcement agency in the area, the Elk Grove Police Department. EGLF is not run by the community or owned by the community. It is run by me, Doc Souza. I created it 9 years ago.
How it all began
In the early 2000’s, I came across a local community website, Elk Grove Online. It was a community bulletin board type site. There were different topics and lots of news around Elk Grove. For someone like me who likes to share an opinion this was perfect. It was social media before Facebook. The difference was that most people were anonymous. They had screen names. Just as with social media today, there were lots of controversial topics. Things would get heated. I became one of the more prolific posters on the site and one of the most controversial ones. I’ve always liked to challenge people on what they say or think, in part to get them to explain why they think that way and make them think about. A lot of people don’t like that. They want to offer an opinion and not be responded to. That’s called a blog. If you comment on something, others will respond. It is how it works. That’s how social media is and it is not for everyone. If you comment, people will respond.
The site was a meeting place for residents in the community to share information. It was also a business and used to help advertise local businesses. There were issues that myself and several others disagreed on and I was told if I didn’t like it to start my own website/blog, so on March 9, 2010, that’s what I did. The original name was Elk Grove Laguna Discussion Forums, and then it became Elk Grove Laguna Forums.
At the time it was only a website with a maybe 50-100 supporters. That was a lot of fun, but I wanted to do more with it and be able to reach more people. At that time Facebook was just too popular and it was hard to get people to come to an online community site where they had to sign up for an account. I tried to draw people to the site but it was a slow process. I had created the Facebook page and would share topics on the page to try and entice people to sign up. We did contests and giveaways, but people only wanted the prizes and didn’t participate in the discussions. I started sharing news stories from the site to Facebook to at least get views on the site. Even if they didn’t participate in the discussions. Plus that would help businesses too and get more people to see them.
By early 2015 I decided I needed to change things and focus more on Facebook. I also decided I needed to figure what I wanted EGLF to be? Just a community website for a few people to discuss things or something more? At the time I think there was maybe 500 followers on Facebook. I started posting more stories just on Facebook. Sharing what was happening around town and breaking news. That’s when things started to take off.
I wanted to build something that could do 3 things.
Once the page started to grow, it became easier to reach more people. Some stories would go viral and get shared. That would bring in more followers. In summer of 2015 I started the Elk Grove Pets Lost and Found page when my neighbor found two dogs and didn’t know what to do. I looked on Facebook and didn’t see anything in Elk Grove. The pets page took off and had more followers than the Elk Grove Laguna Forums page. So then I realized I needed to focus on bringing more news and content to the EGLF page. I was still running the community site as my base, but started to focus more on social media. By the end of 2015 I had around 3000 followers on Facebook. That enabled me to convince some local businesses that I could help them. In order to justify the time I put into all of this, I needed to be able to make some money at it. Some businesses pay hundreds of dollars for advertising that does nothing. I thought if I could get a lot of businesses to pay a little, then it could become more of a business and that would allow me to do even more of what I wanted to do for the community.
At the beginning of 2016 I established some goals for Elk Grove Laguna Forums. I wanted to really make it more apart of the community and be more involved with the community. I knew I needed to focus on one area that was really lacking in Elk Grove, and that is local news. There was no local news here besides the Elk Grove Citizen, which is published twice a week, but by that time some of the news is old. Beyond the Citizen, the only other news was if something big was happening and then Sacramento media would cover it. There is a lot of local news that goes unreported. New businesses, crime, and things happening in the city. I started focusing on gathering more news. Going to local events. Getting more breaking news. Becoming more of a source of information for the community by sharing their questions and finding out answers when I can.
Then I decided I needed a better way to share the news. Posts on Social Media are great but they get lost in the shuffle and it’s hard to share a news story. So I created Elk Grove Laguna News in July of 2016 to be the news arm for Elk Grove Laguna Forums. It makes sharing news stories much easier. I wish I had done that sooner. It also gave me a chance to do other things, like create a one of kind Business Directory for local businesses. As well as do other non-news stories.
At the beginning of 2016, EGLF had around 4000 followers. I was thrilled with that. Never thought I would ever have that many. At the same time I could start to see the potential for much more. As the name became more known, more people started to follow, and I was able to partner with more businesses. Things started to snowball. The more people that follow and participate, the more news tips and community events we hear about and share. EGLF is often the first and sometimes the only source of local news.
I started increasing my presence in the community and attending more events. I branched out the business to include other ways to market and advertise for local businesses. I was on the scene of some big local news events. I was first on the scene at the train derailment and the only one to get pictures and video of the trains. That was picked up by national news. I was on the scene of the Jamba Juice robbery and provided a live video. I was first on the scene at a bank robbery and was the only one to get a statement from EGPD on video. During the flooding in 2017 I was in Wilton and other areas reporting on the flooding.
In 2016 EGLF went from 4000 followers to 16,000. In 2017 it went from 16,000 to 30,000. Then from 30,000 to 38,000. Now in Spring of 2019, we are almost at 40,000. Our business partners have increased from around 40 at the beginning of 2016 to now over 120, as more businesses see the value in partnering with EGLF.
EGLF has more than twice as many followers as the other Elk Grove media pages combined. Elk Grove Laguna News gets more views than any other Elk Grove news source. Not bad for something that is less than 3 years old competing against more established sites. One of the competitors, in a shot at me, has as part of their motto they are not one person’s opinions. EGLF is actually 39,000 plus opinions and reporters. I may be the one in charge but it is the community that makes it what it is, that provides a lot of the news that is happening.
We do a lot of giveaways and help promote local community groups too. In 2017 I created three new scholarships with the help of the community and local businesses totaling $3000 to be given away to deserving seniors last year. This year (2019) we are giving away $4000. The difference between EGLF and other advertising opportunities is that I am invested in helping businesses succeed. I care about them and enjoy helping them. I want to see them succeed. I have become friends with many of the business owners.
In 2018 I partnered with the Elk Grove Chamber to start the Elk Grove’s Best of Business Awards. We just completed year #2 at the end February.
This is only the beginning. I have more planned for the future to be more involved with community. My friend and Elk Grove City Councilman Pat Hume often says, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That is my goal for Elk Grove Laguna Forums. To be able to help do more for the community and bring it together to support local business, non profits and community groups. To be the tide that helps lift the boats if I can.
Elk Grove is becoming a big city, but still has that small town feel where it is one community. What happens in Laguna West or rural Sheldon affects all of us, even our neighbors to the north in Sacramento, south to Galt and east to Wilton and Rancho Murieta. Most other cities are fragmented, and not cohesive like Elk Grove is. That is one of our strengths.