While your organization was wrestling with Facebook’s punitive algorithm and Twitter’s stifling character limits, Nextdoor has been fostering neighbor-to-neighbor conversations. Thanks to its hyperlocal niche, Nextdoor is getting more attention from people who work in public service and government communications.
Before you decide to add Nextdoor to your organization’s set of community outreach and engagement tools, you’ve got to get to know its perks, quirks, and limitations. You probably won’t use Nextdoor as a replacement for other social media channels. Instead, it could make an interesting addition for reaching out to the people in your immediate community.
Figure out what you’re getting into
To get the most out of any social media platform, including Nextdoor, familiarize yourself with its features and community norms. The best way to do that is to use the platform yourself.
The first step: Sign up for a personal account on Nextdoor. You need to use your real name and street address, but you don’t have to add a photo of yourself if that makes you uncomfortable. You’ll also have to verify your street address so they can confirm you’re a human.
Instead of jumping right into posting, start by listening to what your neighbors say. You’ll learn what they use Nextdoor to talk about, which varies not just from town to town, but from neighborhood to neighborhood. In some areas, Nextdoor functions like a community message board, with posts about lost pets and free moving boxes. In other areas, it’s more like an online neighborhood watch, with posts about crime and safety. Nextdoor is at its best when people use it to share a wide variety of what their neighbors should know.
Before you bring your organization onto Nextdoor, you have to get prepared. Just like on any social media channel, people often say what they think, and what they think isn’t always nice. If your organization hasn’t set up a structured way to handle negative feedback or criticism, take the time to come up with a response management plan. Nextdoor also has policies on everything from hate speech to privacy violations. Be sure to read Nextdoor’s community guidelines, which covers what people can and can’t discuss.
Get your organization on Nextdoor
Before you try to use Nextdoor for your organizational communications, it’s important to understand that, for the most part, Nextdoor doesn’t offer features for organizational communications.
That’s because Nextdoor is focused on connecting neighbors to neighbors. The main exception is the Nextdoor for Public Agencies program. The program is open to most public safety agencies, such as police, fire, and emergency management, as well as certain government communications departments. Most are city- or county-level agencies, though Nextdoor has begun to roll out some state-level access as well. If your organization is able to join the Nextdoor Public Agency program, you’ll be able to have conversations and share information with Nextdoor users who live in specific geographic areas within your community.
The five-year-old program is popular, with over 5,000 public agencies using the platform as of February 2019. If your organization is not currently eligible, you can still submit an application. Nextdoor has said it will contact interested organizations if and when it expands the program to other types of agencies.
To see what other public agencies are sharing on Nextdoor where you live, visit your local Public Agency feed. There are also a few case studies and resources on Nextdoor’s public agency blog and shared using the #NextdoorGov Twitter hashtag. To stay on top of what’s new at Nextdoor, follow its Public Agency team, including Joseph Porcelli (Twitter: @josephporcelli), Parisa Safarzadeh (Twitter: @parisapr), and Robbie Turner (Twitter: @robbiewturner).
If you can’t get a public agency account
If you’re an independent organization, nonprofit, or business, consider creating a Nextdoor business page (according to a Nextdoor spokesperson, government agencies are advised against creating a business page). You might even discover that your organization or business is already listed on Nextdoor, and all that’s left to do is customize your page profile.
Once you’ve got your business page set up, you can encourage your supporters who use Nextdoor to write a recommendation for your organization. These recommendations will help other people in your community discover what their neighbors like about your organization. Because of the conflict of interest of being paid to work there, you shouldn’t have your employees post recommendations unless they personally have used your programs or services and also disclose their affiliation.
Business pages can’t currently post to Nextdoor like you can on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. But, with a budget, you can buy advertising on Nextdoor. Ads come in two main flavors: Offers for local businesses and Sponsored Posts for national brands. With local Offers, you can target audiences by neighborhood, although Offers aren’t available in all areas. The cost of advertising in a large or densely-populated area can add up. The more neighborhoods you target in your Nextdoor ad, the more expensive it gets. You can also add your organization’s events to Nextdoor, though you have to post them from your personal account.
Is Nextdoor right for your organization?
Has your organization used Nextdoor to reach the people in your community? What worked for you? What’s next on your list to try?
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, freelance writer, and trainer based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.