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.

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.

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.

Can a website slow cars down?

To a certain extent, it can. How? By increasing awareness.

The Highlands Ranch Board of Directors asked the city of Leawood, KS to conduct a speed survey due to the concern that cars were speeding through the neighborhood, putting residents and children at risk.

Then, they published the results on their neighborhood website.The survey showed that only 3% of cars (20 vehicles of 647) were going over the speed limit by 10mph or more.

The highest recorded speed was 41 mph.

While 3% sounds like a small number, it’s not for a street like 141st Street where thousands of cars move through on a weekly basis.

At some point, it may make sense for the board to pursue traffic calming measures like roundabouts. If they do decide to request this from the city council, it will take the support from the entire neighborhood.

Educating residents early on and keeping them informed of their progress will be critical to garnering the support for traffic calming measures in the future, if that turns out to be the right thing to do.

In the meantime, the board has opened up a dialogue in the community allowing people to comment on the article or to submit private “Community Feedback” to the board.

Part of the reason I wanted to post this information was because it’s a great example of how an online neighborhood communication channel can add value to a community. I also think that our other customers will appreciate knowing what other boards are doing about speed problems.

66224 – My new favorite zip code

If you go to www.eNeighbors.com and type in a zip code, it’s unlikely that you’ll find your neighborhood. Since we’re still technically in beta and limiting the number of neighborhoods that are online, our zip code lists are pretty sparse. However, yesterday we launched another neighborhood in zip code 66224, making it the first zip code with more than one online neighborhood. Congratulations 66224!

If your neighborhood isn’t online yet, what are you waiting for? Request a demo today.

Where the magic happens

Running a virtual company has huge cost-saving benefits, but the downside is you don’t get a chance for the “watercooler” chat. There are about 4-7 people working on eNeighbors at any given time, some in Overland Park, KS, one in California, and me, I’m in Boulder, CO.

Anyway, in an effort to make things a little less virtual, I thought I’d show everyone where the magic happens in Boulder, CO.

Note the key elements (1: coke on desk, 2: computer, and 3: dog…)

Neighborhood social networks and the importance of privacy

I just read a Business Week article titled “Social Networking Goes Niche“. I loved reading it because it validates the eNeighbors model of neighborhood social networking. It even goes on to say that advertisers will pay more to advertise on sites like eNeighbors with greater targeting ability.

What I really liked reading about though is the evolution of social networking and the greater need for privacy controls over your personal information because eNeighbors has aggressively pursued privacy for our users (almost) from the beginning.

I’d like to think that I’m a visionary, but I’m far from it. It’d be great to claim that I knew privacy would be really important for social networking sites, which is why I built it into the eNeighbors app, but really, I just let my customers tell me.

The first 10 neighborhood websites that we built were stand alone sites that included a public and and private side. Approximately 70% of the information was publicly available. It’s a good thing that we didn’t commit to this approach because it turns out that not everybody wants this.

Our customers were vocal about their concerns over information about their neighborhood being made publicly available. One by one, we started to move things behind login. First it was the social event photos of their kids at the Easter Egg Hunt, and then they wanted financial information behind login, when finally they asked, “Why don’t you just put everything behind login?”

So we did.

What a great decision that was. It not only answered the privacy issue, but also made things more exclusive, creating greater interest from the neighborhood. (What’s behind that login screen anyway?) Early indications are that this is helping to increase adoption rates (the number of homes registered in a community).

But I digress.

Privacy and information control will make or break niche social networks. If we weren’t able to assure our customers that their information will be kept private, I don’t think we would see the registration numbers that we do. At MySpace, you can hide behind an alias in a sea of 100+ million users, but in smaller social networks where you might actually run into people you meet online, it’s necessary to have control over what information you share with others.

Our community experience

We have experienced the value of an eNeighbors website. Nottingham Forest South has 582 homes and is about twenty years old. Enhancing our ability to communicate had a measurable impact on our community.

There were several challenges we faced as an aging community:

1)How do we revitalize our neighborhood and get more people involved?
2)How can we get more people attending our social events?
3)How do we educate our residents to gain voluntary compliance with our covenants and restrictions?

We had restraints. We realized that our number one issue was communication. Our neighborhood had published the same monthly paper newsletter for twenty years. It was expensive and boring. The Board of Directors had limited space to deliver the meaningful information. The cost of production and mailing costs were significant considering the size of our community.

We also had difficulty finding residents willing to serve. Retiring board members were encouraged to recruit a replacement. This was an effective process but it literally involved begging each year.

Finally, the straw that “broke the camels back” was when 25 kids showed up at the Easter Egg hunt. We were prepared for over 100 so the 25 children walked away with what looked like a Halloween load of goodies. Somehow we had to find a way to put community back in the community.

We had a website but so what. No one could remember the web address and no one visited the site which had grown stale with out of date information. How much were we paying that guy to manage the site? Too much for zero value.

The eNeighbors product did wonders for our community. Using their process we were able to get over 70% of our residents registered to receive eAnnouncements (email notifications from the board with links to content). This process enabled the Board of Directors to send email to the majority of the community with ease. All of a sudden we were sending weekly eAnnouncements. Communication had basically become free. The following Easter over 100 kids showed up at the annual hunt. Because of the registration process we knew exactly who was coming and bought the exact amount of supplies for the event. We were amazed that residents were filling out online registrations at 11:00 p.m. The key was reminding residents of the event three times the week before the event with a feature called bulletins which is basically instant email.

The following November we found ourselves in the enviable position of having more resident volunteers for board and committee positions than available openings. We attributed the interest to the new communication process.

The real proof of the success of the new system appeared when a hail storm rolled through the community. Our architectural committee received over 300 applications for a new roof in four months. Every one of the applications was sent using our new eNeighbors website. We gained 100% compliance.

Excuse me if this sounds like a sales pitch but if you have issues in your community and you are considering eNeighbors and are willing to commit to their process you won’t be disappointed. It took several mailings over four months to get our community registration to an acceptable level. It took some patience on our part. The fact we knew exactly who was registered and more importantly, who was not registered made the process measurable and kept the board focused.