Play Hard

Behind the ‘gram with @NorthEastFamilyFun

This week we had the pleasure of speaking to Sam who runs the well-established Instagram account , @northeastfamilyfun.

Written by High Life North
Published 10.11.2020

By Bekki Ramsay

This week we had the pleasure of speaking to Sam who runs the well-established Instagram account , @northeastfamilyfun. Her bio reads ‘honest Geordie mam sharing family life & ideas for adventures in the North East England for kids, teens & grown ups’ – and she couldn’t be anymore spot on.

In fact, through her honest recommendations, she’s managed to gain a staggering 12,000+ followers on Instagram and receives a further 130,000 monthly page views on her blog – confirming her as the go-to guru for all family-related activities in the North East.

With this in mind, we not only wanted to know how she’s managed to become so successful at what she does, whilst remaining authentic, but, of course, ask for some activity recommendations across the North East. Read on to see what she had to say.

1. What inspired you to create 'North East Family Fun'? And when did it all begin?

I started blogging (with a slightly different website) over 10 years ago, I always enjoyed writing and sharing ideas and it was a nice little hobby for me when my children were small.

North East Family Fun was born in 2012 – my friends and family often mentioned that I was their go-to person for places to visit in the North East and that I should set up a website. So, one day, I Googled ‘How to set up a free website’ and North East Family Fun was born. Back then, I had no idea about blogging or what it could grow to become – it was simply a website that I could share with family and friends and something for me to do when the kids were in bed and Steve was at work (he worked shifts at the time).

I have always believed that we learn best through experience and am a strong advocate for learning through travel and day trips. I love that my website and social media provides the chance to share this passion and connect with like-minded people.

2. You regularly gain around 130,000 monthly page views on your blog, but for those who haven't read your blog or page, how would you sum it up as a whole?

North East Family Fun primarily shares ideas for days out across North East England for all ages. Pre-Covid there also used to be a fair bit of travel inspiration but this year, this has switched to activities and life at home with tweens and teens.

My most popular posts are my online school holiday what’s on guides which are packed with ideas for things to do across our region plus ideas for local walks, outdoor adventures and hidden gems.

3. One of the most refreshing things about your page is your honesty - whether it's for places you have visited or your general opinion, but with such a huge following, how do you find the balance to be honest without having a detrimental effect on a local business?

Some people assume that because you are working with an attraction or business, you will always give them a glowing review but in my experience, this just isn’t the case. If you want to be a trusted source of information in the long-term, you must be honest and point out the positives and the negatives with any experience.

Readers do not expect every day out or attraction to be perfect and really appreciate honesty. Honesty does not put them off booking places on the back of my post – it just gives them better expectations.

Brands are usually very open to honest reviews and much prefer a balanced approach too (well the good ones do). When they share my posts with their readers, they know it is an authentic review.

That being said, I am a huge supporter of North East businesses and if an experience was not up to their usual standard, rather than writing a scathing review based on my one-off experience, I would give the place I was writing about another chance and re-visit on another date (and still include an overview of my bad experience in my post). Everyone has bad days.

4. Quick-fire question round. Where are your top three recommendation in the North East for a:

Cheap place to eat for families?

We love Gingerinos in Ouseburn – you can pick up a big slice of pizza, a slice of homemade cake and a drink for just £5.

Memorable day out?

We recently visited Ford & Etal in Northumberland and it is such a unique place – I recommend everyone visits. You can visit a traditional flour mill and see it in action, visit a Heavy Horse sanctuary, take a traditional train ride and visit a castle and museum. It is like stepping back in time and has been our favourite day out this year.

Family-friendly walk?

Druridge Bay Country Park is our favourite. We have been taking the kids since they were babies. It is just over 1 mile circular (pushchair friendly) walk around the lake and there is lots of wildlife to spot, steppy stones, a play park, a cafe and visitor centre plus of course the gorgeous beach too.

Food delivery?

It has to be Grainger Delivery – they bring the Grainger Market to your door and were our saviours during lockdown. I love the variety from Redheads Mac ‘n’ Cheese for your freezer to fruit boxes and meat from local butchers. Their Christmas hampers launch this month and I will be first in the queue.

Rainy day?

We are big fans of The Gate for older kids and teens. The Wonderbar is brilliant for a game of virtual darts (which can get very competitive) and YuMe World has a large Virtual Gaming area with all the latest tech / games. It was a big hit when we visited in the summer.

5. What are your plans for 'North East Family Fun' once your children grow up? (I hope this doesn't come across in a condescending way - I have just seen you talk about your other blog, which is less about family stuff, and that you planned on writing more on there in the future).

I have thought of this a lot over the years and I think I will continue as a resource for parents, even when my children have grown up. A lot of my posts (such as my what’s on guides) do not require us to physically visit and it would be a shame to stop sharing as the community is brilliant.

Also as a few people have pointed out to me, ‘family’ does not mean ‘with children’ and I do feel like North East Family Fun will gradually evolve to feature more days out for grown-ups / that the whole family can enjoy rather than mostly things to do with kids.

I left employment 5 years ago to focus on running North East Family Fun as a business and I know I am not ready to return to employment any time soon (if ever).

6. Do you have any tips for those who are wanting to set up a blog?

Yeah, definitely. Here are my top five:

  1. Just do it – I didn’t have any training and have never taken a blog course. The best way you learn is by just jumping in & learning as you go.
  2. Do not start a blog for ‘freebies’ – you need to be passionate about the subject you are writing about.
  3. Get involved with the community – We are very lucky in the North East to have a brilliant blogging community. I have made some of my best friends through blogging and it all started through commenting on each other’s posts.
  4. Don’t underestimate the effort that goes into running a blog – Blogging has been my full-time job for 5 years now. If you plan to monetise, do not under-estimate the time and dedication needed. I used to work 40 hours+ on my blog as well as work part time and parent three children under the age of 5 in the earlier days.
  5. Do not join engagement threads – In the blogging / Instagram community there are groups and threads you can join where everyone comments on everyone else’s posts. This is such a waste of time and I promise you, in the long term, it will do more damage than good. Focus your energy on finding like-minded accounts and blogs and genuinely engage with their content. Be authentic.

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