Neighborhoods is the latest attempt from Facebook at remaining relevant to its audience while distancing itself from its dark side.
For a while now we have been watching as Facebook tries different ways of remaining the most compelling social media platform and, as we have predicted, its latest attempt is to become ‘hyper local.’
The launch of Neighborhoods is a copy of the quiet but very successful social media app called Nextdoor, which defines communities by their postcodes/zip codes. As such, communities are real rather than merely social and are of real benefit. Suddenly you can post that you are ‘going to the shops, does anyone know someone who is in quarantine who needs anything’, or ‘there is a cat thief in the neighbourhood, so keep a eye open’.
Facebook is probably going to buy Nextdoor or put it out of business just as Nextdoor it is looking at its own IPO.
The question, though, is whether people trust Facebook to the extent of letting it move in nextdoor. It is clear that the company will harvest your local data and sell you ‘even more relevant adverts’ (joy) and whether it succeeds or not will be a real test for Facebook and how its users really perceive it.
The company’s perception has taken a real battering over recent months and years. Extremists, activists and politicians are among the unhinged and angry people who have taken advantage of its platform for free speech and the manipulation that goes on is unprecedented.
Recent attempts at reinventing itself include a dating service, Facebook Campus and, of course, trying to invent a cryptocurrency called Libra, which was never going to get past the politicians who like the fact that people hate Facebook, which gives them something to rant about.
Nextdoor works, Neighborhoods might work, too. There is probably only room for one and, as Facebook becomes increasingly worried by people’s perception, the company will likely throw everything it has at it, in an attempt to wriggle out from the mess that it has got the social (or anti-social) media world into.