Despite all the controversies, Facebook, with more than 1.5 billion daily users and 16 million local business pages, is still the biggest game in town when it comes to social media. Sure, there's a growing number of people that are abandoning the platform. But, for a business - particularly a small business - looking to grow its brand awareness to the right audience, there are still very few alternatives for its advertising dollars.

The good news is that there are new online advertising choices for the business marketer. A new crop of competing social media platforms are going after Facebook's advertisers - and they're worth taking a closer look.

For example and just this past month, a social media company called Nextdoor raised $123 million from a group of well-known venture capital firms that include Benchmark, Tiger Global Management and Kleiner Perkins. The most recent round of funding is on top the more than $400 million the company has raised since its inception in 2008, giving it a valuation of close to $2.1 billion. So what's all the fuss about? It's about local.

"Around the world, there is a universal yearning for the connectedness of proximity," Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar told VentureBeat. "Neighbors everywhere still love and care about belonging and contributing to a tangible, real place, as evidenced by Nextdoor's continued growth and expansion throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia."

Nextdoor is a social media service not unlike its giant competitor. But rather than building your network around the world, you're encouraged to build your network with your neighbors and catch up on things going on locally.  I'm a Nextdoor member and my feed is filled with local news, job postings, crime warnings (I do live in Philly, you know), sports news and invitations to book clubs and bowling parties and why the heck did I even check "bowling" as my interest? I don't even know.

But it's fun. And it's real. And, as far as I can tell there are no Russians telling me who to vote for. Yet.

"We believe Nextdoor represents the future of local community and commerce," Chris Varelas, a board member and co-founder of venture capital firm Riverwood Capital also said in the VentureBeat report. "This investment reflects our collective belief in the power and opportunity in this space and the Nextdoor team." The company doesn't disclose how many members it has but claims that there are more 235,000 neighborhoods on its platform.

Nextdoor joins a growing number of social media platforms including Alignable, Angie's List, Patch and Thumbtack that are building specialized communities geared towards interactions, recommendations, news, activities and communities in a localized market and in some cases to specialized groups in those communities. They're competing with the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp and other more well-known brands.  But these big brands are being pushed by their investors to grow and unfortunately focusing on local opportunities takes more patience.  That, combined with a decline in online advertising options that's been killing off many local publications, has created a void. 

A new crop of local social media sites like Nextdoor are now filling that void.

For a small business, this makes sense. Most of us sell locally. My company's more than 600 clients are primarily based in the Philly area. My clients - landscapers, roofers, pizza shops, gas stations, restaurants and merchants - are mostly catering towards their regional communities. Two decades ago they would be advertising in the local papers. Luckily in my city, some of those options still exist. But, like many local papers around the country, they're battling for eyeballs.

The good news is that as localized social platforms like Nextdoor grow, there will be more inexpensive options for small businesses to better target their limited marketing funds to the potential customers who will most benefit from the products and services they offer. Nextdoor, for example, promises that its advertisers can create "sponsored posts" to "connect directly with local communities" with "customized messages that drives authentic, relevant connections between consumers and brands."

For many businesses - particular smaller companies - marketing is simply local, and that's where our money is best spent. Facebook is doing its best to provide this kind of targeted approach by pushing more localized news in its feed. But the company admits it's a challenging task and has a long way to go. In the meantime, look for challengers like Nextdoor to give Facebook and the other social media giants a run for their money. Small advertisers will be the biggest beneficiaries from battle.

Published on: Jun 5, 2019