Described as the Facebook for neighborhoods, the San Francisco based company, NextDoor is exploding in popularity. Now in over 137,000 neighborhoods and well over 10 million users, NextDoor is a social media channel businesses are learning to navigate.
The platform started in October of 2011 and had little trouble raising money from venture capital groups early. Neighbors appreciate the local feel, good value and absence of oversold commercial advertisements. As a result, they have been signing up by the millions.
It’s free to join and conversations are usually constructive. At first glance you may see one of your neighbors looking for a referral to a new lawn maintenance company or some other home related contractor. Others may ask what day trash collection is or you may even see a post from a recently CPR certified babysitter looking to make a few bucks on a Saturday night.
If you represent one of the businesses mentioned on NextDoor and your customer is pleased, they may post about their positive experience. There is something about the credibility that comes with this online form of “word of mouth” advertising that can be nothing short of transformational for a small business. “A few positive posts on NextDoor doubled my business in 2017”, says Brandon owner of Pristine Exteriors, a window washing and pressure cleaning business in Jacksonville Florida. He’s not alone. The platform has been helpful to thousands of businesses.
It is all pretty innocent, until it’s not.
The Dark Side
Just like it can be helpful to a business and provide a much welcomed boost, it can also be catastrophic and push small businesses to their breaking point when a conversation online goes from bad to worse. Here is how it happens.
Despite the businesses best efforts, eventually, even the best ones have a disgruntled customer. The result is an online post filled with rage and discontent. That’s when the damage is done. Unlike Yelp and Google, poor reviews on NextDoor mean even more because neighbors stick together and to wrong one is to wrong them all. It’s more personal because their mail gets delivered by the same mail person and they wave hello on their morning walks.
At times it can feel like the online equivalent of a mob carrying pitchforks and flaming torches. It can be a helpless and lonely place to be if you find yourself owning the business facing this ire.
In one example there is a car wash in a small beaches community that found itself in the crosshairs of such a situation. “XXXXX Car Wash Doesn’t Want Our Business”, the original post was titled. The author goes on to explain how their machine broke her husband’s car antenna and the business owner’s remedy did not meet her satisfaction. Later that day the post began to spread like looming thunderstorm. 45 communities and a few hundred comments later, the post was in nearly every homeowners inbox within 20 miles of his business. The negative PR was devastating. He was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and didn’t even find out about it until it was too late.
It doesn’t matter who’s right or if the claim is true. NextDoor is upfront in their community guidelines and clearly state they don’t get involved in such disputes. As long as it does not violate their rules of content, it’s covered under the 1st amendment of the constitution. Their best advice to the scorned business is to get someone that is part of that community to stand up for you. They have moderators, but they are only volunteers and can do nothing unless there is public shaming or personal attacks.
So What Can Be Done?
Stay Proactive. That’s the advice www.BuildMyReputation.net founder Brian Barquilla gives when dealing with social networks. “It’s important to not let one social media platform define or derail your business success” Barquilla talks about managing your overall digital footprint. When users Google your business, what do they find? Is there content that gives people confidence to give you a try or cause them to take pause. “A negative review isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes having one negative review in a sea of positive ones can actually help your business. It gives your positive reviews credibility. Everyone understands that there may be a glitch in customer service every once in awhile, but it’s the mark of a great company how they deal with it. Respond publically, handle privately and encourage the reviewer to post the outcome,” explains Barquilla.
BuildMyReputation.net is a service that enhances the reputation of businesses and individuals by helping them be discovered for the experts they are. They do that by creating custom content that can be shared on social networks, email lists and on business websites. Their clients are frequently published as experts in large business publications. “If you can add value for customers and help them down the path to a solution with great content, you are leading from a position of trust This will always help you earn business and the companies that embrace this strategy rarely have to deal with upset customers online. It’s because these companies are seen as resource providers and not consumer predators,” says Barquilla.
Even if you do have a hiccup (like the carwash example) expect the business champions you have created to jump online and defend your honor! It’s self policing if done properly and the negative reviewer will be seen as the minority and their opinions will be marginalized.