By Al Maitland

As business-marketing strategies continue to shift toward a digital/mobile focus, online-community value is rising correspondingly. People innately like to “shop local,” supporting businesses and service providers in the area where they live.

There’s a reason your neighbourhood dry cleaner has a website – and maybe even a Facebook page or Twitter handle. He’s not trying to go global through the world-wide web. On the contrary, he knows his business comes from a fairly small radius, but that the value of his relationship with his home community is paramount. Maintaining customer relationships – and building new ones – requires sustaining a presence in the community, both physically and in the digital/social media space.

We’re reminded of this every day at Kijiji; after all, Kijiji means “village” in Swahili. With more than 100 local community networks across Canada, we are all about creating the digital equivalent of the communities we serve – a vibrant, engaging place where people can come together, connect and do business with each other.

The real estate business is inherently community driven. Buying and selling property is all about the community at hand. And while real estate agents have long been masters of self-promotion within their physical communities, they are increasingly seeking out digital communities where more and more Canadians are turning for advice, information and recommendations from their peers, and neighbours.

At Kijiji, we’re seeing a steady number of real estate agencies join forces with us, to leverage our user base to promote their services and the properties they have on offer. But for many, it’s not purely about reach. They know we’re the number one online real estate site in Canada, with more than four million real estate visits every month and roughly 580,000 real estate ads in play at any time. Moreover, savvy realtors understand the value of the crafted Kijiji communities – how digital cities and towns can enhance their presence on the streets of the actual neighbourhoods they represent, ultimately further connecting them to buyers and sellers in a community.

Most post their listings for free in our For Sale section, but a growing number of agents – we’ve tracked 101 per cent growth since last fall – are enhancing their presence with paid feature packages to boost visibility.

Agents I talk to increasingly understand the need for engaging with their sales communities from a digital standpoint in addition to the postal code mail drops, transit stop posters and the myriad of other ways they maintain a physical presence in the neighbourhoods they serve.

By now, in business and marketing, we understand the tremendous power of word-of-mouth recommendations. Closely linked to that is the power of community. “Buy local” (from a trusted, familiar member of my community) matters as much in real estate as it does in fresh baked bread.

Kijiji, the number one online classifieds site in Canada, is part of the fast-growing eBay Classifieds Group. Reaching over half of the monthly online population of Canada, we are one of the leading digital advertising properties across various market sectors, including autos, retail and real estate. We are also one of the leading display platforms in Canada.