Used items Used items Many people are choosing social media as a place to buy, sell and swap used items. (Photo: Stokkete / Shutterstock)

Move over, Craigslist: The buy/sell/trade trend has gone social

Want to sell your car? Your clothes? Your microwave? There's a Facebook group for that. Thousands of them.

You've survived the holidays with your bank account – and sanity – barely intact. All that's left is a messy house, a few shreds of wrinkled wrapping paper taped to the carpet, and the acknowledgement that you've got too much stuff. 

So what to do? Donate the sweater from Great Aunt Joan that you know you'll never wear? Store the hideously scented candle from the next-door neighbors and only light it when they come over? Tell the kids they're stuck playing with toddler toys till they're 21? 

Here's a better idea: Join the buy/sell/trade movement. Thousands of social media-based BST (buy/sell/trade) groups are popping up all over the world, usually categorized by city or region and sometimes broken down into types of items, and they're populated by a rapidly growing number of buyers and sellers. 

BST is a trend that's spreading. A quick search of the #forsale tag on Twitter nets an endless stream of posts from across the globe – from a vintage camper in North Dakota to a 1-bedroom flat in Essex, England. It's a resale wonderland.

So what's behind this burst in local e-commerce around the world? Experts say it's all about trust and convenience, much of which comes courtesy of social networks like Twitter and Facebook. 

Gone are the days of scouring Craigslist and eBay to locate random secondhand items and hoping the anonymous sellers on the other end are honest. With local BST groups, it's nearly impossible to be anonymous, since users must be logged into Facebook and have a profile. This way, potential buyers and sellers can "check out" the people they're dealing with before the transaction occurs, to avoid scams or no-shows. 

"I think people in general like the Facebook group method because you can see who you are buying from," Natalie Martinez Zacks, who administers Buy, Sell, Swap Group in Israel via Facebook, told From The Grapevine. "You can look at their profile and see if you have any mutual friends. It raises the comfort level."

These groups don't charge sellers to post items like eBay does of about 10 percent, which can be a lot of savings for a large group.

BST groups can have anywhere from 10 to a million members, with at least one or two moderators, or admins, supervising all of the interactions. Some are public groups, meaning anyone can join; others are private, meaning you have to be approved. But the common denominator in this burgeoning social-media marketplace is safety: users can see who they're selling to or buying from. They're often in the same town, and they may even have friends in common or kids who go to school together.

"Most of the time, the buyer-and-seller transaction is efficient and hassle-free, since most sellers are comfortable with a buyer picking up an item at the seller's home," said Kristin Leas, who sells handmade children's clothing and accessories through her Etsy shop, A Little Extra Sunshine. Leas, who lives in suburban Columbus, Ohio, has been using the BST groups as a supplement to her Etsy business for the past five months and said it's helped her bring in new customers.

"I usually have a yard sale every few years, and I have participated in a few children's consignment sales, so having this method as a third option has definitely increased my profitability, because items listed can be reached by a totally different audience at a faster rate," Leas told From The Grapevine. "These groups are local, and that eliminates driving to meet someone 30 minutes since Craigslist covers the entire city and suburbs of Columbus. You can put a name to the face. I always click on a person's personal page prior to selling an item to them just to be on the safe side."

girls' headbands and tutusKristin Leas sells handmade girls' accessories through her Etsy shop as well as local buy/sell/trade groups. (Photo: Courtesy of Kristin Leas)

The best groups tend to take off rather quickly, as evidenced by the popular U.K. network known as FaceBay. What started out as a modest Facebook group consisting of ex-eBay users has since multiplied to cover hundreds of communities, all under the FaceBay name. It's now common for one county to have more than 50 FaceBays. In addition to posting items for sale, members use the pages to request items like concert or game tickets, ask other members where to find certain items, and advertise business services.

Since Zacks created the BST group in Israel two years ago, it's grown tremendously. For her, it's a big time commitment – she's had to add more admins to the group to keep up with the flow of member requests – but it's also a great way to cut down on household clutter and save money on more expensive items.

"Basically, I had a few bigger-ticket items that I was not successfully able to sell through random email lists, a friend's yard sale, etc.," said the 35-year-old mother of three, who moved from St. Louis to Israel several years ago. "So I thought I would create a group, add my friends, and maybe I would be able to sell my stuff. From the moment I created the group, it just took off!! I was getting tons of requests a day for people to join."

The most popular items for sale on BST groups are furniture, clothing, toys and books – pretty much the same items you'd encounter if you visited a yard sale. The advantage, though, is that selling items online is not dependent on weather or driving by at a certain time to check it out. 

"People are identified by their real names, so it is easier to find some sort of connection to them – friends of friends – and it allows for a post-sale follow-up connection," Merav Chen, an Israel-based digital analyst, told From The Grapevine. "The trust factor increases both the seller and buyer credibility as well as guarantees their commitment to 'fair dealing.'"

Also, since Facebook is a daily destination for most users, "it's easier for people to discover groups and items, and it's easier to have a daily reminder in the form of group notifications or a feed post to check what's new at these groups," Chen said. 


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