Neighborhood Search from Google

Last Friday, Google posted on its Lat Long Blog that Google Maps now has neighborhood search capability. To any but the most savvy users, this could be very misleading. Here’s the part that intrigues me:

Recently Google Maps introduced the ability to perform searches by neighborhoods. Neighborhoods tend to be somewhat informally defined but well recognized in certain cities. Neighborhood search is now available in fifty US cities, with more to follow.

The part about “informally defined” seems to be loophole to me. And then there’s the caveat of “only available in 50 US cities” which is the misleading part (since the title of the blog post doesn’t specificy “which” neighborhoods).

All this aside, I played along to see what the results would look like in Kansas City. Granted, KC is not the biggest metro in the country, but it’s respectable. My first search for art galleries on the Plaza gave me only one gallery that was actually on the Plaza (I know of at least 10 more). The other two results were in Kansas as far south as Leawood since Google didn’t know the difference between the Plaza and Hawthorne Plaza out south.

Second, I thought I’d try it on an actual neighborhood. I picked Mission Hills since it’s probably the premiere neighborhood in KC with the likes of Henry Block, George Brett, The Halls family, and The Russell Stover’s mansion being just a few of the well known residents. Looking for coffee around the Mission Hills neighborhood was a little better but not much. Only one of the results would I actually classify as being in Mission Hills.

My point in all this is that true neighborhood search still does not exist. It’s not even close. Google is still simply matching keywords to business listings. An actual framework of neighborhoods just doesn’t exist. Yelp comes close, and Urban Mapping has made some headway, but there still isn’t a true neighborhood level index to search from or serve content to.

Bottom line, it takes a lot of good old fashioned hard work, unique local knowledge, and lot of time to build such a network; and it’s just not economically viable for the large search companies to go down that road.

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.

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.

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.