Audience Engagement Guest Columns
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Hyper localisation: The next step in local newspapers’ evolution

Paps Shaikh is the Commercial Director at Nextdoor, the online neighbourhood network. In this opinion piece, he writes about the shift from finding local products and services through town newspapers towards online forums and recommendations from neighbours.

Digital has revolutionised local information sharing.

While many of us still remember the days of looking through the town’s weekly paper for the latest recommendations on tradespeople or hairdressers, the reality is that most of us simply pick up our phones and ask our local networks.

We are constantly bombarded with information, and it can sometimes be hard to cut through the noise and find the information you need. In fact, over a third (36%) of people say they ignore most ads they see on social media as the content is not relevant to them, according to Nextdoor research1.

As a result, people have learned to take mass marketing messages with a pinch of salt, leading many to rely more heavily on recommendations from family, friends and our wider networks (including influencers). As our communities open again following lockdowns across the globe, word of mouth marketing and online endorsements by our personal networks are adding to traditional sources of information such as local newspaper recommendations or yellow pages directories.

“Can anyone recommend a plumber?”

Online forums and sharing platforms such as Facebook, Checkatrade and Gumtree have been at the forefront of this shift towards local information sharing, however the pandemic dramatically increased people’s engagement with their local communities. On Google Trends2, searches using the keywords “near me” have quadrupled in popularity since 2016, reaching a peak popularity score of 100 in August 2021.

The hype around all things local is likely to stick around, as research1 from Nextdoor reveals 28% of consumers are more likely to make a point of shopping locally following the pandemic.

Online platforms are the source of real-time local news…

Which garages still have petrol? Where to find urgent puppy training classes, cleaners or babysitters? Why is that helicopter circling the high street?

Covid-19 placed a new emphasis on real-time news. People want to know what’s going on and they want to trust in the information they read.

… and brands are part of these conversations

In the same way, there’s an expectation on brands to engage with customers in a localised, real-time way. People expect brands to understand them, listen to their needs and talk to them like a friend, as well as participate in social media moments.

According to Ipsos Global Trends3, nine in ten internet users aged 16-74 (91%) say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. What’s more, Nextdoor research1 shows that more than a quarter (26%) of consumers pay attention to ads if the information is relevant to them and their local area.

Sharing personalised content with a specific group of people can lead to more meaningful connections, as found by car insurance company By Miles, who partnered with Nextdoor to target specific neighbourhoods of lower-mileage drivers in South East England and Manchester. By personalising posts with the name of each individual neighbourhood, By Miles created a deeper connection with their audience, leading to stronger engagement and better leads.

When it comes to local information sharing, one thing is for certain, the news stories, forum posts or ads which get the most engagement are either those stoking controversy and debate, or those which provide useful and relevant solutions to their communities.

Local newspapers and websites can feed into this, but only by taking a hyperlocal approach will they keep up with the rapid pace of online platforms. That means truly understanding the situation on the ground, country by country, postcode by postcode, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

Paps Shaikh
Commercial Director, Nextdoor

References:

1Research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Nextdoor. Total sample size was 2,000 18+ adults. Survey conducted online between 9th and 12th August 2021

2https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=GB&q=%22near%20me%22

3https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/future-of-marketing/privacy-and-trust/research-customer-expectations-ads-privacy/

About: Nextdoor is where you connect to the neighbourhoods that matter to you so you can belong. Our purpose is to cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighbourhood they can rely on. Today, neighbours rely on Nextdoor in more than 275,000 neighbourhoods across 11 countries. In the UK, 1 in 6 households uses the network. Nextdoor is based in San Francisco. Further information: nextdoor.com/newsroom