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.
I have to thank two people in particular that were a huge help to me over the years. One is Jason Rogers. He created the original EGLF site for me and also helped me set up Elk Grove Laguna News. His knowledge of websites and the behind the scenes details was a big help. The other is John Wallace. He has been a wealth of information. He’s given me a lot of advice on various things and has been a good sounding board. I think it was back in early 2015 he told me “I think this thing is ready to take off” referring to EGLF. I remember thinking he was right, but I never imagined it would be where it is at now and the impact it is having.
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 8 years ago. Some people don’t like that I offer my personal opinion on posts on the Facebook page and do it under the EGLF name. That’s what I have always done. Some think I am just a moderator or the admin. A couple have threatened to “tell my boss and get me fired.” Chances are that at some point I have or will say something that makes you mad. I will always be honest, even if it is not politically correct. I can disagree with you on one point and agree on the next.
Another common misconception is freedom of speech. That doesn’t apply to social media. No one has free speech on Facebook. You can only control what is on your personal page. On Facebook you can edit what you say on your page. When you comment on pages for businesses or groups, then others can moderate that. Please keep that in mind. I do reserve the right to remove posts and people that are abusive, use too much profanity, racist, inflammatory, personal attacks or people just trying to cause problems. If you’re going to just be a troll and cause drama, then you won’t be around. If all you do is complain and bring negativity, then you won’t be around.
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.
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. In early 2010, I had a falling out with the site owner over how some things were done. A group of people were trying to censor those that they disagreed with. Similar to what we see now on social media. The group that was controlling the site were mostly liberal. They didn’t like conservatives and they would run people off the site. At around the same time Facebook was taking off and a lot of people left the site for that. It’s interesting that in 2018 we are seeing a similar example of what Elk Grove Online was. There is another media page ran by mostly far left progressives that is following a similar path. Trying to force people to get along and act nice or they will be punished. They have run off numerous people just for disagreeing as well as threatening to go to the police. Then all the drama is about who you banned and why and it’s all very one sided. If you want to participate in discussions about issues, then there will be those who disagree. Anyone doing so in an abusive way should be removed. When the discussion turns from the topic to why people got banned then that’s not a good thing. You do need to have thick skin to do this.
I was told that if I didn’t like how things were done to start my own site and then I could do what I wanted. They had tried to run me off the site by using their silly scoring system known as “karma”. If you were good and towed the far left line, you would get good karma. If you dared to be honest and say something critical, you would get bad karma and eventually be banned. It was very middle school. All it does is invite people to say things you don’t like and then you end with more drama because of that.
On March 9, 2o10 things got heated and the owners kicked me off the site. I knew one day that day would come and I had already looked into starting my own forum. That day I started my own site, Elk Grove Laguna Forums. I told the owner of the other site that he made a huge mistake and that he would regret it one day. They closed down 2 years ago when their participation was almost non existent and many of the businesses left. They were so intent on running off people who disagreed, that once they did that it became boring. Even the people who pushed others out stopped posting.
A lot of the people on the other site followed me over to the new one. We had a very loyal group of followers. Probably the top 10 most popular posters left the old site for mine. We slowly built up a following. My goal at the time was to have it be a place for people to share their opinions and not be restricted. I also wanted to create something to help local business and community groups. I felt the other site was too restrictive and the businesses weren’t getting what they paid for. I started offering advertising to local businesses. That wasn’t easy when you only have a few hundred members. I had a handful of businesses that signed up. Some were afraid to because they didn’t want to go against the other site. Business owners told me they were afraid of being blackballed. I thought that was garbage. It motivated me even more to make EGLF a success.
At the 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. 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 is no local news here. The Elk Grove Citizen is published twice a week, but by that time some of the news is old. I actually tried to get the Citizen to work with me. My thought was they could do the news and I would share it to reach more people. I reached out a couple of times and never got a reply. 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.
2016 was also my first foray into local politics. Being involved in some of the discussions and seeing how things worked behind the scenes. It also brought some controversy. I saw some things happening that I felt the residents of Elk Grove needed to know. I heard a lot of stories about then Mayor Gary Davis from local business owners and community members. Many of whom would never publicly say anything out of fear of it coming back to hurt them. I was shocked by how many people disliked him and couldn’t wait until he was out of office. I was very critical of Davis. I knew it was a risk to publicly stand up to him, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
Shortly before the election in November, Davis created a competing news site and Facebook page, Elk Grove Tribune. I was told by some people he was coming to get me. In fact their about page, makes that clear, “We are not a one-man blog with one-person’s opinions.” A direct shot at me. Davis of course denied that, but based on what I heard from other business owners earlier, I was not surprised. Honestly I was flattered. When a competitor makes you the focus of their business like that, it means you’re doing something right. Just as the owners of Elk Grove Online motivated me by telling me if I didn’t like it to do it myself, Davis’ threat motivated me even more. I had gotten a little complacent and decided to renew my focus to make Elk Grove Laguna Forums more of a presence in the community.
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. With 32,000 followers, we actually have 32,000 reporters. Every day there are posts from local residents sharing news. So contrary to the other page’s mission statement, EGLF is not just one person’s opinions. It’s one admin, but thousands of opinions.
Of course as with anything there are critics. The more successful you become the more there are people that are unhappy. They don’t like my opinions, but it’s usually not that I have an opinion. It’s almost always because their opinion is different. If you look closely at the people complaining, that is usually the case. When they agree with you, they are fine with your “opinions”. When they don’t, then they don’t think that you should share your opinion. Odd how that works. They want to control what you say, yet talk about tolerance and free speech. It’s free speech when they say negative things about you, but you’re not supposed to respond or even share your opinion. Yet they will follow other pages and news sources that are very one sided. They will share stories from those sources as if they are factual. There are no “unbiased” sources at this point. Every media site has their own spin on things and how they present it. I have even had people say I should turn over EGLF to a group of moderators because it is a community asset and shouldn’t belong to one person. Like okay, thanks for doing this, but now get out of the way. It doesn’t work that way. Others can create their own pages as well. Some have. It’s not easy. Anyone can create a page and post stuff. It takes more than that to build up relationships with people and a trust with them.
In 2016 EGLF went from 4000 followers to 16,000. In 2017 it went from 16,000 to 30,000. In 2018 I hope to grow to 40,000 followers. 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. We do a lot of giveaways and help promote local community groups too. In 2017 I contributed over $2500 to local non profits and created three new scholarships with the help of the community and local businesses totaling $3000 to be given away to deserving seniors this spring. 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.
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.