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Are Nextdoor's Marketing Techniques Legal?

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As our society advances more and we begin to intertwine our lives more and more with technology, our homes themselves become a part of them as well. In recent years, a new app has begun to make its rise within our society, an app referred to as the Nextdoor app. The app itself is meant to be a way for people living within the same neighborhood to share news about what is locally happening in their area. Sometimes this involves possible news of robberies that have happened within your area, or if one of your neighbors are planning on hosting a party or garage sale that you may want to take part of. In some ways, it is considered to be like a Facebook group that is specifically catered for your area.

However, in the midst of the rise of the Nextdoor app, there are growing worries of if the app is being used as an invasive marketing technique within communities, rather than being used as a helpful tool. Despite how welcoming the app may appear at first glance, the way the app is shared around by neighbors who are inviting their other neighbors sometimes has the wording of marketing, thus making it appear as though your neighbors are unknowingly becoming a part of a marketing scheme.

What do we mean by marketing language, and how is it possible for someone to accidentally become a part of that marketing? It sounds bizarre at first, but it’s actually not too far-fetched once you have a better understanding of it, nor is there an entire truth in your neighbors being a part of the strategy.

Isn’t that a contradiction? In a way, yes. Your neighbors are not directly involved in the marketing, but their names are. The Nextdoor app sends letters to those in the same location as their other users, and in those letters, they will use your neighbors name with marketing techniques that are used to create the feeling of missing out in those who read it. They do this through using phrases such as “don’t miss out” and “join today”, thus making the reader feel as though they are missing out and that they are on a deadline to join in on the group.

So, with this in mind, is it legal for the Nextdoor app to use your name to market themselves to those living around you? To put it short, yes, it is. But how?

When you first sign up for the Nextdoor app, you are presented with the option to send 150 of your closest neighbors a personalized message with your name and the street you live on as a way to invite them onto the app. However, it is very easy for those who are signing up for the app to quickly breeze through this step, and not even realize that they had agreed to it in the first place. After you hit accept on creating the letters, it opens another page for you to type in, which looks much like the type of page you’d be taken to in order to make a post on a site.

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It is possible for you to be able to opt out of having the letters sent out, however. You are not locked into the option, but sometimes by the time you have realized that you had agreed to it, the letters may have already been sent out and are either on their way to their recipients, or already inside of their mailbox.

However, the reality for those who have fallen victim to the quick signup is that it is not illegal for the Nextdoor app to do so. By all rights and intensive purposes, you yourself had agreed to allow for them to do it, even if you did not realize it. Since you had to have physically clicked “agree” to get to the pages that you were on, you can not hold the app accountable for getting the letters sent out. As well as this, Nextdoor has posted about it themselves through blog posts to let people be more aware of the possible misunderstanding, but they have no efforts to do any differences to the actual sign up process despite this. However, they do put in the effort to put a fake return address onto the envelopes, making it to where whoever receives your letter does not actually know your real address, thus protecting you from the possibility of someone that you don’t want to know your address from having it.

There is a belief that the reason why the Nextdoor App is choosing to go about this in this way is because they are trying to be our friends, a technique that many brands often attempt to do. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, but it does lead to some awkward interactions, such as the letter fiasco with Nextdoor. It just means brands will often do what they can to keep up with the trends and appeal to the current trends that are happening among the younger generations.

However, the marketing techniques are often emotionally manipulative, with brands acting like they are a single person instead of a group of people and causing emotional connections to be created with them. As a result, it causes people to be more defensive of a brand and to reach for a certain brand because of this possible emotional tie, and will make them be a lot less critical of the wrongdoings of these brands.

So, at the end of the day, while it is a very strange form of marketing technique, it’s perfectly legal for them to do. However, due to the nature of it, it is important for people to be aware of it so that they know to be more cautious when signing up for apps and accounts to pay attention to the things that they agree to, so that they don’t possible end up finding their name on a letter that they did not send.

© 2022 Liz Fe

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