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What's the deal with facebook marketplace?

a mini podcast

a five-minute podcast created for a course called "Gig life: anthropology of the sharing economy" with the goal of understanding the personal impact of interacting with a platform designed to mediate person-to-person commerce (in this case, facebook marketplace). I learned a lot about the subject matter as well as audio recording and editing in audacity. 

The audio as well as a transcript are below!

November 2021.

00:00 / 04:57

(music fades in) The question that I’m ultimately trying to get at is this: How does using Facebook Marketplace affect a person’s sense of self? There’s an issue I’ve run into, though. To answer this question, I first need to answer a question that is just as pressing but is also seemingly unanswerable. That question being: Why on earth does Facebook operate this buy/sell/trade platform known as “Marketplace?” What do they stand to gain? Marketplace has no clear model for profit-making. I haven’t encountered sponsored content on the platform. They don’t take a cut from sales. And there is no membership fee. So, maybe money isn’t their motive. If the motive behind Facebook Marketplace isn’t money, then what is it? From researching Facebook, it’s become clear to me that they have curated an experience of targeted advertising, algorithmically designed news feeds, and features like the “like” and “share” buttons, all of which are paired with collected data to make a unique experience for each user. I think that this is a fair assessment, even after considering Facebook’s critical response to discussions about this topic in the wake of the documentary The Social Dilemma. And I think it’s also fair to say that these features carry with them an expected action made by the user. Whether that be a pause in scrolling or a click to a mutual friend’s page, Facebook is encouraging certain behaviors. And I expect nothing different from Marketplace. To learn more about these behaviors, I turned to Youtube, where there is way more content about Marketplace than you might expect. Some of the most interesting videos were about why people love Marketplace and tips for making as much money as possible selling there. Let’s take a listen. (various voices fade in and out.) “Now first I wanna talk about all of the benefits of selling on Facebook Marketplace and why if you’re not currently selling on Facebook Marketplace you could be leaving a lot of profits on the table.” “Old camping supplies. Old sporting good equipment. This stuff is hot on Facebook Marketplace.” “This is where you’re gonna want to look at the overall market and see how everyone is selling similar products to what you’re selling, and then price your item accordingly. Position your copy from the lens of benefits to the buyer.” “But instead of charging for information like this, I’m going to be giving it out for free.” “When you sell on Facebook Marketplace, it’s almost instantaneous business.” “It’s really important that you use a keyword optimized title. Mention things such as the color or the condition. Is it in like-new condition? New? “It’s actually not about the item you’re trying to sell. It’s actually about the price.” “Facebook is interruption marketing, so your price needs to reflect that. You need to leverage the impulse buyers.” “The key to making a thousand dollars per week just off Facebook Markeplace is obviously just being able to source a thousand dollars worth of inventory at least off Facebook Marketplace a week.” “Also, there’s no platform fees on Facebook Marketplace.” So, there’s a lot to unpack here, and we don’t have much time left. So, I’m just going to cut right to the chase. The incentivized behavior that I’m seeing after watching these videos is to monetize as much of your life as possible. Selling on Marketplace is truly a career for a lot of people, and what has truly struck me from my research is that Facebook doesn’t seem to treat Marketplace as a career opportunity for its users and many of its users don’t treat the platform that way either. But the ones that do are the ones making the Youtube videos and the blog posts about how best to use the platform. And it seems that even if you just want to get rid of some old VHS tapes, you still have to play the game a little bit. I imagine, as with many other aspects of the gig economy, that this can be incredibly liberating for some and confusing and disheartening for others. As much as I would love for all of this to wrap up nicely with one definitive answer, I think we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. We do have some insights as to how we can answer that big question, but I haven’t gotten the chance to sit down with people and talk to them about this. So, I can’t say for sure how Facebook Marketplace affects a person’s sense of self, unless that person is me. I’ve been studying this platform since September and I can’t say that I’ll ever use it. I still don’t have a real grasp on what Facebook is doing with the information they gather from Marketplace and what the end goal is for it. Despite what I think Facebook wants from its Marketplace users, I asked a lot of questions about the process. And I didn’t ever feel empowered to be my own boss. I just felt left in the dark. (music fades out.)

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