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Sat May 16 2009 19:52:54

Small Online Sellers Build Big Social Networks

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

We recently announced that we were looking for your stories on how you use social marketing sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and blogs to drive traffic and boost your online sales, and that we'd send an autographed copy of Guy Kawasaki's latest book to our favorite submission. I'm pleased to announce that Gary Overton has won the book, "Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition."

Gary uses Facebook to share his most unique listings with Facebook "friends," and he purchases Facebook advertising. Another reader, Sandy of Minnesota's Highway, uses Twitter, MySpace and Facebook to build a network of people who are interested in selling or collecting vintage items to get the word out about her offerings. One of the submissions was from a vendor, and I decided to include it since it offers insight into how companies use Twitter to communicate with customers. Thanks to everyone who shared their tips on social networking!

Gary Overton Sees Higher Sell-through on Facebook
I have only been using Facebook for 3 1/2 months but it drives a lot of traffic to my eBay store. I use it 2 ways to do this. I use "Share on Facebook" to share my most unique listings with my Facebook "friends." My STR (Sell Through Rate) overall for my eBay store is usually a little over 20%. The STR for items I share on Facebook is usually just a tad below 50%.

I also run Facebook ads. I do not sell many items from these ads, but they DO increase my search ranking on Google on every item I advertise there.

I have over 400 "friends" on Facebook and could add hundreds each day if I so desired, but I try to interact with all of my friends on Facebook. I also do NOT share too many items on Facebook because this is a turn-off to a lot of people.

This is all a balancing act. I want to add as many items as possible without turning off "friends." I also am very active adding other things on Facebook that I am not trying to sell including y Netflix rentals and ratings.

You can find me on Facebook by searching for Gary Overton.

Sandy of Minnesota's Highway Uses Social Network to Diversify
I mainly use Twitter to alert persons with interests similar to mine of the items I have for sale on my site and yes....eBay as well. I also use Facebook and MySpace in the same way. Right now, I have to walk a fine line. I don't want all my eggs in eBay's basket, but until I build my own internet presence, I will continue to post items on eBay. I sell antiques and collectibles. Basically, I follow/ seek friends with those who are interested in selling or collecting vintage items, in an effort to build a network and get the word out about my offerings. I sell my stuff here as well as eBay.

I began using Twitter about a month or so ago after revamping my shop website to focus more on on-line sales. I use Paypal as a payment option as well as postal money orders. Eventually I will add Google Checkout. I have no expensive or fancy shopping carts. I think most people interested in buying antiques and collectibles simply want to know that they can trust the seller. They want to be able to pay for the item easily, get the item quickly, have it be what was described and be able to return the item if necessary. In return, I only ask that buyers provide me an accurate way for me to contact them so they can verify that they made the purchase. This is done to protect both of us from internet fraud. I also want them to provide an accurate ship to address, so the item can be delivered quickly by USPS.

I wanted a venue entirely my own to sell items that I would normally host on eBay. Hopefully by using networking sites like Twitter, I can eventually build enough business on my own site so I don't have to use eBay anymore. Frankly, I am sick of their ever-changing rules and want to be in control of my own business. I'm a 100% seller with DSR ratings of 4.9, 4.9, 5.0 and 4.9. and nearly 1000 feedback. I am also tired of their ever increasing fees and failure to communicate with their sellers in any way that is meaningful and that would suggest a true "partnership". Had I wanted a "boss", I would have kept working the job I retired from two years ago.

I sell to supplement my social security income. I'm not seeking to build a huge business, just to make enough to make some extra money from the items I purchase at auctions, estate sales, antique shows and shops. I also have a brick and mortar antique shop and sell at antique shows.

Since using Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, I have seen increased sales at my Minnesota's Highway site. Hopefully, that will continue, so I can eventually make a transition to selling only on my site and eBay can be about it's business of becoming a great big "overstock" junk seller of overpriced imported items. Good luck with that!
Minnesota's Highway (Link)

Third-Party Vendor Tweets to Stay in Touch with Customers
How Auctiva is using Twitter… Auctiva utilizes Twitter to start, maintain and expand relationships with our customers. On a daily basis, we "Tweet" about current site conditions, industry news, release dates and product updates. We also use Twitter to personify our company and communicate the distinctive company culture that makes us who we are.

We are slowly but surely building our community, cross-communicating between our customer email messages, web sites, and blogs. Auctiva does not utilize the Twitter format as a stand-alone medium, but rather a complementary outlet to all of our communication methods.

We encourage our customers to join us on Twitter and use this medium to build their own communities that revolve around their businesses and storefronts. This includes special discounts to Twitter followers only, grand opening announcements and new inventory additions. Simple messages with big impact.

One of our most recent Tweets! "eBay sellers & online merchants: How do you use Twitter to drive traffic and boost online sales? Share!"

Comments (10) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: On Lies and Secrets

Sun May 17 17:40:26 2009

I think I am deeply ambivalent about the use of social networking sites for commerce purposes.  I don't object to paid ads on these as long as it is clearly indicated that they are paid advertisements and are not confused with user generated content.

