As the school year draws to an end, an interesting natural experiment went live: what to do with all the leftover junk one has at the end of the school year. Seniors have to get rid of all their mini-fridges, microwaves, rugs, etc. Other students are leaving for the summer content to escape with as low as storage costs as possible. What happens?
This year, two services went live at the same time for Middlebury students: Facebook Marketplace and Midd Yardsale. Both were trying to fill the niche of online classified ads, bringing together student buyers and sellers. Facebook Marketplace is offered by Facebook for all “networks.” This universal product (not specific to Middlebury) has enormous implications because of its tie to the best networking site. Everyone uses Facebook, so it seems only natural to tie this product in. Facebook makes no commission but it keeps people on the site. Midd Yardsale is essentially the same thing but it’s exclusive to the Middlebury community. One must have a Middlebury login to access the site. It allows for classified ads for anything but it was billed specifically for seniors getting rid of their stuff.
These two services were launched at roughly the same time. So, which one won?
As it turns out, the Midd Yardsale gathered the most postings. Facebook Marketplace did fair but mostly took duplicate postings from the Yardsale. Why?
- The Yardsale link was sent out via email to Midd students twice in all-student emails. Facebook included it at the top of the “home” page. Email, in this case, won out for whatever reason.
- Yardsale was specialized to the community and purpose (leaving school). Facebook was too but that wasn’t clear.
- Yardsale felt like a student project (grassroots). Facebook Marketplace was yet another institutional move.
Overall, I think Facebook did well in adding the tool. It’s much better designed than Midd Yardsale. But, in this case, Yarsale won out on specialization and community.