Do you get along with your neighbors?

Neighbors have gotten a bad rap. It seems to me that the perception is people don’t like their neighbors.

But apparently, if you’re like most people, you get along very well with your neighbors, according to a study by Zogby International on “Homeownership and Association Living”.

“An overwhelming majority of association members get along well with their neighbors (86%), and a substantial two out of three (64%) get along very well. Among those who report conflict, pets are the most common source (28%).” -Zogby International*

So why do neighbors get such a bad rap? I think it has to do with your neighbor’s ability to affect your life so dramatically – positively or negatively. If you get the wrong neighbor it can make you seriously consider picking up and moving out of town. On the other hand, the right neighbor can become a good friend, provide a sense of place, or at the very least, someone you trust to watch the dog when you’re on vacation.

In my own experience, I find myself complaining about a neighbor because I don’t or can’t communicate with them. Every single issue that I’ve personally had with a neighbor has been resolved almost instantly when I knock on their door and talk to them.

Communication is critical in any relationship, and that includes the relationships that you have with your neighbors. One of the higher order goals that we have here at eNeighbors is to increase communication in our neighborhoods to make them better places to live, providing those who live there a sense of community. So, whether you get along with your neighbors or not, sign up for eNeighbors today. Who knows, maybe you’ll resolve a conflict or meet a new friend who has a lot in common with you.

*This study was commissioned by Community Associations Institute, a national organization devoted to common interest community research, development, and scholarship.

Neighborhood Safety

I received an email last week from one of my neighbors concerning an incident in the neighborhood where an ice cream man asked a child to get in his van. The email contained a message from the local police department that was originally sent to McGruff coordinators and included a case number for anyone experience a similar situation.

Safety situations like this one have to be the most important thing a resident of any neighborhood would care about. Especially if they have children.

The email I received had about thirty email addresses throughout the chain. I know that there are over 300 homes in my neighborhood. That means that potentially only 10% of my neighbors are aware of this problem. Obviously word of mouth plays a significant part in alerting the community, but that still leaves a significant portion of the neighborhood uninformed.

The Bulletins feature of eNeighbors is the perfect tool to instantly alert your entire community of any type of emergency. I think this is one of the most valuable services eNeighbors provides. Additionally, this scenario made me think of potential integration points with local safety officials. Imagine if the city police were able to alert multiple neighborhoods by using the eNeighbors network of communities.

Learn more about eNeighbors

The Local Rant

Ahmed Farooq has a great rant on his blog, tech soapbox, about paid reviews and how useless and ineffective they’ve become. But the thing that grabbed my attention was buried in the middle — Ahmed provides some outstanding insight to the difficulty of understanding and utilizing local data.

(The following is in reference to their product iBegin Source)

“I’ll admit people have a hard time understanding the significance – local data is expensive, and that is why we keep seeing the same re-hashed sites. Plus – local data is inaccurate. Horribly so.”

Bottom line is, guys like Ahmed have been working on the data trying to figure out a way to make it relevant. To make it contextual. To make it usable. While other sites (like us here at eNeighbors) are trying to gather the users in one place. A place where local data is again — relevant.

So how do we bring this local data together and give it to the users?

Once again, I think the reason this is so hard is because when you go to Google, Yahoo or MSN, you start at the top. Then you work your way down to the city level. Then if your lucky, you can get to your community level (this is where Ahmed’s comment about the horrible inaccuracies kicks in).

It just makes sense to approach the users from the bottom up. I understand the cost issues associated with keeping a presence in every community in the country — it can’t be done. That’s why you let the residents do it.

But the problem is, they have to care enough to do their share of the work. Why should they care? No one has made it apparent as to how they will benefit. It’s not clear how their input will make their lives better. We need a way for residents to engage in conversation with other residents and in turn provide that missing link of local information that they seek, but don’t fully understand.

Ta da! It’s here. eNeighbors provides this exact sort of communciation platform, and in turn also allows the hyper-local presence that is a perfect match for local data on small businesses at the community level.

 Learn more about eNeighbors

Direct mail is doomed

If you didn’t get your Mother’s Day card out on time this year, it may cost you. Yes, it’s true, stamp prices are up to 41 cents effective on Monday. I know what you’re thinking. Who cares? It’s only a 2 cent increase.

You and I might not care when it comes to sending important mail. You can be sure that 2 cents isn’t going to stand in the way of my mom getting her Mother’s Day card.

