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Local social media gets neighborly with 'Nextdoor'

West side neighborhood uses service to exchange advice, services, crime stats

MADISON, Wis. - A new twist on social media is sweeping the country. It's reinventing how neighbors interact and its success is turning around one of Madison's most troubled neighborhoods.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Nextdoor is private and popular among people living in Meadowood on Madison's west side. Residents use it to exchange advice, services and crime stats, all while getting to know one another.

When Meadowood's Neighborhood Association was first formed, its purpose was to "promote fellowship." Fifty-five years later, the president's goal hasn't changed. How to do it successfully, though, has.

"It's a fairly new site and community for Meadowood, so I'm happy to see its gotten very well received in the neighborhood," said Meadowood's Neighborhood Association President Lisa Veldran.

Veldran is one of more than 100 neighbors who are logging on to the free service that's catching on all across the country.

On its website, Nextdoor said it helps connect communities in 50 states. It's in 11,000 neighborhoods, 18 of them in Madison. Its creator attributes research that found two-thirds of people want to know their neighbors better, so Nirav Tolia posed this question.

"Why isn't there a service that helps us connect with those right outside our front door?" asked Nirav Tolia, who helped launch Nextdoor two years. It suggests neighborhoods advertise garage sales, baby sitters, lost dogs and local events.

Veldran signed up about a year ago and found the most popular posts are about crimes.

"We kind of know when there's an uptick and are able to let the police know," said Veldran.

If Nextdoor can curb violence, like the extra police patrols, food carts and neighborhood center have, Veldran hopes her neighborhood's motto from the past will continue to ring true in the future.

"I think it's a great tool, an additional tool for us to use and what I'm surprised with is how many people are using it and seeing that interaction," explained Veldran.

Nextdoor is free and secure, assures its founder. The site requires neighbors verify their home address to prove they live there.

To sign up or learn more about Nextdoor, click here.

VIDEO: Local social media gets neighborly with 'Nextdoor'

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