Local: A new frontier for social networks

The social networks we all know and love have become almost intimately connected to how we project ourselves to the world. Over the years, each of us has constructed global communities of like-minded individuals where we can amplify our personalities, share our ideas and connect to ideas and movements that are important to us.

Today, connecting to the ‘real’ world, however, perhaps means a whole other thing, and having considerably more meaningful interactions than what we are used to having on our social networks.

On one hand it can seem ironic that global giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been able to create amazing communities between millions of people around the world, yet have struggled with connecting people with their immediate connections.


Localized networks stand to benefit local businesses


Top social networks have been focusing on the large-scale scheme of things although we are beginning to see a shift in these networks making conscious room for matters closer to us. This observation is not lost on leading social network Facebook. The platform is working hard to be relevant on a local level. From featuring local weather reports, encouraging voting in districts and check-in tools after disasters or terrorist attacks, Facebook clearly recognizes how local issues affect and compel its users in their everyday lives.

There are a lot more benefits to a local business being able to connect with their own local communities: take for instance a small business offering gardening services in a neighborhood. They could have a few thousand fans on Twitter who enjoy their brand however their online community is not particularly responsive because they are geographically scattered and, because, as much as they enjoy their posts, it is not of particular use to them.

A relatively young social network called Nextdoor is working hard to fill that gap. Its goal is to bring people together in a particular community in a way that enriches the needs of the user but also the needs of the community, and by putting money back into local communities. A young couple looking for someone to watch their child at the last minute can connect immediately with a good babysitter.


Localized networks: A young couple looking for someone to watch their child at the last minute can connect immediately with a good babysitter.


Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia spoke on the Recode Decode podcast and believes, “This is a trend in the world that people are really starting to care about. We feel great about buying things from Amazon, because it’s a great service but many of us also want to buy and support local businesses, and there hasn’t really been a great online service for that.”

Localization is not easy to get right. It’s hard to scale a tech product that works for everyone because that’s not what being local is all about. Each neighborhood has its own culture, its own norms, making it a challenge to create a one-size-fits-all service solution.

There are a few examples of technology products that have been able to unlock the power of local communities and create incredible revenue streams from them. AirBnb and Uber have both had that kind of success by making their products feel local and unique to a particular area while using tech tools with a universal language that everyone can understand.

Online marketers and social media managers should also recognize that the majority of brands they work with are situated in real-world communities, and there is a lot of value in finding ways to connect the brand with the actual surroundings in which it exists.



Nirav Tolia, Nextdoor