On July 18, the City of Davis launched its Nextdoor site — a free, private social network that allows for neighborhood and citywide communication. Together with Nextdoor, the city established 33 neighborhoods.
“It gives neighborhoods the ability to create their own private website, to talk to their neighbors about what’s important to them, whether it’s crime and safety, civic issues, reporting lost pets or exchanging advice and recommendations,” said Nextdoor’s senior communications manager Kelsey Grady. “We’re really just giving neighborhoods ways to meet each other and communicate with each other.”
According to Grady, when a city gets on board with Nextdoor, they get a Nextdoor city page that lets the city target messages to certain neighborhoods, if, for example, there’s a water main break that affects particular neighborhoods in Davis.
“It allows us another communication mechanism to talk to the residents,” said Stacey Winton, community partnership coordinator for the City of Davis.
To date, about 21 neighborhoods in Davis use Nextdoor. Although 33 were initially set up, a couple have broken out into smaller areas.
“At least two-thirds of the city has been claimed by a leader and have people signing up,” Winton said. “It really started with Davis Neighbors Night Out, to get people out into the street and have a block party to meet people.”
Winton said sometimes block parties don’t help with curbing the anxiety people may have when going out and meeting new people.
“Nextdoor is kind of like a step back from that,” Winton said. “You get to know people, who they are, where they live and what kind of things are being talked about.”
Additionally, the City of Davis’ funding has been cut back dramatically, so the city has been looking for no-cost or very low-cost means to get the word out to people about different city issues, Winton said.
“It doesn’t cost us anything; it doesn’t cost the city anything,” said President of the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association Steve Tracy. “The city just wanted us to try it out. We’re probably the first organization to take it on.”
Founded in October 2011, Nextdoor is currently active in over 4,000 neighborhoods across 48 states.
“We see that Nextdoor is working in urban areas and suburban areas on the West Coast and East Coast,” Grady said. “There’s a lot of data online that shows a lot of people don’t know their neighbors and we’re trying to change that.”
Each neighborhood’s site operates similarly to Facebook, with its interface taking cues from the widely used social network. Every site has a wall, as well as the option to form groups and events and upload pictures, with each household also having their own profiles. In addition, Grady said each neighborhood site can post updates on crime and safety and has functions similar to Yelp and Craigslist.
“The neighborhood map is a big thing that attracts people into using Nextdoor,” Grady said. “We’ve seen a lot of people give up Yahoo! groups or a LISTSERV and get on Nextdoor because it’s kind of the new, more updated way to connect to their neighbors.”
Grady said Nextdoor is more of a utility network instead of a social network.
“It’s more about solving problems,” she said. “We use ‘social network’ a lot because more people understand what it means now.”
Tracy said one of the values of using Nextdoor is not having to find a webmaster to maintain or structure the neighborhood website.
“The value is higher for the other neighborhoods where they only meet when there’s a crisis,” Tracy said. “I think it’s a good thing for the city if more neighborhoods use it.”
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at email@example.com.