Why Is eNeighbors Important?

I was thinking about what it is that we do — Why does eNeighbors exist? What are our goals? Why did we create this web application? etc… You get the idea. Here was my conclusion — the most important thing about eNeighbors is that we promote, facilitate and encourage the following:

  1. Open communication
  2. Sense of place in a community
  3. Public safety

The goal of any social network is to create constant communication between its community members. eNeighbors has taken this concept and pushed it even further. Our goal is to get our users (neighbors) to interact with each other “offline” in the real world.

This interaction of online community members in the offline world is known as blended networking. One of the reasons MySpace has been so successful is that when it first started, it’s original members were drawn together by the music scene. Fans would connect online and then join up at concerts in person. This activity helped build a great sense of place around their favorite bands.

eNeighbors can accomplish this exact same scenario, but rather than a band being the central point of interest, your neighborhood is the primary focus. eNeighbors creates a great sense of place within your community by fostering constant communication and openness in resident conversations not only with each other but also with the board of directors.

The great thing about all this open communication is that it helps to build a safe environment for you and your family. Everyone in the community is informed about what’s going on, and the social awareness is very high. Additionally, in case of an emergency, you are able to instantly alert the entire community.

At the end of the day, we all want to live in a great location with high property values, low crime and good schools. At eNeighbors, we are doing our best to make this happen in your community. After all, we want the same thing for our families.

Learn how to get your neighborhood online with eNeighbors

Web 2.0 Expo: Insider Update

David Spark of Spark Minute gives his insider update on what is “cool”and “not so cool” at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

I worked with David while I was at Sprint a couple years back. He helped us get podcasting and blogging off the ground for the B2B channel (a social media first for Sprint at that time). His insight and matter-of-fact observations are always very refreshing compared to most of the tech drivel in the media these days.

Check his site out.

eNeighbors Tips – Sign Up Process

The most critical step when setting up your new eNeighbors website is the sign up or “adoption” process. (More information about the sign up process is available in “How does it work?“. Through this process, you will register the majority of your neighborhood online.

The first step is to send out our Welcome Letter to your neighborhood announcing the website. This letter also contains a unique PIN number for each resident and instructions on how to access the site. We recommend that you make three mailings to the neighborhood.

20%-30% of the neighborhood will register with each mailing. By the third mailing, you should have between 60% and 80% adoption. (Note: eNeighbors is now offering to complete the mailings for you. This is still in the early stages of planning, but we should have the final word tomorrow.)

Interestingly enough, when we ask residents why they didn’t sign up after receiving the first mailing, the answer is always, “I never received the first mailing”. For this reason, it’s critical to send multiple mailings to ensure that you are reaching everyone. 

Aside from the mailings, there are other tactics that we recommend.

  1. Discontinue paper mailings – By giving people only one choice, they are more likely to sign up for the website. This can be a difficult decision for some neighborhoods since there is the feeling that not everyone has Internet access. Most residents appreciate the fact that you are saving them money. Our highest adoption rates are in communities that don’t send out paper newsletters.
  2. Post, post, post – The more information you post, the more valuable the website becomes. We have seen a direct correlation between site usage and adoption.  As neighbors talk to each other about what they read on the website, more people will sign up.
  3. Put it in the bill– Everyone receives their HOA dues. Drop a little note in the invoice reminding people to sign up.
  4. Use your current lines of communication– Use all current lines of communication to remind people about the new website. This can be “wipe boards”, the paper newsletter, board or community meetings, social event flyer’s, paper phone directories, and block captains.
  5. Get your property manager involved – Your property manager is alerted every time someone moves in and out of your neighborhood, making it easy for them to inform new residents of the website. Make sure that they include information about the website in their welcome packet to new residents.
  6. Provide online social event registration – For your next social event, be sure to use the event registration engine built into eNeighbors. Residents will sign up to take advantage of the convenience of registering for events online.
  7. When someone calls, say “go to the website” – residents often call board members or property managers with questions and concerns. Take the opportunity to tell them about the website. A common concern that neighbors phone in about is other neighbors not picking up after their pets. Now you can tell residents with this concern to “go to the website” and write a news article politely reminding people to pick up after their pets.
  8. Don’t have your PIN?– If a resident doesn’t have their PIN, tell them to go to “www.eneighbors.com forward slash pin” to request one. That’s www.eneighbors.com/pin.
  9. Leverage your current users– At a minimum you’ll have 20% of the neighborhood online with the first mailing. Ask for their help in spreading the word by posting a news article.
  10. Talk it up – As with anything, the best advertising is word-of-mouth. Be sure to talk with your neighbors about what you’re doing and encourage them to sign up.

As usual, we’re always open to suggestions and welcome your feedback. Feel free to comment or email me directly.

eNeighbors Tips

Now that we’ve been running in beta for about 6 weeks now, we’re beginning to receive enough feedback from our customers to understand where some of the common challenges are and how we can improve.

In an effort to help our customers make the most of their eNeighbors website, I’m going to start posting “eNeighbors Tips”, which will contain helpful information on topics like setup, adoption, and usage.  Look for my first post on the adoption process shortly.

Web 2.0 Expo 2007

The 2007 Web 2.0 Expo is going on this week in San Francisco. Tim O’Reilly first coined the web 2.0 phrase back in 2005, and ever since it’s been hip and trendy to start a web 2.0 company. Hey, we did it too.

The expo really does have some great speakers and workshops for all levels of web 2.0 experts. Check out their live expo blog featuring video cam feeds from the PodTech guys.

The Future of Social Networking

Over the weekend, I came across a great article on CNET written by Paul Lamb last fall. He comments on the current social networking space and points out that it is primarily targeted to the teen and twentysomething crowd. But what about the older more low-tech people who are now on the internet? Paul asks the following:

What would a world look like where the best of social-networking tools were put to use in “average” communities and for the larger social good?

