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Hyperlocal social networking – when Nextdoor matters most

It’s that awful time – the hurricane season.  The time when the national hurricane center repeated forecasts, repeated ad nauseum, are destined to frighten everyone, no matter how far from affected regions. The same broadcast can dwell on cones and paths, and almost as an aside, remind those in beach areas that the evacuation instructions are meant for them.  Reversing highway direction and talking constantly about evacuation sounds like a plan – but some observe that the distance required to evacuate to safety could be as much as 250-300 miles. So residents who will 'shelter in place' stock up on supplies and watch the 24-hour source of all fear – cable news, looking for guidance from Jim Cantore, that icon among storm trackers.

What people need most may be hyperlocal.  And that’s where Nextdoor has opened up a communication channel that has ripened into a neighborhood bulletin board in calm times, and an emergency beacon, street-by-street, during stormy weather.  With 137,000 neighborhood groups (at least), with rules enforcing a a ‘culture of civility',  facilitated by local moderators that step in when commentary is edgy. Imagine that – a culture of civility. Maybe 50 people are discussing a found dog – and who will adopt. Or they need help in setting up in home equipment or are selling furniture. The ads are also local – so realtors, stores, and service providers all can pay to reach those within their locale.

Back at the hurricane watch. Nextdoor neighborhoods in impacted areas have been ramping up.  Advisories, governor notices, evacuation sites and instructions are included in news sites and papers --  these will migrate onto Nextdoor as local neighborhood members incorporate new content. Even sizable cities like Peoria are on Nextdoor – so that city managers can get the word out.  Though to get the truly local info, street address is required.  As hurricane Irma demonstrated in Florida, when it is time to put the hurricane shutters on, there are neighbors on Nextdoor willing to do it -- for free and right before the storm is expected to arrive. 

Nextdoor users are Internet users. Duh.  But that can be a problem for the elderly – Pew claims that only 66% of the 65+ population are on the Internet.  Even if their statistics are aging since February, full adoption has yet to happen.  No surprise there – consider the list of basic requirements – note who is not online by income.  Also consider broadband availability, router, WiFi, and support for more than one device in the home (more Pew: PC/Mac, iPhone, tablets, Android phones, printer – and not counting the voice devices that may populate later.)  Each year the percentages of seniors online increase. Also increasing -- the potential role of the Internet in mitigating social isolation among the elderly. So let’s hope that when the weather deteriorates on the street where they live -- that they have discovered Nextdoor.