Journalism and news
Local radio and news personalities will often have their own personal Twitter accounts, and beyond offering up the usual soundbites, these personal feeds often have special insights about what is happening on the ground. Whether it's rumors about hot news items, or even just more centralized traffic reports, following local journalists will help you stay informed about what's happening around you (often in a more candid and direct fashion then you might expect from official channels).
Most local newspapers and radio stations offer websites that list journalists and their Twitter accounts, so stake out a few journalists whose coverage or insight you enjoy and follow them so you're always "first to know".
If you're into local music, seek out local bands, venues, even record labels and stores to stay appraised of what music events are happening and what new music is being released in your own city. Most cities large and small will also have a number of local music bloggers to follow and depending on your taste you're likely to find a flourishing independent scene right in your own backyard.
Theatre and performance groups, as well as small local art galleries also frequently opt to use social media to promote their gatherings and shows (which often get missed by bigger media outlets). No plans for Friday night? Search Twitter for cultural keywords of interest to you and pair that with your city, it's likely you'll be surprised at the options available to you for a night out.
Though there are many popular weather services on Twitter sometimes the best way to watch a storm roll in is to hop on an Twitter and see what people in your local sphere are saying. Its likely you're not the only one who forgot an umbrella and since people love talking about the weather, often enough you can get up to the minute reports on weather from independent observers all over your city on Twitter.
The more local individuals you follow, the bigger the sampling and the more objective reports available to find out what the weather is like down to the neighborhood or borough. Sure it may be no more or less accurate than official weather reports, but it's not always enough just to know the temperature outside, sometimes you need to hear someone else spell it out for you in 140 characters our less: "It's hot enough to fry an egg out here!"
While big fast food chains often face the wrath of social media, small restaurants benefit from social media as an affordable promotions platform (and the ultimate word of mouth). Tools like Twitpic and Instagram let visitors quickly snap off and share a few pictures of their meal and suddenly that small, unknown sandwich shop becomes a busy hub of hungry office workers out to lunch. The foodie culture on Twitter is alive and well and often if you follow a few decent food bloggers in your city you'll soon find yourself with a long list of local restaurants to try out (instead of opting for that old fast food standby). Don't forget to share your experience using Twitter Mentions, an @ mention here and there can go a long way to help local restaurants maintain a vibrant food culture in your city.
Social media lets us connect, in the broadest sense, to the global community. Though an exciting prospect, it's when tools like Twitter let us network more locally that we really see an impact in the communities around us. Break the habit of following big celebrities and media organizations, and use Twitter to find interesting follows in your own city to help broaden your local perspective and support media, culture, and brands closer to home.
(Image: Sean Rioux)