Can you buy marketing results as a real estate professional? Nextdoor seems to think so.

At the 2017 Inman Connect Conference, Nextdoor made the big announcement that it would be expanding to include ‘real estate services’. So far, the features are reinforcing the idea that you can’t buy marketing results.

The non-branded ‘real estate services’ are a great way to “build a relationship with the neighbourhood”, “build your reputation” and “own your market” via ownership of a “local page”, according to CEO Nirav Tolia.

But is that really the case? Let’s compare to Parkbench

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

About Parkbench Neighbourhood Sites

  • Real estate professional claim their geographic farm area
  • Parkbench builds them a custom neighbourhood page
  • Site pages feature:
    -an aggregator that provides a feed of local news, events, deals and other content for the site
    -a public blog
    -a local business directory
    -a bio section
  • Parkbench teaches the real estate agent how to engage with people and businesses in their geographic farm and drive traffic to their site

The Basic Premise

Parkbench encourages real estate professionals to become ‘Local Leaders®’ by connecting with people in their area. Equipped with a non-threatening invitation to do a feature blog about a particular business, real estate professional will learn local people’s names and faces. The amazing part of Parkbench is that it separates business from the community work of a real estate professional. It is a highly beneficial resource where communities and local businesses can connect FOR FREE without a membership.

In short, local businesses can post regular blogs to advertise upcoming sales or make announcements. Local schools can post regular blogs with important information. Local artists and musicians can post blogs that advertise upcoming shows and so on. All the while, the local realtor is acting as the facilitator; the hub around which this communication spins.

Summed up: The Parkbench model relies heavily on the belief that you can’t buy marketing results. You have to get out and talk to people in order to build your personal brand. THAT is how you build name/face recognition. By actually interacting with people offline. Only then will you see a sustainable boost in your marketing results – both online and offline.

It’s more to do with helping build stronger local economies and connecting neighbours and businesses than helping to sell houses. Yet, Parkbench clients find this benefit is quite common.

The whole point is this: personal branding is no longer about expansive blasts of digital advertising. It is about building ACTUAL offline relationships with people as a means of strengthening your personal brand. It also helps build your reputation as a local authority.

7 Ways Nextdoor’s ‘Real Estate Services Fall Short

  1. Nextdoor requires users (locals only) to be site members in order to access any neighbourhood website. Meaning that only local residents can use the site even though not every local resident will create an account. This severely limits the audience.
  2. Multiple real estate professionals can own the same zip code (1-4 initially). This means that your page will not only compete for Google rankings in your the area but will compete against OTHER LOCAL NEXTDOOR SITES.
  3. The premise has absolutely nothing to do with “building relationships” as they claim. It’s creating more digital advertising for users to ignore. Their measure of ‘engagement’ is based on people clicking ads. Relationships (good ones) aren’t measured in ad clicks.
  4. In the absence of any relationship building, the presumption is that people will sign up for Nextdoor JUST to talk about how great you are. That’s not relationship building. That’s you supplying your own audience while they supply the forum. The same testimonials can be shared to your social media free of charge with no added hassle to the person making them.
  5. It’s paying Nextdoor for banner ads for your listings. This makes no sense when their effectiveness per dollar spent can’t touch  platforms like Facebook or Instagram due to the severely limited audience.

    If someone is looking to move into the community, they can’t be a member of that community’s page on Nextdoor until they live there. Most won’t go through the trouble of creating a fake account just to check for housing listings that real estate professionals may or may not have posted to the local page.

  6. Your listings will only reach people already in the area. That’s problematic for it creates a ‘gatekeeper’ effect where they only tell select people they know. This means that your already limited audience becomes even more limited based on local ‘gatekeepers’.
  7. Even if they do recommend people, their knowledge of you is ‘I saw them on a Nextdoor banner’. That’s hardly a ringing testimony to your professional abilities but rather the least personal version of ‘I know a guy’.
67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Why is Parkbench Better?

In a word: People.

Everything about the Parkbench approach, from the local neighbourhood pages to the Local Leader® relationship building system is based on people. And not just people, but local community members. Look at a Parkbench neighbourhood page. Any page. They are truly hyperlocal, right down to interviews with small, local businesses and community leaders by real estate professionals. With Parkbench, you don’t buy marketing results, you earn and build them.

Here’s Parkbench Co-Founder/CEO Grant Findlay Shirras showing how easily real estate professionals can engage with small business owners in their geographic farm.

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The point of Parkbench neighbourhood pages is to help make an area easier to find on both Google and social media platforms by creating SEO-driven blog content. This is beneficial for many small business owners don’t understand how to implement this into their business models. It’s all about the process of creating content and Parkbench assigns specific account managers to each client so they can help them navigate interviewing and SEO writing techniques – which in turn helps the real estate professionals build relationships.

You can’t buy marketing results! You have to earn them!

Conclusion: You Can’t Buy Marketing Results!

Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia might strike all of the right chords by evoking images of interconnected neighbourhoods and real estate agents ‘tapping into’ the vast undercurrents of real estate interest on the site. But it’s the final execution that rings a bit hollow. For, in the end, all you’re doing is buying banner ads on a private social network.

There’s no curriculum for building relationships. And while they’re saying you can “own your market”, you can’t even own your ZIP code! Given that monthly renewal costs could be upwards of $500 – and in the end, all you’re left with is something similar to your LinkedIn profile – is that really the best use of your ad budget?

The reality is simple. If you are genuinely interested in becoming a known name and face in your community, it will not happen with sponsored banner ads. It requires effort and a willingness to get outside and talk to people. Becoming a familiar face goes beyond advertising or trying to buy marketing results!

It requires an effort to show that you actually care about the area you represent. It also requires a genuine desire to meet local people and share their stories. You don’t get that from clicking ‘Buy Ads’, and you never will.

So, is Nextdoor’s ‘real estate services’ competition for Parkbench’s neighbourhood pages and Local Leader® relationship building system?

They’re not even in the same category. Both claim to build relationships; only one actually doing that is Parkbench. Proving that you can’t buy marketing results. You have to earn them.