In anticipation for Giving Tuesday (11/30), Facebook has launched a series of new fundraising and community support efforts, including the expansion of its Nextdoor-like 'Neighborhoods' tool, which was previously only available to Canadian users.
According to Facebook:
“People are increasingly using Facebook to help the vulnerable in their local communities, support small businesses and share information in local groups. So, we’re expanding tests of Neighborhoods, a single destination to build and strengthen local communities on Facebook, to an additional 132 cities in the United States.”
Neighborhoods is a different aspect within Facebook that allows users to join certain local communities to encourage connection within your surrounding area, as shown in the screenshots above. Users can create a Neighborhoods profile, which has a distinct Neighborhoods bio, as well as their Facebook name and image, and then interact with local community groups and causes, as well as discover new interaction possibilities and ideas.
Last October, Facebook began testing Neighborhoods in Calgary, before expanding it to other Canadian cities in May of this year. And now it's expanding to US cities as well, which will likely be unwelcome news for Nextdoor, which has grown into a major community-building tool for many.
Sure enough, during the early stages of the pandemic, Nextdoor observed an 80% increase in users, as more people sought to engage with local communities to help their neighbors and local businesses. Facebook groups have also seen a significant increase, and when you combine the two, Neighborhoods could be a valuable tool for local connection - especially since Facebook is also introducing a new 'Giving Exchange' element, which is essentially a more organized version of local 'Buy, Swap, and Sell' groups.
It's a logical progression that might become a key component. With 1.8 billion people using Facebook Groups every month, many of which are related to local news and events, and more local publications being closed down as a result of the pandemic, it appears that a growing amount of people will be even more dependent on Facebook for local news and connection.
It'll be intriguing to see how Neighborhoods is received in the United States, and how Facebook plans to increase usage and membership as a method of becoming a more important tool for local participation.
This raises concerns about Facebook's algorithms and their potential to fuel tension and divide. We'll have to wait and see if the expanded rollout of Neighborhoods has comparable effects on a lesser scale, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on as Facebook strives to expand its civic influence.
Aside from the Neighborhoods expansion, Facebook has introduced a number of charitable projects for Giving Tuesday, including:
Donations to eligible Nonprofits in the United States will be matched up to $8 million.
Giving Tuesday is matching the fundraising of seven Instagram creators up to $50,000 each.
Increasing the number of Nonprofits for which users can fundraise on Instagram
Running a Warzone competition on Facebook Gaming, with proceeds going to charities selected by Gaming creators
Yet again, Facebook will conduct its #BuyBlackFriday initiative, which will raise funding and exposure for Black-owned businesses.
“In the US, Black-owned businesses continue to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and this holiday season will be make or break for many of them. More than a third of US Black-owned businesses expect to make at least half of their annual revenue in the last three months of the year.”
The #BuyBlackFriday show will stream on Facebook every Friday in November, and Facebook will also offer additional #BuyBlackFriday gift guide collections throughout the month in both the Facebook and Instagram Shop tabs.
Outline of the ways individuals can offer their support on Giving Tuesday was also shared on Facebook.
While many areas are beginning to recover, the pandemic's effects will be seen for some time to come, which is why programs like Giving Tuesday are vital since they provide more opportunities to spotlight philanthropic organizations and needs that need more attention.
Though it's worth noting that Facebook is utilizing the event to accelerate the roll-out of Neighborhoods, which may also present negative consequences. It'll be fascinating to see what the bigger deployment means for local community engagement in the app in the long run, since a more positive drive for the expansion could hide a few of these unwanted outcomes.