When In Rome…

Greg Sterling has a great post today on his blog, Screenwerk. He is once again stressing the importance of local/neighborhood level search and advertising when it comes to differentiating between similar cities, towns, or general geographical areas that the larger search portals often get mixed up.

We all know the major metros get the coverage they deserve, but what about the little guy? For that matter, the “little guy” might just be in an outlying suburb of one of the metros and inherently get the short end of the stick due to the traditional “top down” national view of the portal approach.

Yet again, I’ll make my plea for the “bottom up” approach to this entire paradigm. eNeighbors aims to build a network of users that are tied together by where they live, not what internet portal they use.

Learn how to get your neighborhood online with eNeighbors.

Amber Alert

I don’t have an insightful industry post today, but I wanted to highlight one of the features of the eNeighbors service — Bulletins.

Bulletins is a great feature that allows an email message to be sent to the entire neighborhood instantly. Bulletins are most effective for an emergency situation where the entire community needs to be contacted immediately. I compare it to a neighorhood-level Amber Alert. In fact, of there was a case where a child was missing, the Bulletin feature would be the quickest way to alert everyone just like the Amber Alert system.

Find out more about the other eNeigbors features.

Next Net Neighborhoods

I wrote yesterday about how we need to start creating the first online network of neighborhoods and in turn drive the value of local advertising for the businesses in our community. Here are a couple of guys already doing that.

Ben Saren has created a great locally-based online community centered around Boston. Citysquares.com is a local company that brings together local businesses and their consumers. The philosophy is that you enhance local neighborhoods by strengthening the locally owned businesses. Local businesses are what make our neighborhoods unique. Citysquares.com is focused on providing rich, hyper-local content for urban and suburban communities.

Visit citysquares.com

Front Porch Forum
Based in Vermont, Michael and Valerie Wood-Lewis created Front Porch Forum to help people create healthy and vital community within their neighborhoods. Their mission: common sense and a growing body of research tell us that well-connected neighborhoods are friendlier places to live, with less crime, healthier residents, higher property values, and better service from local government and public utilities.

Visit Front Porch Forum

Ask.com: AskCity

Ask.com released some data last week that shows how their new local search service AskCity is being used.

Here is the top 10 list for services search:

1. Restaurants
2. Hotels
3. Churches
4. Banks & credit unions
5. Car dealers
6. Lawyers/attorneys
7. Family doctor
8. Furniture dealers
9. Children & Daycare
10. Hair salons

Additionally, here’s a byte from Greg Sterling’s blog about the service:

Barry Diller keeps talking about Ask as the “glue” of his empire and more specifically about the importance of local. Ask and the new AskCity are thus in the hot seat.

What I find interesting is that all the large portals that are interested in search and local advertising are requiring users to come to them. Yahoo, Google, IAC — they are all building these great tools and portal interfaces with new user interfaces, experimenting with mapping, tagging, and any other type of user generated content (UGC) they can dream up.

What’s the ultimate fate of this “go out and find it” scenario? Wouldn’t it be better for them to come to us? Wouldn’t it be great if the new restaurant on the corner came to you and told you they were open and what kind of food they serve? Sure, they can drop a flyer on your front step, but that’s old school, right?

What type of network would it take to alert a community to new services in their area that they are already looking for anyway? Maybe something like a neighborhood-based social network of local residents that live within a 15 mile radius of the new business which is the same area where they spend the majority of their hard-earned dollars.

If we can build such a network, the service providers would come to us on our turf. Then we get to call the shots. Take the first step and get your neighborhood online with eNeighbors.

Neighborhood Art Show

As I was returning my Netflix DVDs this morning, I saw this taped to my mailbox:

Let’s say that I was really interested in this event that was happening in my neighborhood. If I didn’t happen to have my camera with me (which I always do, but I would argue that I’m not normal), I would have to go back in my house and grab a pen and paper then walk back outside and write down all the details of the art show. Then I would have to make sure I didn’t lose that piece of paper for the next 4 days in order to attend the show at the correct time, location, etc.

See what a pain in the rear that was? Now, if my neighborhood was using the eNeighbors service (which we are working on), then these artists could post their art show as a neighborhood event, and not only would I have been notified more effectively via my neighborhood communications, but I would also have all the event info right there on the website and could easily reference it at any time. Furthermore, I could leave a comment on the event page asking questions about the show. I could even tell my friends next door to check out the art show on the site in case they hadn’t seen it yet.