But 2 cents is a huge hit to the direct mail industry. This means it costs more to send you advertisements in the mail that you don’t want. Which is good for you and me.

According to my grandfather, there used to be a time when getting the mail was actually the high point of a person’s day. People looked forward to walking to the post office, dialing in the combination to their box eagerly anticipating the contents inside, which was exclusively letters from friends and family – no junk mail.

Today, I find going to the mailbox painful. I can’t wait for the day when all my bills are delivered electronically so there will finally be no reason for me to check the mail ever again. Sometimes I almost feel stupid going to the mailbox. Like today for example. I went to the mailbox and found it stuffed from top to bottom with crap. I walk over to the community-provided trashcan and begin to throw each letter, flyer, and postcard in the trash one at a time, making sure that I’m not missing anything of value. When I’m done, I have no mail left in my hands. I have effectively wasted 2 minutes of my day moving trash from one box to another!

Did you know that:

  • Each year, 100 million trees are used to produce junk mail
  • 250,000 homes could be heated with one day’s supply of junk mail
  • Americans receive almost 4 million tons of junk mail every year

Junk MailIf increasing postage rates doesn’t stop direct mail, consumer behavior will. In my own experience, I just don’t pay attention to junk mail any more. And by the looks of my community trash can, neither does anyone else.

If everybody hates direct mail so much and it doesn’t work effectively as an advertising medium, then why do advertisers still do it? Quite frankly, because there’s no alternative…yet.

As eNeighbors continues to grow our national network of neighborhoods, we will become the first hyper-local network from which advertisers can contextually and geographically target their message.

This is a huge win for advertisers and consumers. Local advertisers will finally have a way to follow consumers online, and consumers can expect unobtrusive and highly relevant adverts that actually help them. For example, coupons to your neighborhood restaurant accompanied with restaurant ratings and reviews provided by your neighbors. Looking for a plumber? Find out who your neighbors use.

Until then, here’s to no more junk mail, and a very Happy Mother’s Day!

eNeighbors Stats

We’ve been up and running with our beta application for about 2 months now, so I thought I’d share some stats with you. So far, traction is good, and the activity trending is very promising.

Overview:
15 neighborhoods online
1222 registered users at 1157 unique addresses

Most of these communities have only been active for a few weeks. So far, our adoption rate is about 20% which is right on track with what we’ve seen in the past. It usually takes about 2-3 months to get to an average of 60-80% of a neighborhood online.

These neighborhoods are already posting some impressive traffic patterns:

Reporting period 4/12 – 5/11:
5,500 visits
55,000 page views
4.75 minutes average visit duration

Even more impressive, out of 1222 registered users, only 7 have opted to not receive our eNewsletter.

All of these data points reaffirm our assumptions: we have a uniquely captured audience that perceives great value from our service.

Have a great weekend! It’s beautiful outside (at least in Kansas City, anyway).

The Tech Threshhold

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently published a study on the usage of information and communications technology (there’s a great breakdown here). This includes internet and cell phone usage. The most interesting part that jumped out at me was the number of users that either are annoyed by technology (29%) or don’t use it due to inexperience (23%). So, I ask this question:

If technology was easier to use (and understand), would more people be comfortable using it? Or, does the very nature of technology limit the number of users that will adopt it?

In context, this is very relevant to me relating specifically to the work I did on the eNeighbors application interface. My design efforts were focused on simplicity and a very “non tech” look and feel, but even more importantly, the very essence of the application was designed to focus on a small number of tasks and to perform those tasks easily and efficiently. In short, I was targeting the inexperienced technology user with no prior exposure to things like web 2.0 sites, Ajax tools, RSS, blogs, etc. Does this make it more likely to be used, or will those individuals who resist using technology still be reluctant to adopt the tool?

I think the key is relevance.

If a technology tool can provide a service or information that is relevant to the user, those previous biases can be overcome since there is a very real reward for exerting that extra effort.

When it comes to content, there are certain types of information that we’ve become numb to. TV commercials, banner ads, etc. have lost a significant amount of their impact due to the fact we encounter them when they are not relevant. I think the future of online advertising is heavily dependent on this concept of relevance.

