Facebook expands Sales Groups – risk to classifieds?

22 Apr 2016

Facebook has launched a new feature – a link under Favorites that lists all nearby “Sales Groups,” not just the groups where you’re already a member. Sales Groups allow Facebook members to quickly sell, buy or trade items via the social media site. We’ve written about Sales Groups here.

Is this expanded functionality a threat to traditional classified websites? Content moderation website Besedo doesn’t think so. In a post earlier this month on the Stockholm-based website, Besedo’s Sigrid Zeuthen deconstructs Facebook Sales Groups and spells out their limitations.

Here are highlights from the article:

1. Facebook doesn’t categorize listings – everything appears in reverse chronological order. “This works well if you are just procrastinating by skimming the lives of your friends, but if you are actually looking for something specific it can get quite frustrating,” writes Zeuthen.

2. Moderation is left to individual group admins who are usually just “ordinary people with no real experience within the classified industry.” There are no buyer and seller ratings like EBay has and no place to easily complain about a fraudulent seller. This opens up buyers to a greater risk of getting scammed.

3. Facebook hasn’t implemented the kind of secure payments that are standard at EBay (although not at Craigslist) and are becoming more common on mobile marketplace apps like OfferUp and VarageSale (see our report here). This may be a short-lived shortcoming, however, as Facebook has started rolling out payment through its Messenger service in some parts of the U.S.

4. Besedo was also concerned about how Facebook uses the data it collects on participants of Group Sales and how the company might “utilize [it] at a later stage. In contrast, most classified sites have a lot more integrity when it comes to handling user data.”

5. On the positive side, posting an item for sale in a Facebook Sales Group is as easy as taking a picture and writing a description. Buyers can quickly search the group and Facebook will even notify you of future uploads if what you’re looking for isn’t available. Buyers contact a seller through Facebook Messenger. But this exposes buyers’ identity – there’s no option to contact a seller anonymously. While that’s not built into bare bones sites like Craigslist either, it’s not an advantage Facebook can claim as social classifieds grow.

You can read the full post on the Besedo site.

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.