This post is a follow up to my original story, Nextdoor: Social Media For The Neighborhood. If you’re not up to speed on Nextdoor go ahead and read that original post first.
It’s been about two months (as I write this) since my department launched Nextdoor and there’s been some progress in a number of areas to report back on.
Adoption and membership
Back at the end of August 2013 we had been recruiting founding members and putting the word out via our traditional forms of social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook. I emphasize this because I do think we would have had a much slower adoption rate without the significant audience we already had in place on those platforms. On launch day we were approaching 600 Nextdoor members. Today is November 3, 2013 and we now have just over 2400 members representing 37 neighborhoods for a total of 12% of households. When looking at individual neighborhoods the numbers range from a low of 4% of households up to 43% on the high end. The largest membership in one of our biggest neighborhoods is 210. Every area of town is represented and every neighborhood has launched permanently. Here’s how our map looks.
During the last two months we continued to promote Nextdoor via Twitter and Facebook. Nextdoor also assisted us by sending out “Express emails” through a third party. This effort was good for 200-300 more sign ups. It also irritated a few residents that didn’t appreciate the unsolicited emails but there was only the initial email and a follow up one about a week later. The bottom line is that we have exceeded expectations on the adoption side and our efforts have been bolstered by the residents themselves inviting their neighbors and friends to join.
Feedback from residents
Lets look at some actual feedback
“I’ve only been a member a couple of days but I like being connected to the neighborhood and knowing what is going on around the town.”
“We’re really happy with this. It’s a great way to connect with people in your neighborhood.”
“I was hesitant, but actually enjoy it now. It seems to be helpful with crime alerts in certain neighborhoods. Just have to figure out which neighborhoods they are living in when they post the activity. I think long term it is very helpful”
“This is a terrific service! I enjoy the traffic updates because they tell me what part of town to avoid when I’m going out. I like all of the communications with the police dept. I like the communications with my neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods. I hope we can avoid political bickering although opinions are important and good to see as long as it doesn’t become obsessive. Otherwise what can possible be wrong with communication? I wish we had this system years ago. Great job! Thanks”
“I think this is an excellent tool for our community. It has been very effective in getting information out to spefic areas as well as the whole town. It brings back the feeling of neighborhoods as they used to be. Keep up the good work I really appreciate your efforts.”
There’s a lot more positive comments but for the sake of space we can end it there. Any negative comments have been very minor and usually involve some elements of the software.
Functionality and Support for the Municipality
I’m not going to rehash too many items that were already discussed in my August 26th post regarding how the platform works but I will share some thoughts since we launched. One particular shortcoming that is hopefully being addressed soon is the complete lack of city functions from their mobile apps. While residents have mobile apps for iOS and Android, they don’t yet support city functions. This means that you won’t be using an app to update your residents on the go. Its not all lost as you can update from the browser, which is slow and clunky, but works OK. The biggest issue with using the browser I’ve found is the tendency for the browsers to refresh if you leave it to reference another app. On more than one occasion I’ve had to go to an email to reference some information for my Nextdoor post only to find that any work I already did was gone and I had to start over. This is incredibly frustrating when you’re out in the field. Law Enforcement technology is increasingly mobile and the need for the mobile app to support city functionality will be important if Nextdoor wants Police Departments to consistently use its platform. You can reply to an email notification and the reply will post to the originating thread. This is convenient and posts fairly quickly most of the time. While using a mobile data terminal eliminates some of these limitations, there are still many agencies that don’t provide internet access on their mobile data terminals (why?).
We’ve also had residents reply to some of our posts asking what time the post was created. Many incidents are time sensitive and Nextdoor doesn’t stamp the time on posts accurately. Instead, its more of a general “2 hours ago” or just a date. This is not helpful in many cases. Its something we gave feedback on and I am told that the time stamps will be reworked in the future.
To this day I still have trouble understanding how Nextdoor orders posts. There is no option to sort by “date created” or “last updated”. And, if you use the mobile apps as a resident you’ll be even more confused about what determines the order of the content.
There’s also no way to edit a post once its created. If you’ve made some typos or spelling errors you’ll need to delete and recreate the post. I’ve also been informed that this will be enhanced soon.
Recently, Nextdoor added the ability to disable replies. This prevents a stale topic from being commented on once it loses relevance. They’ve also added the ability to delete an urgent alert and enhanced private messages to indicate new messages better on the website.
But, overall, Nextdoor software is easy to use, functional and is constantly improving and it seems to be doing things better than many other platforms. I’ve had many older folks, that aren’t tech savvy, take to Nextdoor and use it. That’s encouraging.
In the area of support, there’s nothing negative to report. Nextdoor staff is always responsive and proud of their product, and it shows.
I believe the future looks bright for Nextdoor but time will tell. There’s certainly a lot of encouraging investment in their product. Just recently they raised another $60 million in investment. That’s $100 million in the last 18 months. I have no doubt that municipal partnerships will expand and the functionality will increase as well.
We continue to see steady growth but it has slowed a bit so we are already considering a new round of publicity, though we have not settled on the strategy just yet. Nextdoor continues to set itself apart from traditional social media by verifying the address of residents during registration, not allowing anonymity and providing a private online environment. This provides a great audience for the police to share information.
Greg is a Police Lieutenant with the Billerica MA Police Department. An 18 year veteran, Greg manages Communications and Technology which includes social media initiatives.