By Joe Jarosz
July 16, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Are your neighbors Nextdoor?
On July 9, city officials announced at a press conference its plan to join the private social network website Nextdoor. The website is designed to improve communication at the neighborhood level. The city manger, police department and the mayor’s office will all have accounts on the website to share information regarding public safety issues, community meetings and neighborhood services specific to Kansas City neighborhoods enrolled in the website.
The city and several officials are already represented on other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
Mayor Sly James said the social media website allows city officials like himself to communicate with specific neighborhoods. The website has been in use in Kansas City for the past two years, with around 100 Kansas City neighborhoods enrolled. Residents can join the website for free by visiting www.Nextdoor.com and entering their address.
All members must verify that they live within the neighborhood before joining Nextdoor. Information shared on Nextdoor is password-protected and cannot be accessed by search engines. Based in San Francisco, more than 37,000 neighborhoods across the United States use Nextdoor.
“In recent years, the city has made a concerted effort to reach residents where they’re listening, through traditional public meetings and print publications, but also using social media, KC Momentum, Nixle and now Nextdoor,” city manager Troy Schulte said. “And it’s paid off. We’ve seen significant increases in citizen satisfaction with the city’s communication. We look forward to using Nextdoor to continue growing our relationship with residents.”
Sarah Leary, Nextdoor co-founder, said they were contacted by city officials about helping build safer communities in Kansas City. Messages and posts are private to the specific neighborhood receiving them, Leary said. Those who moderate the neighborhood groups are given the tools for what can and can’t be shown in the neighborhood group’s posts.
“Each group is started by residents looking to communicate better with each other in their neighborhoods,” Leary said.
As a neighborhood forum, Nextdoor is used to report a lost pet, find recommendations for babysitters, and ask to borrow ladders and other tools. The city will have a limited presence; officials will be able to send out messages but cannot view residents’ personal information or any content within the individual Nextdoor websites. City messages will include important news, safety alerts, community events, services and programs relevant to individual neighborhoods.
“Nextdoor lets us easily and quickly inform residents about ongoing or new safety issues specific to a neighborhood,” said Police Chief Darryl Forté. “It helps empower neighborhoods to keep their communities safe, creating a virtual neighborhood watch.”
Chris Hernandez, city communications director, said even though the city and its officials are represented over several social media platforms, along with Channel 2 and other means of releasing information, he is not worried about “information overload” to the residents of Kansas City.
“Not everyone is on Facebook or Twitter,” Hernandez said. “This is just another tool for us that came from the community that signaled to us to participate. There are a lot of [communication] options out there and we want to make sure we have all the tools necessary to help inform the city.”
After the press conference, representatives of Nextdoor gave a brief presentation on how to sign-up and properly utilize the website. Nextdoor uses four methods to verify a member’s address: phone number, postcard, neighbor invitation and credit card billing address.
On a Facebook post asking for comments from the Northeast community, Laura Remy said the social media website is a good venue for residents in the Independence Plaza Neighborhood Council.
“Through Nextdoor we have accomplished: Getting enough signups to qualify for Google Fiber, started conversations about neighborhood dinner night out, shared yard sales crime information, and neighborhood information,” Remy said.