Tag Archives: ebay

eBay’s Social Media-Hijacking

1st2c CGM Case Study

Ebay’s seller boycott of February 2008 calls attention to the scenario of users turning your own platform against you.

Late January 2008 eBay, the iconic online auction powerhouse, announced changes in fees and policy with primarily effect on selling.

This policy change probably made good business sense for eBay that probably anticipated some seller disgruntlement.

But the Internet-empowered marketplace offers more options than just sharing of protests or mobilizing peers in purely Social Media platforms. Very quickly eBay found T-shirts with slogans like “Boycott FeeBay” or “Don’t buy eBay” put out for sale on eBay’s own platform…

Regardless of the eventual culmination of the eBay incident, it calls attention to the not-improbable scenario of users “overtaking” open networking or commerce platforms and turning them against their own operator interests. We label this situation: “Social Media-Hijacking“.

This case study looks at the dynamics of this incident of Social Media-Hijacking and addresses the key strategies for managing such situations.

Anatomy of a failed user mutiny
Late January 2008 eBay announced it would charge sellers 25%-50% less to list their items on the site but take a larger slice of fees on actual sell of items. At the same time eBay terminated the ability for sellers to submit negative feedback on their customers and impose 21-day holds on transactions in certain circumstances.

These policy changes drove a semi-organized group of “power sellers” who felt shortchanged over the recent changes to mobilize a popular boycott on eBay.

The “backlash” of sellers (mostly Power Sellers) looked like potential crisis in unprecedented dimensions:

  • Extensive media coverage for a call for a week of boycott (February 18-25)
  • Thousands of discussions in blogs, forums and other Social Media platforms
  • More than 60(!) different videos on YouTube with 100,000s of viewings
  • And the “hijacking” of eBay’s own trading platform to offer eBay boycott T-shirts and even a Kleenex box…

 

Examples of Boycott eBay items put on sale on eBay

ebay1.jpg

 

But something seems to have gone wrong for the mutineers.

The results of the protest were unclear and much disputed. Online auction trackers such as PowerSellersUnite and Medved reported that eBay’s total auction listings may have dropped as much as 13 per cent over the week. But in effect listings returned to normal levels (eBay ran a one-day discount listing promotion the week before).

 

A deep dive into Social Media surfaces additional insights that shed light on the dynamics of the eBay boycott.

ebay-graph.jpg

 

Two key observations that draw attention in Table 1:

 

  • Bloggers (typically playing a critical role in agenda setting) take only minor weight in driving of public involvement
  • Public attention nose-dives only two days after official boycott start date

 

In retrospective, Social Media seemed to have provided an efficient “early reading” of public engagement and of the reasons for the failure of this potential crisis to gain momentum.

Analysis of online consumer dialog provides further understanding of the non-materializing of the eBay crisis:

  • Boycotters announced the move ample time before it actually took place, thereby overshooting the peak of public interest and killing the element of spontaneity
  • Many sellers saw the boycott as a window of opportunity to improve their listings and sales when key competitors “left their watch”
  • Many sellers talked about “absorbing the costs” rather than transferring them to buyers, thereby denying the latter the motivation join the protest

 

Attention: Social Media-Hijacking scenario

The eBay boycott failed to snowball to a crisis situation for eBay.

However, surfacing of the reasons for that failure does improve our understanding of the determinants of grassroots mobilization in the digital marketplace.

After all, the understanding what doesn’t work provide clues to the understanding of what does work.

But the eBay boycott also draws attention to the diversity of interfaces available to users and consumers in open commerce properties like eBay, Amazon, Overstock, etc.

This incident demonstrates the fact that activist users and consumers are well aware and ready to take advantage of interaction and content generation platforms OTHER than those designated for peer-to-peer networking.

Ebay does have a very busy discussion board platform, but “enterprising” protestors attempted to “hijack” its commerce platform – a critical interface with buyer audiences.

Regardless of how successful this particular attempt was it may warrant extra attention from all social platform operators, reputation management and crisis management experts.

What will be the most effective strategy alternative to manage such situations?

1. Mine-sweeping strategy?

(Immediate removal of adverse content and blocking/banning of offenders)

2. iscrediting strategy?

(Denouncement of the unfairness and abusiveness of Social Media-Hijacking)

3. Rationalizing strategy?

(Publicizing information and possibly initiating Social Media outreach work about the reasons and benefits of the move that triggered Social “Media Hijacking”)

4. ontainment strategy?

(Tolerating such initiatives by allowing them for a limited time period)

 

5.  Ignoring strategy?

(Unlimited tolerating such initiatives)

The answer may well be a combination of strategies or even a changing combination of strategies depending on the particular situation and the dynamic of market response.

In view of the increasingly informed, involved, active and socially empowered nature of consumers in the networked marketplace, decision makers and specialists may benefit from readiness to Social Media-Hijacking situations by mapping of scenarios and evaluating potential actions.


1st2c in a nutshell

1st2c (www.1st2c.com) is the home of Online Strategizing Research© – the most comprehensive data-to-strategy approach in the networked market.

