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Navigating Nextdoor: Social media gets neighborly

Navigating Nextdoor: Social media gets neighborly
© Barbara Helgason | Dreamstime.com

You may have heard about Nextdoor. Perhaps your friend down the street mentioned it, or you received a postcard or an email inviting you to join. You might have thought to yourself, “Oh great. Another social network.” But Nextdoor is different. It focuses solely on your neighborhood (and your surrounding neighborhoods) and aims to connect neighbors online to share news, events and recommendations. It doesn’t suck up time the way Facebook does or fly by at the breakneck speed of Twitter.

Nextdoor is a haven for all sorts of neighborhood chatter. You can expect to see lost-dog pleas, found-dog notices, garage sale ads, recommendations for roofers, and news about block parties and special events. If that sounds interesting to you, then it’s worth giving the network a tryout.

Get oriented

Once you’ve signed up for Nextdoor, you will see a list of posts laid out in a typical online forum style with more recent news feed discussions near the top. A list of categories runs down the left side of the page.

Note: Nextdoor also has a free app for both Apple and Android users.

Sell to your neighbors

The classifieds section won’t replace Craigslist, but it can be a good spot to notify your area of an upcoming yard sale or list a room for rent. You may also find local freebies, like landscape fill dirt or requests for bartering trades, though there is a separate section on the site dedicated to “Free items.” You may also find entrepreneurial neighbors offering their pet sitting or gardening services in the site’s classifieds.

Keep an eye on crime

Now let’s turn our attention to the Crime & Safety category. This is where a sort of virtual neighborhood watch kicks in. Crime & Safety is typically one of the most active topics of conversation on Nextdoor. Neighbors might share information about package thefts, stolen cars, surveillance camera footage, or suspicious behavior here. It’s not all bad news. This is also a place for notifications of crime prevention meetings, organizing neighborhood watches, and sharing home security tips.

If you’re new to Nextdoor, the Crime & Safety news may feel a little overwhelming, but it can also be a great reminder that your neighbors are looking out for each other.

Round up recommendations

It’s raining hard outside. You look up and see water rolling down your living room wall. It’s time for a new roof, so you might as well ask around about your neighbors’ experiences with roofers. There are a couple ways to approach this through Nextdoor. Start by heading directly to the Recommendations category, which is organized by the type of business. You will see everything from dog groomers to roofers. Click on a particular category to access more detailed reviews of each business.

If you want more specifics, need newer information, or have a very particular project in mind, then you might want to ask for fresh recommendations. There’s an option at the top of your news feed page to post a message. You can choose which neighbors to include, select the Recommendations category, and get more personalized responses.

The Recommendations feature isn’t just for home projects. It can also be a good way to get neighborhood restaurant tips, find a qualified auto mechanic, and learn about local small businesses.

Follow your neighborhood through email

You don’t have to constantly lurk on Nextdoor to keep up with the Joneses. The easiest way to follow your neighborhood news and happenings is through the site’s email newsletters. Click on your profile button in the upper corner and go to settings to access the delivery options. The Daily Digest sends you a once-a-day update on the day’s top posts. A quick preview of each topic appears in the email, so you can decide if you want to click on it and go read or contribute to the in-depth discussion. This is also where you can adjust your other email options, such as receiving emails when someone replies to one of your posts.

A dark side to Nextdoor?

Though it may have a local focus, Nextdoor is still a social network and it can be prone to some of the same problems found with its big brethren, Twitter and Facebook. Occasionally, discussions may not be very neighborly. Tempers can run high about controversial issues and disagreements or rude comments can crop up in the forums. When this happens, it’s a good time to exercise restraint and step away from the conversation if it bothers you.

Note: This is a good time to point out that Nextdoor won't protect your home from theft or burglary. For that, you need a 24/7 surveillance system, like those offered by our sponsor, SimpliSafe. Click here to build your custom security system today, and get free shipping and a free keychain remote as a listener of the Kim Komando Show. Just use promo code KIM at checkout!

If Nextdoor isn’t for you, you don’t have to stick around. You’re also under no obligation to participate. You might just enjoy lurking on the edges, reading the notices, and getting the daily email newsletter to see what your neighbors are talking about.

At its best, Nextdoor strengthens neighborhood connections online. It helps lost dogs get back home, puts you in touch with a last-minute babysitter, and finds you a reputable roofer to fix that leak. The idea here is to foster a sense of community that transfers back out into the real world. Depending on your neighbors’ participation, your mileage may vary, but it’s certainly an intriguing take on the concept of social networking.

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