Why Build-It-Yourself Websites Suck

Let’s say you are on the board of directors for your HOA. You’ve been put in charge of the landscaping and groundskeeping for the neighborhood. Naturally, you need to hire a landscape company. Most landscape companies provide the following:

1. Seeding, fertilizing and cutting of grass
2. Planting and care for flowers, shrubs, and trees

Why do you pay a landscape company for these services? They have the right equipment and the expertise to do the job, right? Also, to do all this work takes a lot of time. I’m not just talking about the time it takes to plant a tree, but the ongoing maintenance of watering and caring for any growing, living thing. Oh yeah, and the grass has to be cut about every 4-7 days.

Let’s not forget, you are a volunteer.

Since you have a day job, you would never attempt to do all this work yourself. There’s simply no time to do it, and you aren’t getting paid for it.

You call the landscape company and they tell you that they have a revolutionary new process for taking care of all your needs — you do it yourself.

Stay with me here… let’s say the landscape company then offered to give you a manual and training guides on how to take care of all your own landscaping, AND they want to charge you for it too.

That’s when you hang up on them.

So, why in the world would you accept this type of service for your neighborhood website?

Are you going to pay some company for a website and then do all the work of setting it up yourself? On top of that, you will have to update the site constantly by yourself. I don’t care if the fee is $2.00 a month, you’re still paying “them” and doing all the work on your own.

When we created the eNeighbors web application, this volunteer situation and constant maintenance issue was the central focus of our application development. We do all the work for you (that’s why we get paid). We set up the site for you, we make sure the site stays up, and here’s the best part — the entire community updates the site.

The board is no longer the continual bottleneck for new, fresh, and relevant information in your neighborhood. Every resident in your community has the ability to share news information, host a social event or post a classified ad.

Stop doing all the work yourself, and sign your neighborhood up with eNeighbors today.

Expanding To New Markets

eNeighbors is looking to expand our sales efforts on some specific local markets across the country. We are currently considering the following cities:

Chicago
Phoenix
Orlando
Philadelphia
Dallas/Fort Worth

I’d like to ask our readers opinion and hear if they have any insight into these markets and whether or not the homes association market would be primed in these areas for eNeighbors to make some significant headway on getting communities online.

Additionally, if anyone has some other suggestions for where we might have success, I would love to hear what you all have to say.

Thanks.

eNeighbors Stats: 6/18 – 7/17

We keep growing. As I mentioned on Monday, the classifieds feature is showing more and more popularity.

Traffic data:

82,662 page views – 18% increase (over last 30 days)
8,779 visits – 17% increase (over last 30 days)
5 minutes avg visit duration – 0% increase (over last 30 days)

18 neighborhoods online
2,115 registered users at 1999 unique addresses. All of these homes are in the Kansas City area except for one neighborhood in Fort Worth, TX and one in Napa, CA.

With 6,844 potential addresses in the neighborhoods that have signed up so far, we are at 29% adoption rate for our entire resident base.

The newsletter adoption rate is holding true as well with only 16 residents (out of 2,115) opting out of receiving the email newsletter.

That means 2,099 home owners are getting a weekly newsletter from eNeighbors that summarizes the activity in their neighborhood… sit back and think about that for a second.

Total user-generated content since launch (about 4 months):

News posts: 289
Events: 155
Groups: 54
Classifieds: 328

Help us continue to grow. Tell your friends about eNeighbors. And get your neighborhood signed up too.

HOA Property Managers

We work with a dozen or so property management companies like Curry Association Management, The Neighborhood Group, and Centennial Management to help the HOAs that they manage communicate better by using our online tool.

One property manager explained to me that they have a hard time defining the benefits of eNeighbors to their new boards. If they’re running into trouble, you may be too. My recommendation is to (1) download our PDF brochure to hand out, (2) complete this form to send an email to your board, and/or (3) give me a call.

If you’re a property manager, and would like our help, just give me a call at 303-551-0652 or email me at chris [dot] stock [at] eneighbors [dot] com. I’ll be more than happy to walk you through any questions that you may have. If I’m in your area, I can also come out to do a presentation to your board.

Oh, by the way, the benefits of our service aren’t just for the HOA. Property managers benefit as well. It was explained to me that newsletters (especially classifieds) are one of the biggest consumptions of time for some property managers. With eNeighbors, you can tell residents to simply “go to the website” to post your classified or submit your news article.

Getting Communities Online

Ran across a video interview on Robert Scoble’s Pod Tech site today. Michael Wood-Lewis is interviewed about his community enabling web service called Front Porch Forum.

I think it’s great to see that people are genuinely interested in a neighborhood-type service that helps people get to know each other in their actual community. This bodes well for eNeighbors since we are interested in connecting communities just like Front Porch Forum is doing.

Now, if only I can get in touch with Mr. Scoble and tell him that he can set up eNeighbors in his neighborhood…

Learn more about getting your neighborhood online

The Neighborhood Challenge

Being part of a neighborhood board of directors is a tough job. It’s usually voluntary, so getting that extra effort not only from yourself but from the other board members is a challenge especially since the rewards are only intrinsic in nature.

Anyone that’s ever worked as a project manager knows how difficult it can be to manage a group of people who don’t always see eye to eye on every issue. Additionally, there are a number of community needs that constantly must be met.

I just finished putting together a great outline of these challenges and the corresponding solutions that eNeighbors offers to help conquer these challenges. My hope is that this document will help clarify how valuable the eNeighbors service is to neighborhoods and more specifically managed communities.

Here is the list of challenges addressed in the PDF:

– Communication
– Time Management
– Sense of Community
– Safety Concerns
– Architectural Compliance
– HOA Documentation
– Board Member Turnover
– Privacy of Information
– Community Value

View and download the PDF here

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

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

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.