If you think that MySpace users are just a bunch of time-wasting teens and blogs are just for self-indulgent navel-gazers, you could be missing a big opportunity to shift your eBay sales into overdrive.

 

Social media--blogs, podcasts, shared video sites, and social networks like MySpace, Facebook and others--are surging in popularity. Nonprofit research group Pew Internet & American Life Project (pewinternet.org) says that 8 percent of internet users create blogs, while 39 percent, or 57 million people, read them. In October 2006, internet research firm ComScore released findings that on social networks MySpace and Friendster, people age 25 and older make up 68 percent and 71 percent of their user bases, respectively. More than half of MySpace users are 35 or older. ComScore estimates that in May, traffic on MySpace was more than 68.9 million unique visitors, while YouTube received more than 41 million unique visitors.

 

Charise Richards (eBay User ID: mrpayne2) has seen this work to her advantage. Once a week, she copies the names of the products she's selling in her eBay clothing and accessories Store, One-Chic-Boutique, and pastes them onto her MySpace page. The 48-year-old Nixo, Missouri, eBay seller often finds that by the next day, her eBay listings appear with high rankings on Google searches, which contributes to her average sales of $3,500 per month.

 

"Google searches MySpace sites intensely," Richards explains. "If you type almost anything in a Google search, you'll find a MySpace page that mentions that in the first or second page. If you can, get on the first page of a Google search--that is a highly sought-after area." She estimates that she gets as many as 200 visits per month directly from her MySpace page.

 

In addition, Richards has cultivated a network of more than 1,600 "friends"--fellow MySpace users who are interested in her and her business. Many of them are her eBay customers and fellow eBay sellers who read her profile page and blog to keep up with her latest offerings. She can send messages to this network, which gives her an easy way to keep in touch with them.

 

Richards is quick to add that it's important not to be too promotional on MySpace. She says that directly linking to her eBay items or overtly directing people there would violate her MySpace agreement and could jeopardize her profile. However, she says, by making her content more personal and informative, and by having a discreet link to her eBay Store on the site, she both communicates to her MySpace friends about her business on eBay and stays well within the guidelines of the site.

"eBay sellers have so many tools available to them, just as [with] any other business," says Angela C. Adams, author of The eBay Success Chronicles. "MySpace offers groups for eBay sellers. Blogs and YouTube are becoming increasingly popular and are great ways to get people to notice a business. Networking is a major pull in getting more customers." She adds that these vehicles are all ways to increase the exposure eBay sellers have and draw more customers to sellers' offerings.

Making Connections

Batesville, Arkansas, eBay seller Gary Richardson (eBay User ID: harleyglasses) has found that participating on message boards has helped his business on eBay, which specializes in various types of glasses and goggles, especially for motorcycle enthusiasts. In July 2005, he posted information on eBay's Motorcycle board about a road trip he and his wife were taking to Memphis, Tennessee. Afterward, he posted some photographs from the trip. The thread remained active for more than a year, with motorcycle enthusiasts sharing their own photos and road trip information.

"I didn't intend to make it a profitable post," says Richardson, 41, who projects sales of $300,000 this year. "But then, around the 100th post, I knew that this was really helping us get our name out there. Being active on the boards has brought us a lot of business. People see you, they trust you, they recommend you to other people."

Phil Dunn, co-author of The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing, says that message boards can be a great way to create a reputation in subject-specific communities and get information about your own business. "[People] can be posting and telling people what to look for--how to find great collectibles or [what to look for in listings for designer apparel items], for example," says Dunn. "Those people become trusted resources and gain credibility among people who are doing business on those boards."

Adams adds that eBay has active message boards that are subject-specific. She suggests frequenting boards that relate to the items you sell, as well as the general seller information boards. This will allow you to view other sellers in your categories and see what's working for them. "You just have to keep in mind that you should always be looking for unique ways to bring in customers," she advises. "That means going in new directions from other sellers."

Melinda Longoria (eBay User ID: empyreinc), of Pittsburg, Texas, warns that there is a protocol to participating on message boards, especially on eBay's site. The 25-year-old frequents the Clothing, Shoes and Accessories board, but only posts questions about items that are not yet listed so that her posts are not seen as self-promotional.

Show and Tell
Wendy Updegraff, 28, sells handmade scrapbooks under the eBay User ID updycrafts, from her home in Jacksonville, Florida. She has found that blogging about her products makes it easier to show their features.

"There are a lot of crafty people in the blogging world," she says. "Customers have commented on the blog, and I've had people tell me that they're bidding on an item because they saw it on my blog." She has also been mentioned on InspireCompany.com's highly trafficked blog, which drove traffic to her site.

