As we are almost one year away from the next general election, political campaigns of all shapes and sizes are focusing on finding as many persuadable voters as possible. Campaigns have become more competitive and more expensive. To reach persuadable workers, campaigns rely on traditional tactics (like door-to-door canvassing and television ads) and more modern tactics (like organic internet content and paid ads on social media platforms).
It is fair to say that, among political strategists and marketers, much of the discussion and attention is on the latter rather than the former. Having said that, there is one platform that is being woefully overlooked by political strategist.
Nextdoor is the self-described “private social network for your neighborhood.” While it seems like a simple site for concerned citizens to complain about raccoon problems and how much everyone is chipping in for the mailman’s Christmas gift, Nextdoor can be an extremely effective tool for political campaigns. It’s a social media platform can level the playing field and help scrappy campaigns on a shoestring budget compete against their larger rivals.
Nextdoor: The Basics
Before understanding how to use Nextdoor in the political world, it is critical to have a basic understanding of what it
Nextdoor is essentially a private social network for a particular neighborhood. The basic value proposition of the company is that users can quickly find out what is happening in their community. The co-founders of Nextdoor noticed that building connections in the real-world is an inherent human need, yet many people did not know much — if anything at all — about their neighbors. Nextdoor is designed to solve that problem by being the central, online hub where neighbors can discuss virtually anything that is on their mind.
Ultimately, Nextdoor users create all of the content and post that content on a newsfeed. The founders and company management designed the product to make it seamless to take in-person discussions among neighbors and have them on the platform. Nextdoor also places a premium on verification. In other words, it ensures that those in a neighborhood’s social network are being truthful about their residence. This not only creates trust among those in the network, but as we will explain below, also presents a key advantage to political campaigns. Members join specific neighborhood groups led “leads,” who moderate and guide the conversations.
The Advantages of Nextdoor
Once you understand some of the basics behind Nextdoor, political strategies can quickly surmise a few ways that political campaigns can use the platform to their advantage.
That said, there is a key caveat here.
While Nextdoor is a platform for neighbors to discuss virtually any topic, the Nextdoor team warns users to avoid using Nextdoor as a soapbox. They further state that while “political and local issues have an enormous impact on communities… disagreements about politics and beliefs also have the potential to become divisive.” The Nextdoor team adds that “We don’t want neighbors to feel like joining Nextdoor has added them to a campaign mailing list.”
Because of this, political campaigns need to tread extremely lightly when leveraging Nextdoor. However, if done right, there are some key advantages to using Nextdoor in campaign marketing.
Most notably, Nextdoor isn’t like other social media platforms. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and other general population social media sites, Nextdoor users simply trust each other more. Whether it is due to verified neighbors communicating with each other or due to the technology powering the platform, a message communicated through Nextdoor is more effective. The system filters out spam and anonymous comments, making the conversation purer and more focused on what the neighborhood thinks is important.
Along with this, Nextdoor users are happy to share their thoughts on problems affecting their community. In other words, the conversation is extremely personal. It is focused on the issues affecting neighbors’ day-to-day lives, rather than the latest headline or tweet.
Finally, Nextdoor can be a platform that inspires action in the real world. As just one example, after San Jose experienced massive floods in 2007, local leaders — including the San Jose mayor — found a significant number of donors and volunteers on the site to help clean up neighborhoods and help struggling families. Simply put, the Nextdoor platform is not only a powerful platform to generate real, authentic conversations, but it can lead to groups of motivated people making a real difference in their communities.
With these advantages in mind, it is clear that political campaigns — especially smaller campaigns — should at least consider using Nextdoor to spread the word about their candidate. But how can they do it effectively while complying with Nextdoor’s “No Soapbox” rule? There are several things to keep in mind here.
Critically, you must keep the conversation local. Nextdoor isn’t the place to describe your candidate’s views on national politics. Stay away from issues that don’t have immediate relevance to the community that you’re trying to reach. Instead, focus on having a real conversation about the group members’ day-to-day lives. It can be anything — like cleaning up graffiti or filling up potholes on main thoroughfares. By discussing hyperlocal issues, your campaign will differentiate itself. You will be truly engaging with potential voters versus simply running a few ads on Facebook or Google.
Next, embrace authenticity. If you’re looking to simply copy and paste generic responses to the concerns of the community, you won’t get very far. Instead, have real, authentic conversations with the group. Have your candidate take a real interest in the members’ hopes and concerns. If your candidate can’t be authentic, you may need to rethink using Nextdoor entirely. The community can immediately detect disingenuous comments or attempts to subvert the “no soapbox” rule.
Finally, don’t hesitate to use the site as a way to enable offline activity. If your campaign has a promising conversation with an individual or group of people, see if they would be willing to volunteer or even donate to your campaign. Don’t forget that having a conversation with potential constituents and supporters is only half the battle. Even the most persuaded voter needs to get out and vote, so develop a plan of action that will convert Nextdoor enthusiasm into actual votes for your candidate.
A Game-Changing Platform
While Nextdoor is one of the newer social networks on the internet today, it can be an extremely powerful tool for campaigns on shoestring budgets. Granted, Nextdoor should not be used in a vacuum. It should be part of a portfolio of marketing tactics to reach persuadable voters. Nevertheless, Nextdoor punches above its weight. Smaller campaigns should absolutely consider leveraging its power as we approach next year’s general elections.