Online Strategizing Research© creates a vivid picture of the marketplace and its dynamics and identifies actionable insights and opportunities.

1st2c works with marketers and agencies to empower competitiveness and facilitate growth by monitoring and engaging the networked market and adding new dimensions to overall marketing strategy.

 

Ofer Friedman
Chief Research & Client Officer, 1st2c

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

1st2c CGM Report: Wii Triggers Social Commerce

 

Social Media sees the development of digital consumer-to-consumer trade

Social Media is already challenging the hegemony of commercial media, but has it already begun to incubate a challenge (or an opportunity) for commercial trade?

This holiday season saw the age old phenomenon of Social Trade being energized and re-shaped by Social Media has been spotted in the game console market. The lively consumer-to-consumer trading of Nintendo Wii consoles was a vivid example for how Social Networks develop as an alternative (or a parallel) to online commercial trade channels.

The Nintendo Wii case suggests the (re)-emergence of Social-Trade-over-Social-Media as a market force to be reckoned with and managed.

 

Wii redefines consumer “must have” behavior

Nintendo Wii has already been widely celebrated as one of the mega-hits of the 2007 holiday season.

Fueled by media publications about supply shortage, thousands of desperate consumers reportedly skimmed store shelves and turned to online commercial outlets like Amazon and eBay, willing to pay even a premium price of $600 per Wii console.

(http://techland.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2007/11/30/even-at-600-the-wii-is-a-must-have-gift-this-season/)

 

No wonder that below market surface determined consumers turned to Social Media networks not only to find the prized console but also to buy and sell one.

1st2c tracking system picked up a significant increase in volume of posts in social networks during the holiday season, offering Nintendo Wii for sale.

 

Table 1: Volume trend of posts referring to Wii for sale

wii-2-pic.jpg

Overall number of posts on Wii (21,140) is impressive in itself. Additional terminologies used for with the same intention increase the post count even further.

The surge in offers for selling Nintendo Wii consoles started mid-November and stayed at above normal levels throughout the holiday season, with fluctuations triggered occasionally by both online and offline media publications.

The vast majority of the posts seem authentic, though it is not unreasonable to assume that some were placed by traders masquerading as consumers.

Regardless of who placed the offerings, the most important insight is about the emerging use of social networks as social trading platforms.

Nintendo Wii is just one example for the developing phenomena of Social Media platforms becoming Social Trading platforms.

 

 

Social Media also active as secondary market

 

The case on Nintendo Wii refers to new products traded via social platforms, but what about used (second hand) products?

Recent projects we have done in the mobile communication market identified a very active scene in Social Trading of used handsets.

Typically, first and second tier mobile users are offering their old handset for sale on commercial online trading platforms like Ebay. But the Social Networking platforms are already featuring the same function driven by consumers themselves.

What Social Media offers to these grass-roots traders is a highly segmented shared-interest audience and a highly trusted environment.

On the macro level, Social Media offers a very efficient market driver:

For some types of consumers it lowers the barriers of migration to next generation handsets by offsetting the costs against the resale value of their old handsets.

For other consumers it allows entry to mobile communication.

 

The threat and opportunity in Social Commerce

 

Social Commerce grows and is likely to continue to develop.

For many marketers, Social Commerce poses a threat since it bypasses commercial trading platforms with established trading and promotion infrastructure.

The more consumers shift to social commerce the less control marketers have on what is being offered, how it is being offered and the entire marketer-consumer relationship that follows.

On the other hand, Social Networks can potentially act as market catalysts. They may eliminate availability barriers (a consumer in Timbuktu can make a product available to a consumer in New York). They may accelerate purchase cycles – especially with more costly products (now it’s easier for early adopters to migrate to next generation products but selling the older product they have). They may provide more people more access to a broad variety of products. They facilitate the power of buzz.

Can and should marketers try to manage Social Commerce?

They may have to.

As Social Networks acquire an increasingly critical role in the driving market behavior it becomes a question not of If but of HOW.

Isn’t it another dimension to Social Marketing, guerilla micro-marketing online buzz agents?

The right models will need to account for the new rules of engagement in the networked market (see our pervious case studies).

Interestingly (and perhaps expectedly) we have found Social Trading to sprouting with premium positioned brands. Aspirational brands in diverse markets such as apparel, cars and consumer electronics are already developing Social Commerce.

From both marketing and reputation management considerations, marketers of such brands may benefit from tracking and perhaps also from creating a model for managing online Social Commerce.

 

1st2c in a nutshell

1st2c (www.1st2c.com) is the home of online Online Strategizing Research©. It is the most comprehensive data-to-strategy methodology in the networked market.

Online Strategizing Research© creates a vivid picture of live market mindsets and behaviors and identifies actionable insights and opportunities.

1st2c works with Fortune 500 companies on adding new dimensions to overall marketing strategy and on monitoring and engaging the networked market.

 

Ofer Friedman

Chief Research & Client Officer, 1st2c 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized