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Social Network Nextdoor's Ideal New Users: Cops and Firefighters

Nextdoor hopes to triple its number of public agency users in the next three months.

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Nextdoor, the social network for neighborhoods, is calling the cops — and asking them to create online profiles.

The social network, which groups its users by neighborhood using geographic boundaries, added a new automatic sign-up tool Tuesday specifically for public agencies, including fire departments, police departments and local governments. The new tool means these organizations can sign up for an account online, a task previously handled by a Nextdoor employee who manually added each municipality.

Nextdoor relies heavily on these organizations; one of the benefits of having users grouped geographically is that local authorities can easily reach users in emergency or safety-related scenarios.

For example, a police unit may use Nextdoor to alert a specific neighborhood about a series of break-ins. Reaching out on Nextdoor ensures the police reach users who actually live in that neighborhood (users must verify their address) and eliminates the need to post something city-wide or cause alarm for other residents nearby but out of the danger zone.

These types of safety-related use cases are popular on Nextdoor, says co-founder Sarah Leary. Roughly 20 percent of all posts and comments on the network are related to safety, she added, and the three-year-old service already has more than 400 municipalities with profiles. With the new automatic sign-up, Leary hopes that number will triple by the end of the year.

Nextdoor has spent the last few years working with the largest cities in the country to get them on board, but due to the labor — Nextdoor could only manually sign up about six or seven agencies a week — the company actually refrained from advertising its service as broadly as it hoped. “In all honesty, over the past year we weren’t trying to shout [about Nextdoor] from the rooftops,” says Leary. “We weren’t ready to handle the demand that was coming in.”

That’s no longer an issue, she says, and Nextdoor now has its sights set on all 14,000 American municipalities. The network also has 43,000 neighborhoods signed up, a jump from 18,000 one year ago, and hopes the addition of more local authorities will keep pushing its neighborhood total in the right direction, too.

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