So, last week, I was skimming through my usual daily social media news emails, when I saw a title that struck me, "Social Site Nextdoor Wants to Connect You With Your Neighbors" on Mashable.com.
I have directly been working in social media for four years now, but using social media far longer, and have been waiting for something like this. After being the victim of crime in my neighborhood twice in one week last year (two separate incidents), I felt like there was no quick and easy way to get word out to my neighbors. Sure, I stopped who I could on the way to the mailbox and contacted the folks I knew through Facebook, and later learned about a small email list, but there was no easy way to reach the folks that I didn’t yet know. And after three years in the neighborhood, I do admit I met many new-to-me neighbors last summer, but with over 100 homes off of our main and cul-de-sac streets, there were still a lot of people that I didn’t know. Immediately following the incidents, I remember feeling a sense of relief and more connected to the neighborhood than ever, and man was I getting a lot of waves from people I didn’t or did know. The good news is, the word got out. My sense of community was there more than ever.
Part of why I fell in love with and chose to buy in Howard County, was because of the founding principles behind Columbia, the connected community. But, I imagine that with busy lifestyles and a different generation having moved in, that some of the sense of community has been lost over the years. I do wonder what it would have been like to be the first homeowner in my house in 1977. Though, I was one at the time, and too young to know where I would be so many years later.
So, when I read this article, I figured I would give this new social network a shot. After joining Nextdoor, and being the first one from the neighborhood to do so, it asked me to state the boundaries of the neighborhood on a map, so I included the homes on the main street and the cul-de-sacs too. But, then it said that my new neighborhood site would only stick if I had 10 neighbors join within 21 days. "Oh, dear. How would I do this?" I thought.
But, I tried anyway...and I invited everyone I had email addresses for, and then the site also gives you the option to send postcards to other neighbors for which you know by name (and even later allowed me to postcard the entire neighborhood). Postcards are helpful when you are not allowed to post flyers on the community mailboxes. And, I hate littering up the neighborhood with flyers (on doors or trees). Plus, the flyers you print from the site all have a unique code, which would mean I would have to print more than 100 and individually hand them out. The good news is, I didn’t have to go that far. Luckily, I have a neighbor that is connected to friends on the cul-de-sacs through PTA and a stint on the community village board. And, when she saw the site, she too thought it was a great idea.
A few days after joining Nextdoor, I got a postcard in the mail with a unique code on it to verify my accuracy on my residence. Well thought out, Nextdoor!
Almost immediately do you find the benefits from Nextdoor. When you define the neighborhood, the first thing it does is build a directory of all the neighbors that join by both alphabetical list and better yet, by a map! So, now, it's much easier for me to know neighbors by name. And, yes, it lets you pull in a photo from Facebook or upload one -- to help your neighbors recognize you.
Additionally, it has a "Status" wall, similar in style to Facebook. You can attach documents here. So, I have uploaded photos with posts that need them. I especially love the "Recommendations" part of the site, allowing you to share your favorite local businesses (think home contractors and services here) with your neighbors. Think of how much time this will save working from recommendations instead of researching new businesses every time you need them! There is a "Buy / Sell / Free" area too, to recycle and share items amongst the neighborhood. A "Groups" area too, so that you can create a subgroup for a portion of the neighborhood, or maybe for the parents in the neighborhood, you decide. And, an "Events" area, to share both community happenings and neighborhood specific events (like block parties).
Now, lost dog alerts, last minute baby sitters, and recycling have become much easier to get the word out about. I just need to stop and talk to every neighbor on the way to the mailbox, and let them know about this site with the hopes that they will join! And, that they will tell more neighbors they know too!
The only real drawback I see so far, is also the benefit, that the social network is private. So, posts about recycling items and/or local contractors that may help my friends just a few miles from me, are only private to just my neighborhood. Not a big deal to copy-and-paste, but I could see how it would help to allow community leaders or local law enforcement who live in other nearby communities to join (neighbors could “Approve” these people with so many votes in)...but then, I guess it would be just another Facebook.
A post that I did copy-and-paste to a good friend a neighborhood away was for an outdoor child playhouse. Being a new mom, and both hardcore into recycling and helping the environment, I immediately thought of this particular friend. She blogs about her Upcycling adventures on zMOMbie for HoCoBlogs.com.
Nextdoor is also a sponsor of National Night Out, the nation's largest annual crime prevention / safety event, and gives you an easy way to promote your neighborhood's National Night Out event, create an event listing, and print customized flyers from your event page. National Night Out is just seven days away...but with this site, it might be enough time to pull a hyper-local neighborhood happening together.
Since joining Nextdoor, I am seeing even more smiling faces waving at me as I walk the dog.
So, will you go to Nextdoor and see if your neighborhood already exists from a "Lead" that has already started it? Or, will you be the one that brings your community together and starts the neighborhood private community on there? Whatever you decide, I’m curious to know how Nextdoor will or has helped you. Let me know by Commenting below.