The yard sale has been around in America for quite a while. History records from the 1800s note rummage sales taking place on the docks by the sea. Even these days, it’s common to see property owners having garage sales to get rid of their old stuff.
But now, things have gone overwhelmingly digital. Evolving from the online forums of the 1990s, internet selling has turned into big business — and one of the biggest sites out there is Facebook. No longer just a place to keep up with friends and relatives, you can now buy and sell on the social networking site, as well.
Facebook Marketplace, the site’s virtual bazaar, has become a force in the social commerce space. But how does it stack up to other buying and selling sites like Craigslist and eBay? And how safe is it?
How does Facebook Marketplace compare to your favorite yard sale site?
What makes Facebook Marketplace stand out is how easy it is for users to scan goods and services in their respective cities (or any location) and do business. Here’s how it works:
When users log onto Facebook, all they have to do is click on the “Marketplace” button on the left-side rail on their PC under the News Feed. On Facebook’s mobile app, the Marketplace icon, which looks like a house, is located in the center of the app in the bottom menu.
Along with several filters, the menu gives you four main options. They are:
- Saved items
Just type in what you’re looking for, and an array of items will appear in the results. And believe me, the Marketplace has some of everything for sale, including electronics, appliances, furniture, automobiles and even homes. You can narrow your search by using the Shop by Category section.
An advantage that Facebook Marketplace has on many other social commerce sites is that it seamlessly incorporates messaging into the process. This speeds up the ability to interact exponentially and lends an immediacy to the process, which is lacking on other social commerce sites.
Pros: With nearly 1.5 billion users, Facebook’s potential reach is unparalleled. So if you’re selling or buying, you may have a better chance of success in the Marketplace.
Cons: Corresponding through messaging is great, but it’s a one-trick pony. Other sites offer options such as email and texting, which can sometimes suit us better, depending on our situations. But Facebook only offers interaction via messaging, so it’s limited in that regard.
Also, there’s the issue of vetting, which we will get into down below.
Community bulletin site Nextdoor.com was launched in October 2010. Billed as a private social network for neighborhoods, Nextdoor.com is used by hundreds of communities across the United States and even has expanded to Europe.
It has a Buy & Sell section, but the site’s categories are way more vast than Marketplace’s. The functionality on Nextdoor also allows you to hide the for-sale items and see only what’s offered for free.
Those that post items for sale on the site are expected to adhere to its Seller Code of Conduct, which says in part that you must follow through with the sale if someone accepts your price, that your listing must be accurate and that you don’t turn around and post something that was given away for free.
In its Member Agreement, the site says “Nextdoor assumes no responsibility for the risk of transactions.”
The most notable section on Nextdoor.com is Crime & Safety, which neighbors are using to post about suspicious persons, local crimes and anything else of concern.
Because of its popularity, many municipal police departments utilize the site to keep their communities in the know.
Another useful feature the site has is neighbor recommendations, which can be invaluable if you’re looking for a handyman, mechanic or professional nearby.
Pros: One of the more popular destinations on the site is its lost and found section. There is also a Documents section, which allows people to upload important information. So as you can see, Nextdoor.com is much more than a commerce site, but a true community online. In fact, the site’s manifesto says, “We are Nextdoor. We are simply you and your neighbors, together.”
Cons: Because the site fosters an incredible amount of openness and frank discussions, harassment and bullying can take place. The site has community guidelines on public shaming and reserves the right to remove disputes or comments that discriminate against, attack or belittle its members, but sometimes it takes a while for this to be enforced.
Craigslist.com is a former email distribution list that was started in San Francisco by former IBM programmer Craig Newmark in 1995. Widely known as the site that pretty much killed classified ads, Craigslist today is seen as an “internet commune,” filled with personals, jobs and all types of discussion forums.
With scores of microsites based on cities, Craigslist has become all things to all people, becoming well-known for offbeat sections such as “Gigs” for people looking for quick work as well as “Free” and “Barter” for those looking to trade services or simply take unwanted goods off people’s hands.
