Monthly Archives: September 2009

Social Selling

Can you use Twitter to sell stuff on Trade Me? Is it fashionable or a complete social disaster to promote your auctions on Facebook?

The first answer, the purist answer, is ‘No’ – you shouldn’t use either service just to flog your auctions. And especially ‘No’ if you intend to turn your Twitter and Facebook presence into Spam Sausage Machines, churning out endless updates fixated on your Trade Me listings. Epic FAIL.

Of course, if ‘No’ was all there was to the answer, that would make for a pretty short blog post. So let’s quickly point out that there are circumstances under which it can be both acceptable and desirable to harness the power of Twitter or Facebook to promote your offerings [you probably knew we were going to say that].


Regardless of whether we’re talking about Twitter, Facebook or any of the many other microblogging or social networking services, the key question is focus. What’s the purpose of your online presence? To keep in touch with your friends? Just to have an outlet for your rants and raves? Or to help with your business or professional ambitions, whether it’s to further your career or just help you earn a decent crust?

You may not have even considered the question before – most people haven’t. Now’s the time to do so.

If you decide that all you want to do online is hang with your friends or indulge in a good old-fashioned soapboxing from time to time, thanks, nothing to see here, move along please.

Otherwise, let’s talk about developing a new online focus – specifically, on those products that you sell on Trade Me. We’ll assume that they’re all part of a related product portfolio – in other words, you’re not selling car batteries today, dolls’ clothing tomorrow [if you do dabble in what we’ll charitably call a “diversified product range”, you either need to reconsider your overall selling strategy or else develop separate online identities* for each collection of products].

*EDIT: You can’t use multiple identities on Trade Me, of course, but you can and should have different  Twitter accounts and Facebook Business Pages for your various offerings. And thanks, Tim, for pointing out that this wasn’t clear in the original post.

Your focus can be reasonably broad (eg “Baby Clothing”) or very narrow (eg “Bronze Age Marvel Comics”). Either way, we’ll presume that there’s sufficient interest in the product category within New Zealand that you’ve been able to build a viable market niche selling such products on Trade Me.

Identified your focus? Great. The rest of the process can be simply described in four steps:

  1. Ensure that your online identity reflects your focus (eg your Twitter User Name and profile details are all about your passion for Model Railroads of the Twentieth Century; you have a Facebook business page that talks about your comprehensive Swatch collection);
  2. Start regularly posting useful information (eg to your Facebook wall or to your Twitter account) about your chosen topic: “Ten Worst Movies Available On BluRay”, “My Favourite Scrapbooking Technique”, “How Open Source Software Changes The World”;
  3. Actively build a database of followers by seeking out other service users whose posts and profiles indicate that they are interested in your category;
  4. Every once in a while (about every 15th tweet, for example), in the midst of all the other useful information you’re posting, mention a relevant Trade Me auction that might appeal to your followers.

The guiding principle: provide an ongoing source of valuable information about your specialist topic (setting yourself up as an expert in the chosen field), attract those interested in your field and then interject with very occasional commercial messages (but don’t over-pollute).

These things take time, of course – don’t expect to be an overnight sensation. But once you build an enthusiastic following in your niche, you can significantly multiply the effectiveness of your auction listings.


Twitter is the flavour of the year. The service’s popularity has exploded around the world, and New Zealand is no exception. Twitter’s share of daily visits in Aotearoa increased 305% from the start of 2009 until mid-April (the latest data we have available), at which point, according to researchers HitWise, it was our 49th most visited web site.

Twitter’s most endearing feature is its ability to multiply messages exponentially. To paraphrase a (very) old commercial: with Twitter, “you tell two people and they each tell two people, and they each tell two people,  and so on and so on …” and before you know it, your message has been retweeted around the world six hundred times, reaching every person on the planet (okay, perhaps not, but certainly you can reach far more than just those on your own list, provided your message is of enduring interest).

So where do you start on Twitter? Returning to our four-step process noted above, start (STEP ONE) by claiming your online identity on the site. Go to and attempt to claim your Trade Me user name as a Twitter ID (we’re assuming that your user name reflects your product focus). Note that you can have no more than 15 characters in a Twitter ID (and it’s first-come, first-served globally), so you may need to modify or abbreviate to fit.

  • If your Trade Me user name is too long or not available, consider using a descriptive name (related to your product focus) in your Twitter ID – that will help people find you and understand what you do.
  • You also get to choose a thumbnail image to accompany your user ID. Choose or create an image that reflects your focus (but try to give it a personal twist – people like to follow other people, not corporations).
  • Twitter also lets you include a single biographical weblink to let people click and learn more about you. If you’ve created a meaningful, product-focussed profile on your Trade Me member page, use that as your link (and if you haven’t already fleshed out that page properly, do it right now).

STEP TWO: Posting. You have 140 glorious characters within each tweet – not very much to provide useful, meaty information about your chosen topic (which is why many Twitterers tend to include links to more detailed blog posts in their tweets). Remember, remember, your role is to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field of endeavour, so post useful information on a regular basis. Also be aware that some will be receiving your updates on their mobile phones (and may be paying for the privilege). If they don’t think they’re getting value for money, they’ll quickly stop following you.

STEP THREE: Building a following. In essence, you want to attract a core group of (ideally Kiwi) followers who are very interested in your topic, as many people as possible with a mild interest in your topic and a smattering of others who might occasionally become prospects for your products.

How do you go about doing that? We won’t reinvent the wheel – Promo Magazine covers the topic in depth with a useful excerpt from “Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time” by Joel Comm (John Wiley & Sons, 2009):

How to Be Intentional about Creating Your Own Network of Experts

High quality followers can do different things. Some will be the type of followers who hang on to your every tweet, follow all your links, and buy your products.

