Inman News’ Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2012 seems like eons ago now, but the information I gained from the keynotes and breakout sessions are still resonating with me today.

One of the keynote speakers was Nextdoor‘s co-founder and CEO, Nirav Tolia. He explained that while social networks are used to reunite with old classmates, organize professional contacts and keep in touch with distant relatives, there are people who are even closer to us (at least physically) who are now within reach in a whole new way. Nextdoor brings offline neighbors together online through an interactive but highly private social network of its very own.

Here’s how it works:

Go to and sign up to see if your neighborhood has already been created (chances are it hasn’t been yet, since as of August 2012 there were 3,600 neighborhoods in 48 states active). If your neighborhood is up for grabs, you can then go through the very simple process of creating your neighborhood by mapping out its boundaries.

Once you have done this, you’ll have an opportunity to send invitations to your neighbors to join the online neighborhood network.  Nextdoor provides you with postcards. And they’re free! Well, at least 100 of them are.  This is great for smaller communities (such as mine); for larger communities you can choose to print out the invitations and place them in their mailboxes. …

Nextdoor Postcard Invitations - screenshot

Nextdoor Postcard Invitation Preview - screenshot

You’ll then have two weeks to get at least 10 people to accept your invitation to join your newly created neighborhood site. This is done so that their site doesn’t fill up with static (i.e., dead) neighborhood sites, and allows more prominent people within a neighborhood to create and manage the site and keep it active.

Only people who have been invited and can verify their address are allowed to access the site — privacy is No. 1 with the guys at Nextdoor. As they say on their About page, “We believe fences are sometimes necessary, but online privacy is always necessary.”

Once 10 or more neighbors have accepted your invitation, you’ll then be given a “Lead” title for your neighborhood, and your Nextdoor site will remain live. This is where you’ll want to take advantage of the features they provide you with, including an open chat area, an event creator, groups, buy/sell/trade, and recommendations.

Nextdoor Communication - screen shot

Nextdoor Creating Events - screen shot

Nextdoor Recommendations - screen shot

As a Realtor, you can really let your imagination go wild with the different ways you can use this close-to-home tool:

  • Start a monthly game night to be held at your home.
  • Invite the neighbors to a backyard barbecue during the summer.
  • Hold competitions for “Best Decorated Yard/House” for Halloween and/or Christmas.
  • Advertise your open house(s).
  • Advertise your newest listing(s).

… and the list goes on.

However, as with anything, I wouldn’t recommend bombarding your real estate information down your newly acquainted neighbors’ throats. This is an opportunity for you to gain new friends, build new relationships and MAYBE new business.

I’ve had fun with the neighborhood I created and found the process to be simple, painless and very cheap! I’m excited about getting to know my neighbors better and vice versa.

With our help, Nextdoor can bring back what our parents and grandparents used to take for granted: a real sense of community.

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