Pros: Because the site encourages local transactions only, if you buy something via mail there are generally no delivery costs.
Cons: Although users have the ability to flag posts they deem inappropriate, Craigslist administrators — unlike Nextdoor — are very hands off. That means the enforcement of community rules can be quite spotty. And there are scams galore, so tread carefully.
Also, due to high-profile crimes associated it, the site has become synonymous with bad things when it comes to buying and selling. As a result many police stations have been been prompted to offer areas, like designated SafeTrade Stations, where Craigslist exchanges can take place out of harm’s way.
Having launched in 1995, eBay is a pioneer among online marketplaces. That said, it features a number of policies and procedures that separate it from the other sites. First off, if you want to sell (or buy) anything, you’ll need to add your credit card, debit or bank account information directly on the site. The company also prefers that you’re PayPal verified.
Unlike the other sites mentioned on this list, eBay users can sell their items in either an auction or fixed-price marketplace.
Some people open eBay Stores, which house all of their wares, while others simply post items under their user accounts. And to become a trusted seller on the site is a currency all its own.
There are a number of fees associated with any e-commerce done on the site. There’s also a fee calculator to help you determine how much you’ll pay out of pocket for making a sale.
Pros: eBay is a good choice if you want to make buying and selling a business. Depending on how deep you want to get into it, you can get access to sales reports, selling tools and other support to help you actually make a living by listing items on the site.
Cons: Because the site is so trusted in e-commerce, some sellers report that the company usually sides with the customer during disputes, alienating some sellers who feel they have been taken advantage of.
The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon has never been more popular than it is now. Selling and buying on the site is easier and the company is constantly finding new ways to engage with people across the world.
Like eBay, sellers have to be approved for the site, either as a regular “Amazon Seller,” which lets individuals list their items for sale, or in the Fulfilled By Amazon program, which lets the company handle the entire inventory process. There’s even an affiliate program.
Pros: If you’re shopping, Amazon has one of the highest reputations as an online seller and is a premiere shopping destination. Also, before you buy, you have the benefit of reading numerous reviews to see how the product is holding up.
Because of its enormous audience, Amazon’s sellers have enjoyed some awesome returns. The site reported record sales during the holidays and is increasingly a global platform.
Cons: The Amazon machine may be a bit too much for the regular person trying to sell some old lamps that were in their basement, but if you’re looking to move some major inventory, it may be worth your while.
Also, if you sell on the site, be prepared for some stiff competition: Amazon’s interface allows items sold by other sellers to be shown on that particular product page as well. So you’ll usually see this sentence: “Customers who viewed this item also bought,” accompanied by more wares. And if you scroll down, you’ll likely see sponsored products that are similar.
How Clark feels about Facebook Marketplace
The big takeaway is that while these sites are different in various ways, consumer confidence has to be baked into the business if they’re going to succeed, which brings us back to Facebook Marketplace.
Money expert Clark Howard says Facebook had a great opportunity to improve on the social marketplace business model — but they blew it.
“This is no better than the problems that go on at Craigslist,” he says of the social media site. “There’s no vetting of the stuff that’s being put up there. Producer Joel, who has extensively looked through it, saw one scam after another after another after another in the Facebook Marketplace.”
One thing Facebook is doing well, Clark says, is their facilitating of buying and selling in its Groups section.
“My wife is a member of two Facebook communities where people have to a member,” he says. “You’re invited to be a member on one and on the other you have to go through a screening process.”
Clark says this kind of commerce is much safer and you’re much less likely to be scammed. “There are rules you have to live by, there are moderators and if you misrepresent, if you don’t show up for something you bought and all that, you can be thrown out of the group.”
So while the Marketplace still has some work to do when it comes to becoming a trusted e-commerce site, Facebook’s Groups section works because “you’re dealing with people in a contiguous neighborhood area … neighbors or people who are very close by,” Clark says. “You know who you’re dealing with. And [that] is a respected and safe place to buy.”