When Valerie Elmore saw a dog run out on a local road and get hit by a car, she did what anyone would do. She gathered the dog up and drove straight to a nearby animal hospital. Unfortunately, the dog died, and Elmore turned to NextDoor, a local social network, to find out whether anyone had lost their pet.
“I wanted to find the owner so they would find out what happened to her,” Elmore told Wave 3 News.
A member of NextDoor shared the post on local Facebook animal pages where it was eventually seen by Gale Branch. Gale had been distributing flyers in her neighborhood since the loss of her dog, Marcus. The shared post was able to bring her closure.
It’s not the usual benefit that you expect a private social network to deliver. Private social networks are usually built to bring people together to share news and stories, make friends and create communities. They’re places where information is exchanged and like-minded people can meet.
But they can also deliver real help to people who need it. For anyone building a private social network, that matters. Nothing beats the feeling that the community you built has improved someone’s life in a measurable way.
There are steps that you can take to increase the chances that that will happen.
One option makes for good housekeeping anyway. Niche networks can sometimes feel plagued by advertising. Realtors fill local communities with sales notices. Electricians pitch their services. Contractors tell people how great they are with a hammer and a bag of nails.
When it leaks into people’s feeds every day, it’s annoying. But when it’s occasional, it’s helpful for people who need specific services, whether it’s a local carpenter who can build a deck or a mechanic who can fit a new exhaust pipe on a Harley. Set aside a special day for service providers. They’ll still get to pitch their skills, and members of the community will still find people who can help them. But you’ll keep the stream clean and interesting.
And if you’ve installed Groups, you can set up special groups to supply specific help. Gale Branch found her dog after the post was shared on a Facebook group called Kentuckian Lost and Found Pets Network. Creating special groups for your community — for local service providers, for example, or for Harley exhaust fitters — will enable people to find the exact help they need easily.
Ideally, the members of your community will set up those groups themselves but if they don’t set them up, don’t be afraid to do it yourself. Form the group, look for admins to help you run it, and invite in people who you think would benefit from membership. If you have to seed the first pieces of content to get the group moving, then do so. But you should find that the group soon starts to take off and turn itself into a resource that can be a real social good.