His first example — neighborhood social networking.

Social networks are great for getting people connected online and joining disparate groups through common interests and activities, but ultimately, we are social beings. We like to see, touch and interact directly with other human beings.

Social networking is still in its nascent stage, and we can only assume that as the paradigm begins to shift and mature, these social networks will start to adjust to accommodate real-life interactions. As Paul says, a look in the eye and a handshake will tell you a lot more about a person than a text message or a generic online profile.

Visit eNeighbors.com to see our first step towards something better for social networks.

Newspapers need to take a distributed approach

It seems that everyone agrees – newspapers must innovate to salvage their business in the age of the Internet.

But what exactly should they do? Jeff Jarvis suggests on “CalacanisCast 23” that newspapers must adopt a distributed approach and accept the fact that they are no longer the single conduit of news that they once were.

But what does that mean – distributed approach?

In my mind a distributed approach means that newspapers would distribute their content across the Internet to whoever wanted to publish it, so long as it came attached with advertisements controlled by the newspaper so they could get paid.

You wouldn’t necessarily go to the washingtonpost.com or wsj.com, but instead, you would visit sites centered around vertical interests like the war in Iraq, or more likely, the latest celebrity gossip.

The content of these sites could be supplemented or entirely supplied by professional journalists. But the sites themselves would be run by individual publishers who could pick and choose what stories to run.

eNeighbors is one publisher that would be interested in taking advantage of professional journalism.

The content on our neighborhood websites is entirely supplied by residents, which would be greatly enhanced by professional journalists in local communities. And what do newspapers do best? Yep, local coverage.

For eNeighbors this would be a perfect marriage to bolster traffic to our site and provide more value to our users.

For newspapers, eNeighbors’ network of online neighborhoods creates a hyper-local platform from which they can distribute and monetize their content without the overhead that they have today. In addition, they could charge more for the advertising since the audience is much more focused.

I’m sure other website publishers would find professional journalism a valuable addition to their site too. Citysearch is another example of a website that could benefit from professional journalism.

As Jeff Jarvis said, you’ve got to ask yourself, “WWGD?” (What would Google do?)

Baby Boomers vs. The Internet

Fact #1:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000, the majority of homeowners are between the ages of 35 and 55.

Fact #2:

eNeighbors sells an online communication service that serves as private social network and communication tool for managed communities and neighborhoods.

Conclusion:

This would lead one to believe that the primary audience for the eNeighbors web service is the baby boomers since they make up the majority of the residents living in most neighborhoods.

Now we all know that this particular generation has a varied mix of tech savviness. For example, my parents couldn’t tell you what a social network is let alone why they would want one. On the other hand, most of the top tech companies where founded and are now operated by this same generation.

So, how do you market to this audience? Great question.

The answer is: We don’t know.

Seth Godin touches on this dilemma on his blog today. His summation is essentially that psychographics are more important than demographics when it comes to this audience. I would agree. Just because they are older doesn’t mean they don’t get it. eNeighbors is banking on this fact.

So far, all I can tell you is that people love being social (even the old ones). As broadband penetration keeps growing and the older generation gets more comfortable with technology, they’ll want to stay in touch. Especially within their local offline community.

That’s when eNeighbors will be there for them.

Geocaching: 21st Century Treasure Hunt

When I was a kid, my brother and I would ride our bikes down to the EZ Shop and buy candy for our “treasure hunts” that we would journey upon in the back yard. We would then painstakingly create riddles, clues and pace counts (12 paces to the “forked tree”) in order to complete our treasure map.

These days, geocaching is all the rage. Using sites like Geocaching.com and Google Earth, modern day treasure hunters can explore unknown territories via handheld GPS devices or a laptop. Treasure caches are all over the place in even the most unlikely places. I found at least a dozen of them within 5 minutes of my house in suburban Kansas City.

There are currently a few online communities actively supporting the geocaching community, but wouldn’t it be great if there were was a way to create a local group right within your own neighborhood. Imagine having a geacaching treasure hunt at your next community barbeque or outdoor social gathering.

This is exactly the sort of thing that the eNeighbors “Groups” feature offers. Groups allows you to create your very own mini social network within your neighborhood eNeighbors site. Members can stay up-to-date on the latest events for that particular group by checking the Group page and engaging in an online conversation with other members. The Group leader can manage the member list, and the leader also has the ability to send out emails to the entire Group at once.

Read more about Groups here.

Conversation Architects

David Armano, Creative VP at Digitas, just published a great article on Business Week. He starts out by making the point that we are all consumers in all aspects of our life, so how do you market to all of us these days…?

His proposal — become a conversation architect (great concept, btw). We need to facilitate the exchange of information, create affinity around brands and communities, and ultimately let the medium drive the message.

I love the sound of this! Here’s a great excerpt from the article that just nails the shift in the mental state that needs to happen:

Consider the example of a typical creative brief template, which usually says something like, “What are we trying to communicate?” Can you see the old-world residue in the word “communicate”? It lacks the dimensions of experiencing something and having an ongoing two-way dialogue. “What are we trying to communicate?” implies a one-way conversation. Maybe we should ask ourselves: “How can we facilitate?”

Enter eNeighbors.

For decades, since the inception of homeowners associations, there have always been a select few (i.e. the board of directors) that communicate in a one-way manner with the remainder of the community residents. Sure, there are meetings where all are invited, but who actually shows up? And how many?

The greatness of eNeighbors lies in the ability to facilitate a conversation between not only the board members and the rest of the residents but between the residents themselves, and at the same time allowing that conversation to happen at any time day or night within the convenience of your own home.

I know… why hasn’t anyone done this before? Well, we have now. Feel free to converse amongst yourselves.