This is the sort of local community activity that is at the heart of what eNeighbors is trying to accomplish. We want people to talk to each other, share ideas, create things and ultimately enhance their lives by feeling more fulfilled in the place where it matters the most — their home.

Social Technographics

Forrester just released a new research report titled “Social Technographics” that talks about how consumers approach social technologies. “Social Technographics” is the term Forrester has given to what they are outlining as “six levels of participation” pertaining to the users of social networking sites. Charlene Li, one of the authors, has posted some overview info on her blog.

Here’s the breakdown of the participation types.

What I find interesting is that with all this social network craze going on lately, there is still 52% of online users that are inactive on the social space (see image). Furthermore, this group of “inactives” tend to be older women in the baby boomer generation. So, half of the online population isn’t even using social network sites… I smell some serious potential.

Now, I wrote previously about how eNeighbors should be focused on the boomer generation due to the fact that they are the primary homeowners in the neighborhoods we are trying to get online using our service. Let’s think about your average middle-class household in surburban America. Who is the “socialite” in the house? Which parent is running kids back and forth to all their activities most of the time? Who plans the parties and neighborhood events? The term “soccer mom” is not an accident. Additionally, our experience with our current customers shows that it is most often a woman who steps up to proactively get people involved with the neighborhood website and the communications that go along with it. Think about it, our tool is all about talking to people. It’s a pefect match.

If eNeighbors can target this demographic of inactive users (i.e., middle-aged women), an entirely new type of social network will emerge that will have soccer moms conversing online, texting, organizing parties and generally contributing vast amounts of user-generated content. And finally, we all know who really controls the pocketbook in the house too. What if these newly socialized group of women (who already shop online with Target and GAP) start to get comfortable with things like user reviews, ranking content and tagging sites? Watch out guys, the ladies might just knock you off the high-tech pedestal you’ve grown fat and lazy sitting on all these years.

Viral Marketing & Social Media

MySpace just released an interesting research report on user habits and responses to marketing campaigns. I’m not sure what to make of the findings quite yet. After all, it was commissioned by Fox Interactive Media (MySpace’s parent company).

But there was one part of the report that grabbed my attention:

In addition to tracking overall usage of the site, the research study focused on the reasons why users are continuing to flock to online social networks. The data indicated that social networkers use the sites not just to improve their online lives, but also to make their offline lives richer and more exciting. More than 48% said they are having more fun in life in general and 45% said their lives are more exciting as a result of spending time networking online. In addition, 57% said they’ve found more people with similar interests and 52% said they feel more in tune with what’s happening socially in their lives due to social networking sites.

The part about making “offline lives richer and more exciting” is a tremendous validation of our efforts here at eNeighbors. First and foremost, we strive to connect neighborhood residents to each other, but our hope is that the natural progression from that communication is that neighbors will interact with each other outside in the real world where there’s sunshine instead of the LCD glow we’ve become so accustomed to.

eNeighbors: Lost pet retrieval tool?

If you don’t have an eNeighbors website for your neighborhood, what do you do if you’ve lost your pet?

We’ll, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably post flyers, go door-to-door, and maybe even call animal control. With any luck, you’ll be able to locate your pet in no time, but more often than not, these tactics can feel painfully futile.

But imagine if you had the ability to instantly communicate with all of your neighbors via email?

With eNeighbors Bulletins, you can do just that.

In fact, just yesterday, a resident of Parkhurst lost their cat, Napoleon. (Parkhurst is a neighborhood that uses our services.)

A bulletin was sent out to everyone on the email list at 4:30PM to inform neighbors to look out for a “2-year old grey male cat” with a “blue and white Safe-cat collar with a gold tag…”

Two and a half hours later, at 7:00PM, Napoleon had been found and an email was sent out to thank everyone.

“Our cat Napoleon was found by one of our good neighbors underneath their enclosed deck, and is in wonderful shape, although a bit hungry!!

Thank you Lori for helping to bring our family member back home.

Thank you sooooo much everyone!!!!!”

Despite what the title of this post may suggest, we don’t advertise our services as a way of retrieving lost pets. We’re simply a communication tool that helps neighbors communicate in the way that they want to, but it’s a great example of how eNeighbors can provide value to neighborhoods and their residents.

If you’re interested in an eNeighbors website for your neighborhood, we’d love to show you our demo.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

Screenwerk mentions eNeighbors today in a post on Hyper/Micro Local Initiatives. Screenwerk is the blog of Greg Sterling who is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence.

Elsewhere, Front Porch Forum also comments on the eNeighbors new service. Front Porch Forum’s mission is to help neighbors connect and foster community within neighborhoods through email forums.