While eBay itself hasn’t really taken advantage of many of the possibilities of using social media to promote goods sold on its website, third-party developers are stepping in to fill the gap.
Fflap is one such app. Sitting on top of eBay, it provides Twitter and Facebook integration for sellers and aims to promote trust between buyers and sellers by offering an alternative, social media-aware environment for them to interact in.
The app allows sellers to view their current eBay inventory and manage promotional tweets and Facebook posts directly. Posts can be scheduled to go out over a number of hours to help avoid spamming followers with a huge batch of links to items all at once.
If that was all, Fflap wouldn’t be much more than a ‘HootSuite for eBay items’. Luckily, quite a bit more to dig into. Rather than link directly to eBay pages, each item has its own page on Fflap which is designed to make the seller appear as more than just a faceless merchant. Sellers can upload an audio clip introducing themselves and this will be upgraded to video later in the year.
Indeed, Fflap appears to be building a socially focused alternative way of using eBay. Buyers can browse all items listed on the service from a Classifieds page, making the site an alternative product discovery source in addition to being a tool for sellers. Hosting the pages itself also allows Fflap to provide detailed stats about page views and clickthroughs. The interface for buyers it isn’t quite as welcoming as it could be, but this is early days for the service.
Launched last week, the site currently has 650 sellers using the service, including around 150 high-volume ‘power sellers’. The service is priced based on the number of promotional messages users want to send. Up to five per day are free, 25 per day costs $3.50 per month while 50 per day costs $5 per month.
API on the way
While the service could be a viable business on its own, its UK-based founder, Jonathan Yates, plans to release the underlying technology as a platform to power a wider range of retail sites. Called SocialJet, the tech will be released this summer in two forms, an open API (called Social) and a commercial API (called Jet) aimed at large retail businesses. Meanwhile, Yates plans to launch versions of Fflap for Amazon, Etsy and Craigslist in the future.
Yates started Fflap after he received criticism for writing a book about starting a business with zero budget despite not having actually done that himself. Beginning with a computer obtained through Freecycle, he managed to gain £25,000 funding from a bank and an extra £100,000 from an angel investor.
There are other startups working in the social selling space, including Keepio (which we previously covered here), not to mention a seemingly large number of “sell through Twitter” tools (we get pitched at least one per week). Fflap appears to have got off to a strong start with sellers, however, if it wants to become a go-to destination for buyers as well, it will have to work on being a little more welcoming than the current utilitarian Classifieds section suggests.
Still, Fflap’s tight eBay integration, its plans to expand to other retail platforms, and the potential of its API make it definitely a player to watch.