I realize that is exactly what Google keywords does (and why it’s been so successful), but ultimately, the amount of quality within those pieces of relevant information needs to grow before we once again grow numb to it. That level of quality is going to be based on filters and behavioral awareness. There must be a limit to the information, otherwise it loses it’s impact. And that it is exactly why there is a race to the “local” finish line. The question is: where does that line exist?

I like to think it’s in my own backyard.

Getting your Board “on board”

Yesterday, Chris touched on one of the hurdles we are trying to overcome right now here are eNeighbors — getting neighborhoods through the signup process. In addition to that, there is usually an issue getting the board of directors of a given neighborhood to get on board (pun intended) with the idea of paying a monthly fee for a web-based service.

We’ve had conversations with both residents and actual board members, and they tell us that they hit a wall when they try to get the board to make a collective decision. For one reason or another they are hesitant to make the commitment. So, I’ve come up with a quick cheat sheet (if you will) for convincing your board of directors that they need eNeighbors.

1. It will make their job easier.
eNeighbors is all about communication. We all now the biggest issue in neighborhoods is that no one knows what’s going on. Communication is weak. By providing a web-based platform to communicate, neighbors keep each other informed. This takes the burden off the shoulders of the board.

2. It’s cheaper (and better) than a normal static website.
Most custom web designers charge anywhere from $1000 to $5000 for web development. This cost does not usually include the hosting fee either. Additionally, the board doesn’t have to make the updates to an eNeighbors site since every resident can do it themselves. Saves the board time and lets them focus on other more important issues.

3. It will make your neighborhood cooler.
And I’m not talking about the average temperature in your area. eNeighbors is a cutting-edge social network website. Nobody else is doing this. Your neighborhood can have all the bragging rights to being the “cool kid” on the block. eNewsletters, online social events, classified ads — these are just a few of the features that will make your neighborhood very attractive to people looking to move to your area.

Find out more about eNeighbors

Does “Local” Really Work?

There’s been a rash of local listing websites sprouting up lately (CityWaboo, Oddpath, FatDoor) and even more adding new features to their existing services (Local, AskCity, Superpages, CitySearch).

All these sites claim to connect me with all sorts of restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, events, etc. in my area, but they all seem like they just rehash the same data. Additionally, it occured to me that I can search all day long for chinese restaurants in my neighborhood, but the only one I’m going to eat at is the one my friend says is really good because he ate there last week.

So, what does that mean? Am I unusual? Do people really perform random searches for new bars to hang out in? Where is the word of mouth captured in these scenarios? We all know the personal recommendations matter the most. JudysBook and Yelp are on the right track, but unless I know any of the people giving the review, what’s the likelyhood that I’ll seriously consider it? In my experience… not very.

So how do you connect hyper-local audiences so they can share their collective insight and personal experiences? Furthermore, how do local service providers then tap into that collective to grow their business?

Start by getting your neighborhood online.

I want eNeighbors

We’ve had a lot of people tell us that they want eNeighbors in their neighborhood, but don’t know how to go about getting their neighborhood online.

If you’re a resident of a community association and you want eNeighbors, here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Email your board of directors. Email a board member and tell them to visit www.eNeighbors.com/overview/. We’ll be happy to walk them through a demonstration. If you don’t know your board members, their contact information is usually listed in your neighborhood directory or newsletter.
  2. Attend your monthly HOA board meeting. Most boards hold monthly meetings that are open to all neighbors. Be sure to bring our brochure for the board to review.
  3. Call your property manager. If your neighborhood is professionally managed by a property manager, give them a call and tell them that you want eNeighbors.
  4. Tell us to do it!We’d be happy to contact your board or property management company and explain the benefits of eNeighbors. Just send an email to sales [at] eneighbors.com and let us know who to get in touch with.

If you want to learn more about eNeighbors, take a tour.

Association Times

I just ran across a new website (new to me anyway) called Association Times. It looks like a great resource for those of you who sit on a HOA board. This month they cover topics such as:

When you become a board member, no one hands you an instruction manual. Sure, you get a set of bylaws that have a legal definition as to what you’re supposed to do, but that doesn’t help much. In fact, I would argue that it gives new board members the wrong impression about how they can add value to their community.

In my opinion, the number one contribution you can make to your community is to promote a sense of community. How do you do this? Through communication and social activities. Eleanor Hugus, a contributor to Association Times, recommends the use of frequent communication through newsletters, social gatherings, websites, and surveys.

If you’re considering a website for your neighborhood, be sure to check us out.