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Wed Aug 22 2012 15:10:16

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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A recent piece in The Washington Post cautioned, "Facebook is free, and Wall Street is wary" -- more fretting over Facebook's falling stock price and overall free-to-use strategy. However, Facebook does of course have an advertising program; it's just that it seems a lot of people don't want to click on ads when they're socializing, or clicking "Like" on stupid pet trick photos, or whatever else it is they're doing on there.

But..could one humble little success story in e-commerce be a clue for an answer to Facebook's revenue problem? And also open up potentially lucrative new markets for online sellers?

It's called the Re-Lilly Group on Facebook, and is a thriving re-selling community of passionate Lilly Pulitzer clothing fans (over 18,000 and counting, at this writing). It's run by a team of administrators and moderators, and is free to use, but charges a nominal $1 fee to users who post a listing. You also need to follow the simple guidelines and rules of etiquette the group clearly spells out. I've used it with easy success on several occasions to sell some of the Lillys I don't wear anymore, and at healthy but fair prices for pre-owned items. And unlike waiting a week for an auction to end, every time the item has usually sold within a day.

Could these kinds of niche selling groups help Facebook find its way to more profits? Could Facebook encourage the creation of more of these kinds of niche groups, or even create a tool whereby a moderator can create one of their own, with Facebook taking a cut of a modest listing fee? The group seems to work because it's an amalgam of a Freecycle and Craigslist-type model, free or low-priced, set up for members to work things out amongst each other, but then to post a "Sold" notice once something is paid for, so other wanters don't ask for the same item. But there is moderation and organization involved with the Re-Lilly group; it certainly does not run itself.

I'm not sure exactly how this would be done, but I think other such passionate reselling communities could be born for brands such as Coach, Tori Burch, and even Levi's jeans. If Facebook took say $1 of a flat $2 listing fee, that could really add up. Another space where this could work, especially in terms of creating a community feel around items listed and sold, are in the collectibles realm, say, a Facebook reselling group for Lionel Trains.

What do you think? Would you welcome the ability to sell via this kind of community for a low flat rate? Or is it still something you'd not look to Facebook to do? Post a comment here!




Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: mylifeisgood This user has validated their user name.

Wed Aug 22 16:08:06 2012

In a few years Facebook will be nothing but a memory like all the other has beens on the net..Stock is steadly sliding towards junk rating.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Aug 22 16:25:08 2012

Why do luddites persist in knocking Facebook.

OK, we all know that it was overvalued.

But its stock prices has nothing to do with its users.

Young ones spend all their time on Facebook.

Old ones probably spend their time on ebay - hoping it will revert to the good old days of the 90's.

Facebook ads do work, they are just too dear.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: Charlie B This user has validated their user name.

Wed Aug 22 18:37:10 2012

At first blush, it sounds intriguing. Two thoughts come to mind though:

1) I doubt it would be enough to generate the kind of money FB needs to justify itself before Wall Street,
2) The scammers and rip-off artists would ruin it for everyone.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: ILOVELILLY This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Aug 22 19:48:20 2012

I am thrilled you featured Re-Lilly! I'd like to add Re-Lilly has never paid to advertise and never sponsored Fan Referral Contests, all 18,794 Re-Lilly Facebook Fans are authentic fans that enjoy our buying and selling community.  

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: RAOTFLMAO This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 23 09:04:05 2012

Won't work...I can see how a little niche group would do ok on a limited basis but to try to promote unlimited narrow interest groups would be a disaster.  Most people tend to browse many items and interests when on a site.  I may be wrong here but I can't see it being a popular way to shop....unless it is for some seriously sought after item.  PLUS who wants to send money to someone you just met on facebook...

