In this article, Dr. Ford looks at what dentists need to know about the social network Nextdoor. He then shares his personal experiences with using Nextdoor as a dental practice owner.
Figure 1: Screen shot of Ford Dental Group Nextdoor page
Nextdoor is a social network and app that launched in 2011. It now has more than 10 million users in more than 100,000 neighborhoods across the United States. (1) Based on its current rate of growth, the CEO of Nextdoor is projecting that it will have more users than Twitter by this time next year, and could pass the number of Snapchat users in 2019. (2)
How does Nextdoor work?
Nextdoor allows you and your neighbors to connect digitally. The app allows people who live near each other to open a dialogue, discuss issues, and form a tighter community. In essence, the purpose of the app is for a neighborhood to act like a neighborhood in today’s digital world. Many police departments throughout the country are active on Nextdoor and have dubbed it as the new neighborhood watch program.
To register for the app as a personal user, you must validate that you actually live where you claim to live. The app does this through a rigorous series of identity-check questions. Once completed, users can communicate with all the other neighbors who have joined. Discussions or threads can range from a lost pet to a suspicious vehicle to local community events. There is also a local recommendations section where people share information about common services like plumbers, electricians, and even dentists (figure 2).
Figure 2: Nextdoor recommendation categories as seen on the phone app
In fact, out of the 51 different categories listed in my neighborhood, the dentist category had the third most recommendations, trailing only the veterinarian and plumbers categories. I found out about the app through a new patient who had found our office using it. I claimed my business page (figure 1) in a similar process to claiming a business page with Yelp or Google, and found that we had five positive recommendations already there!
Figure 3: Recommendations on Nextdoor for Ford Dental Group
Is Nextdoor beneficial to dentists?
According to the company’s own data, 26% of the conversations on Nextdoor are recommendations (figure 3), and unlike Yelp and other review sites, the recommendations are only positive. (3) Claiming your business page shows that your business is verified and active in the community, plus it gives your practice another opportunity to be noticed by potential new patients.
If used correctly, the app can be leveraged to create free publicity for events that your practice is having (This year, I’ll be using the app to let neighbors know about our Candy Buy Back event that my office does after Halloween.) Additionally, if you wanted to advertise your practice on the app, it may be the best social media platform for focusing on exactly where your target audience lives (figure 4).
Figure 4: Nextdoor neighborhood map
As dentists, we know the biggest referral source for our practices is our current loyal patient base. Word-of-mouth is also the least expensive in terms of marketing dollars and most effective in terms of loyalty and case acceptance. Nextdoor’s growth may fizzle out, and it may turn out to be the next Myspace, but according to its CEO, Nextdoor could “be the largest catalogue of neighbor recommendations for local businesses in the country." (1) That’s something that should intrigue all dentists looking to grow their practices.
1. Popper B. Nextdoor—a private, localized social network—is now used in over 100,000 US neighborhoods. The Verge website. http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/23/12005456/nextdoor-100000-neighborhood-social-network-app-changes-business-plan-expansion. Published June 23, 2016. Accessed April 25, 2017.
2. Heine C. Why Nextdoor believes it can be social media's next $1 billion advertising machine. Adweek website. http://www.adweek.com/digital/why-nextdoor-believes-it-can-be-social-medias-next-1-billion-advertising-machine/. Published April 12, 2017. Accessed April 25, 2017.
3. Koh Y. New feature enhancements: navigation, recommendations, notifications, and more. Nextdoor website. https://blog.nextdoor.com/2013/09/27/new-feature-enhancements-navigation-recommendations-notifications-and-more/. Published September 27, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2017.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.