After launching an initial test of its Nextdoor-like 'Neighborhoods' feature for users in Calgary last October, Facebook has now announced the next stage of the project, which will see Neighborhoods released to regions across Canada as the first stage of a broader public launch.
As explained by Facebook:
"People have always used Facebook to connect with their neighbors - rallying to support local businesses, asking for recommendations and tips in local groups, offering support, or meeting neighbors who share common interests. Throughout the pandemic and especially in the past year, we’ve seen just how crucial these connections can be. Facebook Neighborhoods makes it easier to do this, bringing the local experience across Facebook into one place."
As you can see in the images above, Neighborhoods is a separate element within Facebook, which enables users to join specified local communities, in order to better facilitate connection within your vicinity.
Users set up a Neighborhoods profile, which includes a separate Neighborhoods bio, along with your Facebook name and image, and can then connect with local community groups and causes, while also finding new interaction opportunities and tips.
"You can find vibrant local Facebook groups about your area, or you can create your own Neighborhoods-bounded groups based on your interests. Admins of local Facebook Groups can add their Group into Neighborhoods to make it easy for people living nearby to find it, and people using Neighborhoods can create or join Neighborhoods-bounded groups that are accessible within the Neighborhoods experience."
And of marketing interest, Neighborhoods also includes a local business 'Recommendations' element.
"Recommendations feature in Neighborhoods to get suggestions from your local community. Also, the Neighborhoods Favorite Polls allow neighbors to vote on their favorite places and businesses in the area, including restaurants, parks and more."
That could provide new opportunities for insight and outreach, while Facebook will no doubt eventually, at some stage, offer new ad options aligned with Neighborhoods specifically, to help connect with local audiences.
Users can choose to join their own neighborhood, while they can also join nearby Neighborhood groups to see neighbors and posts from your surrounding neighborhoods. There are some restrictions on this, but the impetus is around connecting communities, and providing more ways to link up with those within your local area.
Which, over the last year, has become a much bigger focus, and has seen Nextdoor, the best-known local connection app, rise up the download charts as a result.
Which is likely what's piqued Facebook's interest.
Indeed, early in the pandemic, Nextdoor saw an 80% increase in users, with more and more people looking to connect with local communities in order to better support their neighbors and local businesses. Facebook groups also saw a significant surge, and putting two and two together, Facebook is now seizing on the opportunity to essentially build a Nextdoor equivalent into Facebook itself.
Which makes logical sense. Facebook groups are a key connector for many people, with more than 1.8 billion monthly user, while more than 38% of Facebook group members also look to connect with people in their local area through groups.
It seems like a solid business plan for Facebook to align with this, and while that may not be great news for Nextdoor, its easy to see that this could have significant functional value for The Social Network, and could provide more ways to connect users within your local area, facilitating connection opportunities.
It's still in its early stages, with Facebook applying initial learnings from the Calgary test. But it's likely coming soon, and it'll be worth taking note if and when it arrives in your region to get a handle on local sentiment, particularly for local business owners.
Facebook Neighborhoods is available in Canada from today, and will be launched in select US cities soon.