You certainly want to have lots of those … but identifying them isn’t easy. Few Twitterers write on their bios that they’re looking to buy lots of products about Corvettes or football—or anything else.

What you can find very easily on Twitter, though, is experts.

This is really Twitter’s strength. The site is stuffed with people who have great information about particular subjects and are willing to share it.

Find experts on a topic related to yours and encourage them to follow you, and you’ll be giving yourself a massive and very valuable network.

Enter your keywords [in a Twitter search engine] and pull up tweets that contain that phrase.

You’ll then be able to see who’s talking about your topic and, by looking at the bios and reading their tweets, see which of those Twitterers are the leading experts. It’s much more efficient to identify the key Twitterers on the topic and get them to follow you.

If other people see that the expert is following you, they’ll assume that you’re also an expert and want to follow you too.

One way to succeed on Twitter is to hang out with the influence-makers. Find the top people in your topic on Twitter, and become a part of their circle.

When you’re one of the prominent Twitterers on the site, you’ll find it’s much easier to persuade people to read your tweets. In fact, you won’t have to do anything but make sure that your tweets are interesting, informative, and entertaining.


STEP FOUR: Once you’ve built a useful following, you can afford to mention your auctions on an occasional basis.


Facebook overtook Bebo in April this year to become New Zealand’s most popular social networking site (Source: ComScore). Amazingly, Facebook has also (according to HitWise) overtaken Trade Me in the last month to become New Zealand’s second most visited website behind Google.

Facebook requires a bit more care than Twitter, because the site doesn’t allow you to register as anything other than an individual. However you can set up (free) a business page and populate that page with info about your products.

What to do next? John Marshall to the rescue:

Step One: Who Is Your Target Market? That’s the million dollar question. Lets say you were selling video games. You only want to add friends who play and buy those video games. Think of your target market.

Step Two: Find your target market. You ask how do I do that. It’s very easy if your target market is video games, you go to groups and search for stuff related to video games.  Once you find these groups of people you now have your target market in front of you.

Step Three: Build your following. It’s time to start adding friends and having fun. Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your following:

  • Only add 50 Friends a day (If you go too fast FaceBook will tell you to slow down)
  • Don’t use a program to add friends (Facebook will kick you out)
  • Add a personal message when adding friends. (Draft a message, one that sounds professional, and keep it handy)
  • Approve all requests for friendship from others.
  • Join Groups in your target market (people will invite you from these groups)
  • Join the conversation (Get out in the conversation and be seen)
  • Write on your friends’ Walls.
  • Link your FaceBook to other websites: your blog, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.

Social Networking specialist Deltina Hay also provides some highly valuable advice for taking advantage of sites such as Facebook:

To avoid the scattershot approach, choose one or two social networking sites that fit your business well and invest the time to maximize your presence in them. Let’s explore what that might look like if Facebook is one of your choices.

Prepare your best information before you start.

Avoid the “I will go back and fill that in later” trap. Have all your necessary information on hand, ready to copy and paste on the spot. Complete a worksheet containing:

1. Key Terms:
Make a list of your best key terms and weave them into the rest of your worksheet items. Key terms are one, two, or three word terms that someone might use if they were searching for your business in a search engine.

2. General Information:
Your Name
Business Name
Email Addresses
Instant Messaging screen names

3. Biographical and Descriptive Information:
Short bio (50 words)
Longer bio (100 words)
Short company description (50 words)
Longer company description (100 words)
Business mission statement

4. List of Products

I based these worksheet items on a typical Facebook profile and page. If you choose a different social networking site, examine some completed profiles and base your worksheet items on them.

Create an account and thoroughly complete your profile

If you haven’t already, get a Facebook account. Completely fill out your profile using your worksheet. Under the relationships tab, choose “networking.” You can skip the personal and education tabs for business profiles, but there is no harm in filling them out. If you have an existing account, upgrade your profile information using your key terms.

But don’t stop there!

Facebook, like most good social networking platforms, offers many marketing opportunities for businesses, some for free. You can find these by clicking the “Advertising” link in the footer of the Facebook site, or by following this link:

Since I can’t cover all of the marketing tools in one article, let’s focus on my favorite: The Facebook Page. It’s my favorite not only because it is free, but because it makes use of the many diverse Facebook applications.

Facebook pages are specifically for marketing a business or a product. They offer a way for a business to represent itself to the Facebook community in an authentic way. Facebook users can search pages the same way they search for people within the network community.

Create your page by going to “Page Manager” in the left sidebar of your Facebook profile, or by following this link: and choosing Facebook Pages. Choose the best category for your business.

Use key terms in the name of your Facebook page!

It seems that the actual page name is the only text on a Facebook page that is used in a search. With that in mind, use at least two of your best key terms in your page name.

Populate your page with all of your best worksheet information. You may have only a few seconds to catch a reader’s attention, so put your best key terms forward.

Once your page is in place, add applications to help represent your company in your own unique way. To find applications for your page, click on “Applications” in the upper left corner of your page, or search for them here:

Applications are not difficult to install and are usually very easy to set up. Use this general rule of thumb when choosing an application: If you can’t figure out how to set it up after the second try, find another one. There is often more than one application available to accomplish the same task.

Applications Top Picks:

Implementing these applications creates an interactive page that also gives visitors a personable look into your business.


We’re really just scratching the surface of social network marketing in this article. We suggest you do your own additional homework as you go along (recommended tutor: Old Missus Google).

Anyway, back to the original questions: Yes, you can use Twitter or Facebook to promote your auctions, but only as a side-effect of your development as the Expert in your Chosen Field. BTW, you’ll find a few other useful side-effects along the way, as you develop and publicise your expertise. We’ll leave it to you to discover them!

Post to Twitter