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5 Ideas For Building Engagement and Community Journalism on Nextdoor

Bharbi Hazarika

Dec 12, 2023

Last year, Documented conducted audience research to understand better the news needs of Caribbean immigrants living in New York. This initiative is part of our audience-centric journalism approach, where reporters work as community correspondents developing a permanent two-way conversation with organizations, community leaders, and immigrants.

One of the key findings from the research revealed that more than a third of Caribbean respondents are active on the app Nextdoor, which they use to stay informed about their neighborhood. This discovery was significant, considering that 57% of the respondents identified their neighborhoods as their primary community. 

These findings paved the way for Documented’s decision to create a communication channel with Caribbean immigrants via Nextdoor. You can follow us on Nextdoor here.

Also Read: What Audience Research Proved Us Wrong About Caribbean New Yorkers

Building on what we learned in the research regarding information needs, we designed a round of survey tests to determine what type of content and information the Caribbean immigrants find most useful. We created two prototype accounts on Nextdoor and filled them with two types of content. 

Prototype A: Included posts in the form of news, videos, and photos.

Prototype B: Included event announcements, feedback requests, guides, and resources, among others.

We tested both prototypes on 13 Caribbean immigrants using Nextdoor in New York City. Along with the research results, we also studied the platform on different devices to familiarize ourselves with the medium.

The final report revealed some interesting findings, including:

  • Most respondents emphasized the importance of “relevance” when sharing content on Nextdoor.
  • Over three-fourths of the respondents preferred an informal, first-person tone in the posts.
  • The majority of the respondents found posts about immigrant success stories useful.

After analyzing the results, we built out key recommendations on how Documented journalist Ralph Thomassaint Joseph will engage with Caribbean readers on Nextdoor. 

How Journalists Can Use Nextdoor for Community Journalism

Consistently use visual storytelling

Nextdoor’s interface doesn’t allow for a lot of visual elements. The trick is to enhance engagement and resonance with Caribbean immigrant audiences by consistently integrating various culturally relevant, engaging, and accessible visual elements. This can be achieved by:

  • Utilizing images and videos that reflect the community’s culture
  • Incorporating short, engaging teaser videos that capture the essence of the story before linking out the longer YouTube video
  • News links do not develop cards, so adding images with text whenever possible to mimic the “card” feature found in other social platforms

Actively cultivate cultural sensitivity and community focus

Foster a strong sense of community connection and cultural sensitivity by highlighting immigrant success stories and providing relevant information. This can be enhanced by:

  • Showcasing immigrant success stories and positive community impacts
  • Adding audience-specific translations to posts when necessary.
  • Offering clear, actionable resources relevant to the news story when posting news stories.
  • Encouraging people to comment on their preferences, interests, and thoughts that will further prompt others to take part as well. 

Drive engagement through creative interactions

Actively engage the Caribbean immigrant audience with personalized and interactive content. Some proven ideas include:

  • Creating content hooks in post text that preview engaging story elements and utilize language like “Did you know …?” or “Are you aware …?”
  • Frequently look at comments; encourage feedback and participation through likes and responses to comments.
  • Using emojis (such as 🎤🚨📣and even national flags) to catch users’ attention visually. 

Streamline the path to action

Ensure content clarity and ease of use with specific and direct messaging and clear calls to action. This can be achieved by:

  • Using Google Maps links when sharing event locations to provide clear directions.
  • Ensuring the first sentence of each post is no longer than seven to nine words since Nextdoor uses the first sentence as a preview across mobile and tablet notifications.
  • Creating banner templates for photos to add captions since Nextdoor has no built-in caption feature.

Communicate the importance of privacy and trust

Build trust and ensure privacy by clearly communicating the newsroom’s mission and being sensitive in language use. Enhance trust by:

  • Emphasizing resources for undocumented immigrants, highlighting confidentiality.
  • Ensuring the profile and posts communicate a balance of asking for and offering information, highlighting the value provided to the community alongside requests for engagement.
  • When promoting non-profit organizations that call for donations, highlight the organization’s impact and work to maintain transparency. 
How Caribbean respondents identify their community. Credits: Documented Caribbean and Chinese Communities Audience Research

What We Learned From Reaching Caribbean Readers on Nextdoor

  1. We know that Caribbean immigrants consider their neighborhood as their community. 
  2. By using the Nextdoor app, we are meeting them in their neighborhood, hence, their community. 
  3. So, conducting community engagement in this app is more useful than just news distribution. 

We plan to use this platform as an engagement tool for communities and not simply for distribution. So, our key performance indicators should align with our engagement goals instead of big numbers or directing people toward our site. 

By prioritizing engagement over passive news dissemination and focusing on fostering community connections, Documented is effectively utilizing Nextdoor not just as a news distribution platform but as a dynamic space for interaction and support. These findings shape a more effective communication strategy for Documented and provide a valuable blueprint for other newsrooms looking to connect with diverse audiences in the digital age.

Bharbi Hazarika

Bharbi Hazarika is a graduate student at New York University studying audience development and digital journalism. Previously, she worked for CNN International as a part-time producer. She has also interned at the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and The Hindu in India.

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