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Thu Aug 23 09:21:03 2012

RAO, the whole ''stranger'' issue is not a problem in the Re-Lilly group. People post about themselves; it's a little community..and when someone buys your Lilly, you send it after you're paid. You email your photo and $1 to the admins so they know who you are. It just isn't a problem there, but I'm not saying it wouldn't be something to grapple with in other groups. My sense is if people are open about who they are and use their real names, and there's a moderator keeping an eye out, it works pretty darn well. No system is perfect, of course.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: ecommerce4me This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 23 12:51:51 2012

Julia, I think you're correct that there is a place on Facebook for commerce. These niche groups are perfect for selling and they are a small sellers dream - No marketing required of the seller and s/he can easily reach thousands of interested buyers all in one place. I hope more and more of these groups pop up.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: ILOVELILLY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 23 13:58:21 2012

Sending money to people you just met through Facebook is no different than sending money to strangers on eBay, Craig's List, etc. Exactly why we recommend on Re-Lilly that all transactions are through PayPal offering Buyer & Seller protection. Many of the Re-Lilly Group Community Members state that they have had much better experiences buying their Lilly Pulitzer on Re-Lilly than eBay. A few reasons for that: Prices are usually better (due to low cost listing fees), Sellers on Re-Lilly are selling from their own closets or are stores selling excess inventory, and Re-Lilly sellers are knowledgeable about the brand. On eBay many resellers of Lilly Pulitzer are hitting consignment stores, discounters (TJ Maxx) and listing without any knowledge of the brand, pricing or quality. Many Re-Lilly Community members state they would much rather buy Lilly on Re-Lilly because the prices are better and sellers are trustworthy, many of these buyers were previously burned by eBay sellers who never shipped their items, sent stained/damaged items, or items not as described. While eBay may have more overall traffic, Sellers on Re-Lilly know that the fan traffic from almost 19,000 Facebook Fans/customers is a target audience . We live in a social media world, many spend hours logged into Facebook on a daily basis and enjoy the convenience of shopping and socializing at the same time. What is more fun that shopping for your favorite brand with friends and like minded people?

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: ILOVELILLY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 23 14:00:11 2012

*targeted audience   Please forgive all the typos in my previous post :-)

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Fri Aug 24 02:03:07 2012

While these type of housewife, tupperware party things may work on Facebook, I just don't see groups of guys chit chatting on Facebook to buy car parts or sports memorabilia. Housewives have been doing these sort of community things for generations. to me, this Re-Lilly thing is just the new Avon or Tupperware.

I also agree with mylifeisgood in that Facebook is history.

@Digmen1, not sure what kind of kids you have but my teen daughters wouldn't be caught dead on Facebook or Myspace these days.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Fri Aug 24 14:24:02 2012

RAO, it's ALREADY working on Facebook, as evidenced by the Re-Lilly group (which I'd not heard of) and several FB selling groups of which I *am* a member. The groups I'm in are mostly geared to the selling of primitive handmade crafts and antiques/yard sale items. They do quite well in general, and I have done exceptionally well there myself!

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: tbyr This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 25 13:00:35 2012

any place to sell Collectibles at face book any recommend sites.  I have one up that I have my website linked to but have not figured out how to turn face book into a site for me to sell on.  I am not on face book much either.  

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: Mr_Sheeny This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 21 12:42:01 2013

In answer to the subject title, yes, Facebook groups can be very successful for sellers of just about everything.

I agree with ecommerce4me - ''Julia, I think you're correct that there is a place on Facebook for commerce. These niche groups are perfect for selling and they are a small sellers dream - No marketing required of the seller and s/he can easily reach thousands of interested buyers all in one place.''  

My preference is a local group that lets me sell just about anything, since I deal in whatever I think will make me a profit.  It has allowed me to make more money in the last couple of months than I have made on large well-known venues in years.

I got tired of all the requirements by all parties to make my listings rank well.  What with traits; attributes; MPN's; EAN's; ISBN's; promoting via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Blogging, I feel it's not necessary and have found my ''NICHE''.  

It not only allows me to sell small items, but large items as well, which eliminates the hassle of shipping.

Since all sales are completed locally, there is no need for an online payment process, no need to ship, no need to promote, and never 'buyer's remorse'.

Now if I have an item that I know would sell for more on a large national venue, I would consider going that route.

My point is, selling via local Facebook groups can be very successful for many sellers who complain about slow sales, no sales, etc.  This most likely is because of the type of merchandise they are selling.

Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?   Could Facebook's Answer Be Mini-eBays?

by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 21 14:28:16 2013

i think it's a great idea. years ago i discovered a Yahoo group online for FLAX clothing. members all over the USA talking about the line, designs, sales. so basically Facebook has become the new, preferred Yahoo Group site. Seems to be perfect for a NICHE.........I have my NICHE in mind....now to figure out how to implement it.



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