I think I would be resentful of a person who added me as a ''friend'' on a site and then turned around and tried to sell me something.  I think harvesting customers or customer data from social networking sites is a risky propostion which may be prohibited according to the various sites' user agreements - Myspace states the following in their Terms and Conditions under the section about content/activity that is prohibited: ''advertising to, or solicitation of, any Member to buy or sell any products or services through the MySpace Services. You may not transmit any chain letters or junk email to other Members. It is also a violation of these rules to use any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to contact, advertise to, solicit, or sell to any Member without their prior explicit consent.''  Facebook has a Rights and Responsibilities statement and under the section on safety, it states: ''You will not send or otherwise post unauthorized commercial communications to users (such as spam)....You will not collect users' information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.''

I think small businesses who are using social networking sites for commerical purposes should be very careful that they do not violate the terms of the sites.

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by: Clay

Sun May 17 19:31:51 2009

I was never an advocate of this type social networking. Same with twitter. Personally I think it is just a way for the owners of the site to have someone else do their work in developing it. Their (the site owners) all looking at dollar signs and want the little guy to do the work by boosting popularity in any form that will make the site valuable. Maybe they are thinking if it gets big enough eBay will come along and buy it up.

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by: vendio_crystal

Mon May 18 07:10:22 2009

At Vendio we use Twitter daily. We post tips, industry news and tidbits, what's going on in the office, new blog posts - so folks can get to ''know'' us better. There is even a customer service element - where we connect folks or answer their questions - its win/win. We follow those who follow us, so it's a different type of interaction and we love it!! (twitter = vendio and vendio_crystal)

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by: Ebay No More

Mon May 18 12:55:53 2009

If you use them properly they can benefit your business. Most of what I see though is not a good efficient use of a seller's time. The ultimate goal is to put your merchandise in front of your target audience. Posting on your Facebook, My Space, or Twitter page may get lots of traffic but what's the conversion to a sale? As a Twitter user I don't bother going to a commercial business's Twitter page. I see enough spam just surfing the net.

I think most sellers would benefit more if they use the time on SEO projects that actively improve their website ranking.

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by: joe

Tue May 19 00:06:25 2009

Let see, "I use twitter to drive sales to my ebay store"
This brings new meaning to the word nitwit.

Why do all that work only to pay ebay to host your listing, get a website and a cart...geeesch already.

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by: @joe

Tue May 19 06:40:37 2009

CORRECT ! That's why we say stuff like...check out other cool stuff on and

At least at those sites, they don't screw the sellers.

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by: LdyGreensleeves

Tue May 19 08:11:29 2009

Hi Ina,

You forgot to mention an older and, IMO, still very good method for small sellers to build (and truly be a part of) social networks, community discussion/chat boards. ;-)

Although I recently started to occasionally Twitter as HOW_Cafe, I still highly prefer the older and, IMO, more interactive, laid back and informative way of social networking one can have with discussion boards (such as my own which, btw, is home to many of the regulars from the old OTWA board, including Club99ers).

IME independent OA/OC community sites can still be a wonderful cyber ''break room'' for small sellers to not just relax but discuss and get good info and news for a variety of selling formats and, depending on the site's TOU, even promote where (which helps build links for SEO) and what they sell. :-)

~Karyl - Owner/Admin of the HOW Cafe.

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by: Steve

Tue May 19 10:00:16 2009

I remain hopeful that eBay will correct the missteps and mistakes that they’ve made over the past two years that have alienated both sellers and buyers. eBay was once a great selling and buying venue and could be again. It was a social networking site before social networking sites were cool. Buyers and sellers often connected on a personal level and sellers could connect with other sellers and buyers could connect with other buyers as well. It’s sad to see eBay intentionally destroy the social networking site that they grew organically while people scramble to embrace new social networks like Twitter, Facebook, My Space and the like. Of all of the social networking sites eBay was probably one of the only ones that turned a profit.

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by: Linda

Tue May 19 15:05:20 2009

I've used Twitter for my Bonanzle store but, to be honest and in my experience, it is really nothing more than a bunch of sellers tweeting their products to each other with the occasional silly/stupid 'quote of the day' nonsense or 'I'm listening to this tune, by this artist, from this website'.

So what.

I guess my challenges are different with a site like Twitter because I've always been a non-bs kind of person. And Twitter is loaded with BS.

If you're a small seller and going to make use of social networking sites as an avenue to help sell your product, your first goal needs to be building relationships and putting yourself into an arena where that can happen. One liner's in 140 keystrokes or less, isn't going to build much but spam.

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by: bitty

Sat May 23 00:54:16 2009

I've tried using MySpace without much success; have used BANS to promote my products and others without much success. Still paying ebay but have just started using Stootsi as well (no listing fees at present time AND it IMPORTS ebay listings). I'm also thinking my own site and some SEO would net me at least as much exposure. Vent about ebay and tell me about your other online auction venue experiences at my web site

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