It’s always been our goal here at the Community Engagement Initiative to share resources and tools that allow LEAs to connect with their communities. We recently sat down with Ilana Israel Samuels, Director of Communications, Family and Community Engagement at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for a quick Q&A about SRVUSD’s experiences with the Nextdoor platform as a public agency. This post should not be taken as an endorsement of any particular platform or technology. Our goal is only to make you aware of tools you may not have been aware of.
Q: How did you first hear about Nextdoor’s account type that is specific to public agencies?
A: I actually first heard about NextDoor for Public Agencies from our partners at the Contra Costa County Supervisor’s Office. That was in approximately January, 2022. However, at that time, they did not offer the Nextdoor for Public Agencies to School Districts for free! I submitted a request anyway, which they denied. Then over the summer, I received an email from them letting me know that school districts could now join for free; so in August 2022, we created the account.
Q: Is communication mostly one-way, or do you get people reaching out to you through the platform with questions, etc.? (I know sometimes platforms can feel like you’re just shouting into the void)
A: Communication is almost always only one-way. We try not to reply to comments on our posts, unless it’s to clarify a misunderstanding or update information. As a public agency, we cannot comment on other people’s posts at all.
Q: Has it led you to connect or partner with local businesses or nonprofits?
A: At this point we have not seen much traction in Nextdoor helping us connect to local businesses or nonprofits. We use it mainly as a tool to communicate important information that we believe the wider community needs to know, beyond our parents and caregivers. This includes posts about the community use of our campuses/shared-use park spaces during school hours, sharing updates from our partners in the City, Town or from Police agencies, sharing positive news (ie our National Blue Ribbon Schools announcement), or providing information about things like Kindergarten registration or school events open to the community.
Q: How easy was it to set up?
A: Super easy!
Q: How easy is it to maintain? (Do you have to moderate comments or answer questions daily, weekly, etc. or do you just post when you need to post.)
A: We hardly get comments honestly, so it is very easy to maintain. If we think it is information that people will have follow up questions about, we include my name and contact email in the post, so that our community knows who to reach out to with their questions. We do not have a regular posting schedule, it’s on an as-needed basis.
Q: Do you have any anecdotes or specific examples of positive outcomes achieved through the platform?
A: Yes! One of our very first posts (which we recently reposted as a reminder), was about using our parks/spaces during school hours. We were having a very specific issue last year with the use of one of the largest parks at one of our middle schools. According to the Principal there, the inadvertent trespassing onto our property scaled down significantly after this post!
Q: How would you compare the size of your audience compared to other platforms like Facebook or Twitter?
A: The audience is actually much larger! Nextdoor shows the following numbers [Listed to the Right]. So actually, a much larger reach than other social media, but we honestly expected that since NextDoor is of interest (apparently) to a wider group of individuals, whether they have kids or not. I am not sure of this, but it seems to me that the “members” are a set number, if someone joins NextDoor from a particular neighborhood of ours, I believe they just automatically become a “member”. They don’t need to actually subscribe.
Q: What other apps or services do you use to reach your community?
We primarily use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as our social media outreach to parents/caregivers. We also have a dedicated student facing Instagram. If you are talking about the wider community (people who don’t have kids currently in the district), we utilize our partnerships with the County, Town and City (the 3 municipalities that comprise our district), as well as the 2 local Chambers of Commerce, to get the word out about things. They are all amazing partners and are willing to include information from us in their newsletters, on social media, etc.
Thank you Ilana and San Ramon Valley Unified!
If Nextdoor for Public Agencies sounds like it would be beneficial for your district you can find more information using the links below.