Not all of us have an easy time getting to know the people who live above, below, or next to us. When you've only exchanged brief hellos, it can be tough to ask your neighbours for help or advice. Just like Facebook facilitates connecting with far flung friends and family, social network Nextdoor, which launched in Australia a few weeks ago, makes it easy to be connected to your community.
Like any social network, Nextdoor may have issues depending on how your neighbours use it. For example, The New York Times pointed out that in the past, Nextdoor had issues with people using racial profiling when reporting others they suspected of crimes or other negative intent.
Anne Dreshfield, Manager of Content Strategy and Digital Communications at Nextdoor, says that if your neighbours make posts that involve racial profiling (which violates Nextdoor's community guidelines), you have the ability to report them to be reviewed and potentially taken down. Nextdoor also changed their reporting form to encourage people to include other, non-racial details about a person being reported, such as clothing.
Diving into an Established Community
You should explore the different sections to see what your neighbours are posting. They might mainly post when they have free stuff they're getting rid of or when they're looking for plumber recommendations, or your neighbourhood might organise community events through Nextdoor. Some suggestions that Dreshfield has for making the most of Nextdoor:
Get Recommendations: Rather than surfing Yelp when you need a service person (plumber, cleaner, gardener, etc.), you can get detailed recommendations from your neighbours.
Organise or Attend Events: Build a sense of community by putting together or supporting events in your neighbourhood. From a block party to running clubs or volunteer days, you have a wide variety of events you can organise by tapping into your Nextdoor network.
Connect with Local Organisations: Dreshfield mentions that police departments and other local organisations often use Nextdoor as a way to communicate with the neighbourhoods they serve.
Check Out Real Estate: Nextdoor has a feature that allows you to see real estate listings in your neighbourhood. This isn't available everywhere yet, but if you have access you can use it to check out other homes in your area in case you want to move, or even just to get an idea of what your place may be worth.
Of course, if you happen to connect more with certain members of your Nextdoor community, you can take those friendships offline. Building them up over time can lead to great benefits, like someone you can trust to watch your kid or pets, receive a package for you, lend you stuff, or just grab a beer with.
Building Up a Sparse Community
Your neighbourhood might already be on Nextdoor, but may not be very active or have many members. If you want to build up your Nextdoor community so that you can enjoy the benefits of an active and decently sized network, you'll need to do a few things:
Encourage others to sign up. This is easiest if you already know a few of your neighbours before turning to Nextdoor.
Draw in existing members. If your Nextdoor community isn't very active, you can try revamping the current members by organising an event in your neighbourhood, like a footpath playdate for local kids or a simple potluck.
Start your neighbourhood's community. If your neighbourhood isn't on Nextdoor, you'll need to get it started. You'll need more than ten members to sign up and be active within 21 days to exit the pilot status.
If you're very active or a founding member of your Nextdoor community, you may be offered the opportunity to be a Nextdoor Lead. This includes some special abilities, like voting on posts to be taken down or approving unverified members, but you won't be all powerful.
Knowing your neighbours has many benefits, but Nextdoor isn't going to be the answer for everyone. If you find that your Nextdoor community isn't a good fit for you, you'll just have to go with the more traditional methods like suffering through small talk to create friendships.