eBay Manager Speaks About New Community Platform
By Ina Steiner
eBay is moving its community features and discussion boards to a new platform, ending its contract with LiveWorld as previously reported in EcommerceBytes. It's using a company called Lithium to host and moderate the forums and will add new features that make it easier for buyers and sellers to access information and to connect with each other.
eBay's Director of Community Jeff Terrell told EcommerceBytes on Wednesday it was a "mutual parting" between eBay and LiveWorld. "We looked at where we want to go, and we were glad to have that relationship with them." He said eBay has the largest community of users and that the community has been part of eBay's DNA from the beginning.
"As we're building this community platform, we're trying to keep it as a world class product our customers can use to connect with each other, to get answers to their questions, all the things they use it for currently, but make it a little easier."
Several years ago eBay pulled back on its "community" features as it pledged to move toward delivering shoppers a "more retail-like experience." While other marketplaces were quick to integrate with social networking sites, eBay was slower to adopt such features, both because of its legacy technology and its corporate culture.
Lithium, whose clients include Sephora, The Home Depot, Google AdWords and Lego, explains on its website that it helps companies "unlock the passion of their customers" and "powers amazing Social Customer Experiences for more than 400 iconic brands."
Lithium specializes in business-to-consumer interfaces and will be providing moderation services, Terrell said. Lithium will provide "professional moderators who are the people who are enforcing our policy, making sure that the post is on topic, making sure it's not offensive to another user, nothing that's going to break our policy."
eBay will continue to offer the same features and navigation as is currently on its community area, though there are some visual-design differences and new features being added. The main community page will feature videos from eBay's YouTube channel and a feed of photos from Instagram. Users will be able to "like" individual posts in a thread, and original posters will be able to indicate which posts have answered their questions, which will then be highlighted in green.
Users will also be able to tag posts with keywords, which will help surface them in forum search results. eBay is not removing any capability from the search feature, and Terrell said the new platform would keep the same URLs as the old platform, useful for people who have bookmarked certain areas.
Users can continue to login to the eBay discussion boards using their regular posting IDs, which often differ from their buying or selling IDs. eBay will provide the same information next to a user's ID - Terrell said they are working through that with their user interface team. "We are looking to add in what you see currently on the boards, which would be your feedback number, your star, and a link to your view item, and if you have an About Me (profile) or a Store, the links are there."
eBay will keep all the same boards through the launch period, such as the popular Seller Central board and the Answer Center. However, Terrell said he would continue to work with the community over the next several months to outline the changes they'd like to see. "We may see changes in the future, based on what the community tells us they want."
Asked if eBay would narrow the number of boards in the forums, Terrelle said there's an opportunity for that. In the Answer Center, for example, they have three different categories for seller tools - that's too specific, he said. "So there may be some streamlining that we do," but said he did not have definite plans at this time.
While blogs, groups and social networking sites have drained users away from the eBay boards, they continue to provide a way for users to seek and find information and answers. The most common complaint is about heavy-handed moderation from LiveWorld employees.
Asked about any change in how Lithium might moderate users posts versus LiveWorld, Terrell said, "For moderation, the policies will remain consistent for the most part, but there will likely be some subtle differences as we will be working with a new service provider. As far as being more or less strict in our policy enforcement, I would say that we are going to enforce our policies as consistently as we can."
eBay is rolling out the new community platform to 12 different country sites beginning with Canada (the transition starts on June 13th) and Spain (rolling out at the end of June). "Then the rest of the countries will be rolling out in the following weeks. We're going to stagger them out."
Read and comment on this June 9th EcommerceBytes Blog post.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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