Innovator Insights: Nextdoor’s Jennifer Starr - Brand Innovators

Innovator Insights: Nextdoor’s Jennifer Starr

Conventional wisdom is full of tropes about home: all politics is local, your home is your castle, etc. No one knows that better than Nextdoor, the essential neighborhood app, a hyperlocal social networking service built around neighborhood interaction and recommendations.

“Nextdoor is where utility meets community,” said Jennifer Starr, Head of North American Enterprise Sales. “We aim to ensure that content resonates with residents’ needs and interests, creating a valuable experience on our platform.” 

Helping find a lost pet or hire a handyman could be considered a low-stakes activity, but it is a strong means to connect with a consumer and engage with local businesses, making it a strong vehicle for advertisers. At a time when consumers are increasingly distrustful of what they see online, the recommendations of neighbors are a valuable medium for communication and branding. 

Because of the nature of hyperlocal sites—neighbors connecting with peers to find information and recommendations—brands can find an engaged audience in a high-intent mindset, ready to connect with their message. Not only can local businesses reach local shoppers more effectively, but national brands can localize their advertising at scale to take advantage of proximity advertising, too, said Starr.

Nextdoor claims an estimated one in three U.S. households uses its platform when looking for information and recommendations about products and services in their neighborhoods. In all, Nextdoor is available in more than 330,000 neighborhoods in 11 countries around the world, with more than 88 million neighbors.

Local Opportunities at Scale

For national brands, this kind of hyperlocal advertising is an opportunity to join the local conversation, where neighbors are the influencers. Studies across the board show the power of word of mouth, and consumers are most influenced by the recommendations of their friends and neighbors, so even national brands want to tap these conversations at scale. 

Localizing ads allows national brands to leverage proximity marketing at scale worldwide, noted Starr. “Nextdoor allows large national brands to position their organization as a local spot,” she said.  

For example, Starr noted Nextdoor created an annual award called “Neighborhood Favorites” where the neighbors nominate and vote on the best small businesses in their area. In 2022, as many small businesses were still recovering from the effects of the pandemic lockdown, American Express came on board as sponsor of the award as part of its “Let’s Go Shop Small” summer campaign to support small businesses.  The credit card company encouraged participation and increased awareness thanks to its reach across diverse channels, to the local merchants’ benefit. At the same time, American Express increased positive sentiment for its brand through its commitment to investing in local businesses, Starr explained. 

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are considered the backbone of the economy, but by definition, their advertising budgets are limited. Nextdoor engages closely with those small businesses, both facilitating their marketing and bringing them together with larger, national advertisers for mutual benefit. 

“We know that when local businesses thrive, neighborhoods thrive,” said Starr. But, she added: “We know that running an SMB is hard work.”

To make short work of that hard work, Nextdoor has launched a suite of free marketing tools to help small businesses. They include a generative artificial intelligence-based copy assistant that allows a neighbor to write a short prompt about their business, product, offer or promotion and generate persuasive ad copy, which saves them time and effort in creating content online. The platform also recently introduced additional measurement tools to help advertisers improve targeting, add contextual cues and track the return on their ad investment. 

Building Trust in Content 

Content is an important building block of hyperlocal platforms, so protecting its integrity is a key consideration, especially at a time when social media so often devolves into disinformation, bots and online invective. Starr explains that Nextdoor is committed to transparency, privacy,  safety, accountability, authenticity, and inclusivity. 

Nextdoor integrated generative artificial intelligence into the app to help neighbors craft better posts and improve communication. Adding generative AI to assist in content moderation has been “transformative” said Starr. She noted that, according to Nextdoor’s  2023 Transparency Report, 26% of neighbors who were prompted by generative AI to revise their content on the site adopted the suggestion and published more constructive content as a result.  

“This generative AI technology puts Nextdoor neighbors back in control,” said Starr. 

The platform is filled with people who are verified and subject to community guidelines, she explained. Any neighbor joining must use their real name and address and are asked to take a “Kind Neighbor Pledge” which enforces acceptable use of the platform and in turn ensures brand safety for advertisers. Additionally, the site uses a community of 200,000 volunteer moderators on Nextdoor who review 90% of reported content and react quickly, removing objectionable content in a median time of 5.3 hours.

“Nextdoor is built on trust,” Starr explained. “The platform consists of real people in the neighborhood. Neighbors on Nextdoor are the people we live alongside and see at the coffee shop.”