Ever wish you could move to a town and know people off the bat? That’s pretty much the experience with Swap SOMa Lounge; except since this group is online, you can meet the neighbors before you even move to town, which could be an invaluable resource. The private Facebook group is a local social group for South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, and has more than 8,000 members and counting.
Kristen Cook Tyler, a SOMa resident, started the group to create a place where other residents could be silly, get referrals, post pet pictures, question authority, and ask questions only locals could answer. The idea for the group came about after the success Kristen had with another group she’d created where locals could exchange – or swap – items, mainly by selling or giving away, but occasionally by bartering.
“I do estate and moving sales,” explains Kristen, owner of MT House Estate and Moving Sales, who is typically hired to go into a house and sell everything. “Sometimes people would have one or two items they wanted me to sell, so I wanted to create a way for them to be able to sell just a few items.”
First, she created Swap/Meet SOMa, a closed Facebook group that now has more than 14,000 members. The group let’s you buy and sell items, clothes for kids, etc. “but we saw people wanted to just make jokes and chat too, so we opened the Swap/SOMa Lounge for town information and networking, and to promote local businesses and local things.”
Kristen says both Swap SOMa Lounge and Swap/Meet SOMa have helped neighbors connect in many ways. Swap SOMa Lounge serves more like a private community bulletin board/lounge and has helped everyone from newbies seeking local opinions on schools and local businesses to seasoned regulars who’ve used the platform to create their own offline interest groups, like a basketball get together for adults.
There are a few basic rules to join these groups. Here’s a sampling:
- Be nice
- If you are a relative, employee, owner of a business you are referring, please state this clearly
- Fundraising and donation requests must be approved by a group administrator before posting and will be limited to schools, libraries, food pantries, or charities in South Orange and Maplewood
The ground rule: you must be local.
That said, the group is welcoming to people who are considering moving to South Orange and Maplewood and will often allow temporary access, which is an incredible way to get a flavor for the community, ask questions about a school, your potential commute, out-of-pocket costs that don’t fall within general taxes, parking permit situations, and more.
To get a temporary membership is simple; just click to join the group then send a private email via Facebook to Kristen or one of the other group administrators, explaining that you’re considering buying a home in the area and have questions about x, y, and z, and that you’d like to join the group for a little while; chances are you’ll get accepted. This is a crucial step toward acceptance since the group works hard to make sure members local and keep scammers at bay.
Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:
MT House Estate and Moving Sales
Swap SOMa Lounge