Social media

Nosey neighbours – the next billion dollar social network is on your street

By Alex Wood 6 February 2017
image: istock/SaHo_H
Summary

For the curtain-twitchers.

Forget Snapchat for a minute – keeping tabs on your real-life neighbours is about to become the next big thing.

If you haven’t already heard of Nextdoor, you’re about to see a lot more of this controversial service.

Offering discussions boards, classified ads, private messaging and events, this is the local residents association for the digital age, neatly packed into your smartphone.

Sounds frivolous? Nextdoor is already worth over $1bn and now it’s now coming to a street near you in Europe.

Racism behind closed doors

The app’s star feature is security. Unlike other social networks, Nextdoor forces every new user to verify their real identity before signing up. This should mean less trolls and more “meaningful” connections.

But the “closeness” of these communities has backfired in some parts of America, where the app became a platform for suburban race hysteria, bringing behind-closed-doors racism out into the open.

Neighbourhood landgrab

Back in the UK, Nextdoor’s growth shows little signs of slowing down. After launching just 4 months ago, this week the company will acquire Streetlife, the current UK market leader.

Social networking is all about scale – and competing networks make it harder for people to know which one to use. It’s why Facebook worked so hard to become the de facto network for university students and exploded in popularity.

After buying Streetlife, Nextdoor will gain 1m users, cementing its position as the leading  local network in the UK.

There are plenty of other smaller networks up and down the country, mostly run by volunteers, using existing platforms like Ning or old-fashioned discussion boards.

But nothing else rivals Nextdoor’s ambitions when it comes to building a business.

Despite taking over $200m of investor cash, the app has yet to make a penny – until now.

Turning local gossip into millions of dollars

Just like local newspapers of the past, Nextdoor is building the ultimate platform with a targeted audience.

Soon Nextdoor will start selling “sponsored posts”, Silicon Valley-speak for adverts from local businesses.

It’s only natural that a new local restaurant would want to be pay to be seen by their local customers, instead of an easily-ignored leaflet shoved through their letterboxes.

For some the idea of making money from local groups is difficult to stomach. But with hundreds of millions of dollars of money behind it, Nextdoor is not about to disappear anytime soon.

Love it or hate – the investors have bought in and determined to make this the next Snapchat.

Be careful how you put your bins out in the future, local social networking is here to stay – whether you like your neighbours or not.