Tools for talking to neighbors online

Show me a neighborhood where residents never talk and I’ll show you a community ripe for crime and problems. While there is no replacement for actually talking to neighbors in person, these days it’s so easy to be connected online, which can be a huge benefit for a neighborhood to communicate more effectively and solve issues.

Here are three platforms to consider for connecting with neighbors:

  1. Yahoo Groups:  I’ve used the Yahoo Groups platform in my neighborhood for over four years now and it’s been a great tool to build relationships and solve community problems. If you are not familiar with the “Groups” format, it’s basically a place to share messages and communicate quickly with a large number of people. You can share files, pictures, keep a community calendar and more. In my neighborhood it’s common to hear things like, “there is a small brown dog running around” or “there have been some break-ins” or “let’s plan a BBQ next week.” The forum can be private or public, you have the power to moderate, and you can invite outsiders to join the conversation too. It can be helpful to get a group of neighbors on board and also invite council members and police officers to be a part of the forum. The strong benefit is that Yahoo Groups is very easy to use for all ages and you can post by email. The real downfall is that it’s not easy to go back and find old messages and the platform overall is fairly basic. Visit Yahoo Groups.
  2. Google Groups:  This is Google’s version of Yahoo Groups. I have not used this platform personally, but it seems to have all the same features as Yahoo Groups and it is likely just as easy to use. However, Google does appear to have better mobile posting features and my hunch is their platform probably has a smoother design and some nifty tech too. Visit Google Groups.
  3. Nextdoor:  There is a new startup called Nextdoor that touts itself as “social networking for neighbors.” Their site seems very user-friendly so far and has a “Facebook-ish” feel. Only residents in a tightly defined neighborhood can join the Nextdoor site for their community. Nextdoor has a verification process for members, which takes work off of residents figuring out if someone lives in the neighborhood or not. Their system seems to make it very easy to create events, share pictures and have conversation all in one place. The downfall is that you cannot post via email (they say they’re working on that), outsiders cannot join as members (City Hall can join to post messages, but cannot see resident messages), and ultimately Nextdoor is a start-up. We don’t know whether they’ll be successful or not in years to come, though they appear to have big financial backing. Visit Nextdoor.com. I have joined Nextdoor and a few neighbors have done so also. We are testing it out right now and I’ll have more to say about it in coming weeks and months.

What else is out there for connecting? What would you recommend to friends or clients? If you are in real estate, what tools do you suggest to new homeowners when you hand over the keys?

If you have any questions, or real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs in the Greater Sacramento Region, contact Lundquist Appraisal by phone 916-595-3735, email, Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to posts by email.

Comments

  1. says

    Ryan, great post and idea there for community communication. I wonder if this couldn’t be a Facebook closed group process as well. I’m on a few FB closed group accounts where I can be updated on various threads and really like FB groups because I’m on FB daily already. My appraisal software, SFREP, has a Yahoo User Group and wish they would move this group over to FB as it’s not as user friendly. And with FB Groups, it’s easy for a new neighbor to be added to a group by a neighbor and it might take you months to meet that neighbor before you have the opportunity to invite them yourself. Just a thought. Bill

    • says

      Great point, Bill. I think FB is definitely an option for community groups and neighborhoods. It could work well for some groups. However, not everyone is on Facebook and some people have a bad taste about Facebook. I have toyed around with that idea over the years, but have not made the leap yet (although our neighborhood does have a Facebook page). Yahoo Groups is less techie than Facebook, which is a downside for sure. Yet it is easier to use I think and does not require logging in to a site or having to check an external site for updates. Everything can be handled in the email inbox, which is a huge benefit for those not wishing to go elsewhere. I’m not sure if you can respond to FB group messages directly from the inbox or not.

      I’m curious if you get every message for your Facebook groups? There is one group I belong to where I get every message to my inbox only because it is a small group. I actually deleted a group after Facebook changed their groups format. The new system just didn’t work any longer for my needs.

      Thanks Bill.

      • says

        You might be able to adjust your settings in FB, not sure. BUT, in the SFREP Yahoo User Group, I receive every message from the members as well. You’re right! Some groups I have email turned off because it’s just too much to keep up with.

        One helpful tip for email management is to setup a folder called for your group emails, such as “SAC Neighborhood Watch”, create a rule that when I receive an email from this group, move it to this folder. That way you can check those messages when time allows and NOT have your inbox jammed packed. I’m doing this with an active Video Marketing group on FB and it’s working out well for me.

        Bill

        • says

          It would be great to see FB come up with a “daily summary” of messages so users can keep up without having every single message delivered. Otherwise members do what you and I do by turning off the group and probably missing out on conversation. I do get every message on our neighborhood eGroup, but if the volume of messages was what it was on some of the FB groups, I’d opt for the “daily summary” from Yahoo Groups. Thanks Bill. I appreciate your insight and resourcefulness.

    • says

      One more thing. Bill, I think your comment illustrates an important point. There is no perfect system and some people prefer one system over another. There are also forums that are completely open to the public. Personally, I don’t think that’s productive for intimate conversation needed between neighbors to talk about sensitive matters or solve problems. One thing I’ve seen in some forums too is a sense of hostility (a la online commenters gone bad). Fortunately our neighborhood eGroup has not had any of that. I really think it’s so important to paint a positive vision for what an online group can be and to have a few strong residents who really buy into that to set the tone on a continual basis. Negativity is really not the breeding ground for change in a community. It’s a quick switch to turn off vision and productivity.

    • says

      Thanks Shane. There is some great information on there. It’s always interesting to see what people write about on city-data.com. There are so many “should I move to this city or neighborhood” posts. You can really get some diverse insight on a neighborhood from people when questions like that are answered. Thanks for bringing this up.

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