Dunn says that having a home base online, like a blog, can also be useful for using tools like Twitter.com, a social networking site that allows people with similar interests to share ideas and information. "If you have followers on Twitter, for example, offer a tip of the day," advises Dunn. "Tell them what sites you're reading that are relevant to whatever you're selling. The tighter your niche and the tighter your group is, all of a sudden, you become the one on their minds when they're thinking about your subject."

Longoria's MySpace blog has an RSS feed, which allows people interested in her eBay listings to subscribe. She says it's a low-maintenance substitute for newsletters that helps her keep in touch with customers who are interested in what her business is doing.

Creating small-scale media attention for your items can also help them sell. Richards is looking at taking a cue from her daughter, who sells vintage clothing on eBay. "She'll dress a model in something she's selling, then narrate the video, which she'll shoot in front of some fun vintage things that she has," says Richards. "She'll refer people to the listing to buy the item. She'll end up getting $75 to $150 [for something] that other sellers might not get $25 for. People develop a rapport with her and feel like they have to have the item."

Dunn says that podcasting--creating audio recordings that can be downloaded by listeners--is another way of becoming a valuable resource to your customers. "Whatever you're selling, you need to be the [person] who has the answer," he advises. By creating a podcast that regularly delivers valuable information, you can establish yourself as an expert in the same way that a blog does. Adding video to your blog, he says, can also be an effective way to connect with customers on a more personal level and give them a better sense of your personality and your products.

Branching Out

Because many sites have adopted some sort of social aspect or allow user-generated content, you can benefit from participating outside of your own blogs, podcasts and social networking pages.

Leaving comments on other popular blogs has also increased the number of people who visit Updegraff's website and, subsequently, view her eBay items. By leaving meaningful feedback and links to her own blog, she benefits from the traffic of their high readership levels.

Richardson has found that becoming a well-respected reviewer has helped him establish credibility and grow his sales. He created a list of answers to frequently asked questions about polarized sunglasses, and that FAQ has been viewed more than 14,000 times. The benefit, says Richardson, is that the people who are reading that information are likely in the market for the sunglasses he sells. By putting helpful, honest information out there, harleyglasses becomes an eBay User ID synonymous with expertise in sunglasses. Richardson has also started reviewing products in his niche areas on sites such as Amazon.com and has found, from studying his sales and traffic reports, that this is leading customers back to his eBay Store.

"With reviews, the customer is actually doing social networking with the product itself, telling the rest of the world to buy or not to buy the product," he says. "It's very powerful. [Buyers] will trust a buyer that they don't know, especially if he has a good reputation in the area."

In addition, Richardson is very active on Prosper.com, a combination social networking and personal lending website. On his profile page, he links back to his business website, gogglesandglasses.com, which also identifies his eBay User ID. He says that placement has significant value for his business.

"[It costs] a lot of money to advertise on the web," he says. "Instead of paying for advertising, I have a link on a high-traffic page. Anything that gets your name out there like that converts to sales."

Longoria has gotten involved in eBay Groups, which connects eBay users who have similar interests. "This is the place to advertise your listings," she says. Last year, she ran a group called Clothes Clothes Clothes. Once a month, a new thread would be posted where listings were welcome--a departure from the general "no self-promotion" culture of many eBay message boards and groups. Longoria says that the monthly thread was a place to list item numbers, photos and even links to auctions.

"Members are friendly," says Longoria. "Plus, I have sold several items in the past to group members who saw these specific postings. My only precaution is to check each group's rules because they all have different restrictions. Some are totally against self-promotion. Most are perfectly fine with it as long as the advertisement falls in the correct thread."

As social media continue to become more popular and important, eBay sellers need to watch them and test them as new venues for getting the word out about their businesses, says Adams. "The more information you get out about your different products or services, the easier it will be for people who are looking for something you have to find you."

See the Sites

Ready to take the plunge into social media? Here are some sites that will help you get started. Just be sure to review their policies before diving in so that you have a feel for the culture of each.

  • Blogger: Free blogging site
  • eBay Blogs: Enables eBay users to post their thoughts and share names and photos through personalized blogs.
  • eBay Message Boards: Dozens of message boards, grouped by specific topics, let buyers and sellers connect and exchange information.
  • FaceBook: Another popular personal profile site with blogging capabilities
  • MySpace: Allows you to post personal profiles with interests, as well as create a blog.
  • Podcast Alley: Allows you to search among thousands of podcasts and make your own available for download for free.
  • Technorati: A directory of blogs that will list your blog for free and allow you to find others in your subject areas
  • Twitter: Social networking site where users can share brief interest- or news-oriented ideas and create circles of similar interests
  • YouTube: Lets you upload video, and users can comment and rate your creations.