Over the last several years, NoDa residents and businesses have been taking advantage of digital tools to more effectively communicate to people within the neighborhood as well as to the greater Charlotte community.
North Davidson, more commonly called NoDa, is a popular and eclectic arts and entertainment district in North Charlotte. Located at and around North Davidson and 36th streets, the fast-growing neighborhood is also an historic part of the city. It was an important mill village during the early 20th century when Charlotte was a major textile center, and many of these mill buildings—some of which are undergoing or have recently undergone renovation—can be seen while driving down North Davidson Street. NoDa has since evolved into a key center for arts and entertainment, but retains the unique identity and deep sense of community that it’s always had.
Lauren Schalburg has been the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association (NBA) treasurer since 2008 as well as editor of the NoDa News since 2012. She believes that communication technology is a good way to get the word out to people both inside and outside the community.
Using Digital Communication to Solve Community Issues
One of the biggest challenges faced by NoDa is the effects of the ongoing construction of Charlotte’s Blue Line light rail extension, which will pass directly through NoDa once completed. The construction means many roads are closed in NoDa, parking is difficult to find, and there are construction vehicles, trash and debris everywhere.
The NoDa NBA has been using digital tools to find creative ways of dealing with these issues.
One of these digital tools is Nextdoor, a social networking service for neighborhood communities. Schalburg estimates that NoDa has around 1,200 residents that are registered for the neighborhood’s Nextdoor network. Schalburg says NoDa businesses use Nextdoor to inform residents about community events, volunteer opportunities, information about crime, and updates on construction/development. Nextdoor is also used by NoDa businesses to directly communicate with residents about community issues, she says, such asking residents to avoid parking on the streets to relieve the parking problem and save space for visitors.
The NoDa NBA also partnered with Uber, an app-based transportation network. Anyone who uses Uber to get into NoDa are offered special deals or discounts at certain businesses. Schalburg says that this creative partnership further helps with the parking problem.
Making Use of Different Communication Outlets
The NoDa NBA has fully embraced social media to communicate to people both within and outside of the neighborhood. “One of the challenges of social media is there’s so many different demographics,” says Schalburg. “We need to communicate to people who don’t know about NoDa, as well as to the residents and the businesses…. I think we understand that different tools reach different audiences.”
NoDa has both a Facebook Page and a Facebook Group, and each one has a different purpose and a different audience in mind. Schalburg says that the Facebook Group focuses on people who are interested in NoDa—mostly residents—and is an online space for community discussion. Then there’s the Facebook Page, NoDa Charlotte, which is NoDa’s official public page. It promotes NoDa businesses and events and is targeted toward a broader audience, says Schalburg.
NoDa also has Twitter and Instagram accounts. The Twitter account is very active and fast-paced, tweeting at any time, multiple times a day. It focuses on what’s happening in NoDa at the moment, and is mostly used to promote the businesses in the community. The Instagram account focuses on a more external audience, providing an overall visual representation of what NoDa is and what people would find if they came to NoDa.
“We set goals every year to raise our membership and followers in social media by 10 percent,” says Schalburg, “and we’ve met that goal every year for the past three years.” Schalburg believes their active online presence is building an ever-growing audience. “As long as your social media is active, you’re going to gain new followers.”
A Centralized Voice
All of these social media outlets are linked to the NoDa website, which has become the centralized hub of information about the community. Before the site’s recent update, there were multiple NoDa websites, scattering audiences due to the lack of a strong, unified voice. The NoDa Neighborhood Association approached the NoDa Business Association and asked to take their domain, noda.org, and merge with them. They received a grant that allowed them to have the website professionally developed, resulting in its current design.
Schalburg’s advice to communities that want to more effectively communicate to residents is this: “know who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to tell them.”
NoDa development and construction are ongoing, and at least 1,000 new residents are expected to move in by the end of next year. “We hope to preserve the sense of community that’s been here since 1903,” says Schalburg. “People take pride in the identity and uniqueness of NoDa, and we’d like to continue that as well as keep promoting the arts.”
The NoDa community uses a variety of digital and print tools to communicate with a variety of audiences inside and outside the neighborhood.