With recent reports in the UK press suggesting that Facebook popularity had reached saturation point, The Employable went on a Global journey to find out what the next major Social networking market could be…..and stumbled over the doorstep of nextdoor.com, the first private social network for neighbourhoods…
Don’t get me wrong Facebook is still the only major Social Network player in the UK, with a 52% share of all visiting traffic – but this is compared to a 58% share of traffic for the same period the year before*. Perhaps the answer to whom will compete against Facebook, has been literally staring us in the face, and we should not look no further than streets we live in and the neighbours we rarely talk to, to work out why nextdoor.com could be the new rival to Facebook’s global crown…
TheEmployable talked to Nirav Tolia, CEO and Co-Founder of Nextdoor to find out more…
How did the idea for nextdoor.com first come about and did people buy into the concept straight away?
Nextdoor was founded by a group of experienced technology executives whose careers have been focused on building strong online communities. These days, almost everyone uses social networks. There are social networks specifically designed for our friends and family (Facebook), for our business contacts (LinkedIn), and for those with similar interests (Twitter). But there is no social network specifically designed for the neighborhood, one of the most important communities in each of our lives. There are so many ways our neighbors can help us, but many of us don’t know our neighbors, or how to contact them. Nextdoor was created to change that.
We conceived of Nextdoor in the summer of 2010, and then a few months later, launched our first pilot neighborhood in October 2010, in Menlo Park, CA. The member response was almost instantaneously positive and we knew we were onto something really special. After a year of additional work to build a national platform, we officially launched Nextdoor nationwide in October 2011 and have already grown to over 800 neighborhoods in 43 states plus the the District of Columbia.
Talk to us a little about 2011, how has this year been for nextdoor.com – in terms of growth and audience that now visits the site?
2011 was a very exciting year for us. We experienced a tremendous response to our nationwide launch and expect to continue to grow solely through word-of-mouth and member referral. We currently have tens of thousands of members using the product every single day with churn rates below 1%.
Our group of members is quite diverse: it ranges from teenagers to people in their 90’s and varies from single folks to young families to older couples. We’ve learned that Nextdoor truly is relevant to virtually anyone who cares about strengthening their community.
In terms of the neighborhoods themselves – it has been really exciting to see our service adopted in a wide array of neighborhoods, including very urban to the very suburban areas. We have found that pretty much everyone can benefit from getting to know their neighbors.
What makes nextdoor.com different to other social networks?
Nextdoor is the first private social network for neighborhoods. It is an online platform where neighbors create private websites to communicate with one another in a trusted environment. Nextdoor is designed for the specific communication needs of a neighborhood.
Nextdoor is all about using neighbor-to-neighbor communication to solve everyday problems. The product is not typically used to share status updates, photos, and connect with friends – it is about connecting with the people right outside your door to find and share useful information.
For example, Nextdoor websites include a neighborhood map and directory of residents, so it’s easy to know who you’re talking to. When a neighbor shares a recommendation for a favorite local service (e.g. gardener, cleaning service, tutor) it’s automatically cataloged so anyone can easily refer back to it at any time. Neighbors use Nextdoor to help each other in ways that benefit the entire neighborhood. Some have said that this new social network is like a Yahoo Group meeting Yelp meeting Craigslist, all at a hyperlocal level.
Why do you think we don’t have that 1-2-1 personal relationship with our neighbours and communities anymore?
In today’s society we seem to have lost touch with the neighborhood. According to a June 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans know some of their neighbors and 28% know none of their neighbors by name. Only 9% of all Americans even exchange email with their neighbors. I am not sure why this is, I think the reason varies per neighborhood and per neighbor, but we did notice this lack of community and saw the opportunity to help change it.
We strongly believe that when neighbors connect and communicate, everyone benefits. As I said above, there are so many ways our neighbors can help us, but these days people don’t know their neighbors or how to contact them. Our mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood.
Do you think there is a longing to return to a more simple way of life and does nextdoor.com fill that gulf?
Absolutely. Our members tell us that they long for the days when they knew and interacted with the people who live around them. People do want to reconnect with their neighbors, but they just aren’t sure how to do it. We have seen that when people do know their neighbors, problems are solved faster and life is made more simple. Finding a babysitter, a lost pet, or a reliable plumber is straightforward and easy when you can quickly ask your neighbors.
How do you control the content that the ‘neighbours’ post? What if someone made a personal comment on a neighbour or made threatening comments – could you find that you have the online version of ‘neighbours from hell’!!
It is important to note that we do not exercise any editorial control over our members’ content. Rather, we rely on social mechanisms to ensure that the community polices itself. For example, all Nextdoor members must use their real names. We have found that when people have to use their real name they are less likely to engage in annoying and/or abusive behavior.
That said, we have a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment and threatening behavior. If a member is reported for posting inappropriate content, the message – and the member – will be removed from Nextdoor.
What are your plans for 2012 and beyond – do you see yourself developing into the European social network market?
Our main goal for 2012 is to continue to provide neighbors nationwide with the best way to build happier and safer neighborhoods. We are obsessed with delivering the best user experience to our members and will continue to use their feedback to determine what features to develop in the future.
As for expanding our presence beyond the U.S. – we are already exploring ways to make Nextdoor available for neighbors worldwide – but our specific plans are yet to be determined….
We wish NextDoor well and good luck for the next 12 months…