Go ahead and check out this page: Pittsburgh County Yard Sale
I'm not sure you'll be able to actually see the group without being in it or logged in on Facebook, so here is a summary:
It's a group on Facebook with rules and you must be "accepted" to post to it. The moderator generally accepts anyone who asks though. There are over 10,000 people in this single group. This group targets a specific rural county in Oklahoma. According to the 2010 census, there are about 45,000 people in the county total. This means that roughly 1/4 of the county uses this group. ONE FOURTH of the county. That is HUGE!
How does it work? Basically, it's free-form. It has a few rules like "no business ads", but beyond that, it's just post stuff you want to buy or sell. So there are some posts with things like "selling Samsung Galaxy S $200 obo(or best offer)". Or there are people requesting to buy things "Looking for otter box defender camo for iPhone 4s".
People post these and then people who are interested comment. Usually it goes something like this:
- Bob: Looking to sell iPhone for $100
- Alice: I'll give $75. Call me at 555-1234
- Bob: Sold!
First thing you'll notice: Oh my god Facebook is horrible at managing such a thing!
Second thing you'll notice: How is this so freaking popular!?
Here's my analysis for why this Facebook group is so hugely popular(relatively):
- High signal to noise ratio (no spam, usually little pointless junk)
- It's easy. You're in Facebook and you can just click on it and click join group. Afterwards you have a simple topic sell stuff or offer to buy stuff.
- It's viral. All the time I see people posting stuff to this group, friends and otherwise.
- It's local. It's for southeastern Oklahoma in a rural county. You know there won't be anyone posting stuff you'll have to drive more than 30 miles for
Let's analyze this a bit more.
- The group is technically "closed" so that people can get kicked out. This moderation process weeds out the spam
- If you have a Facebook account, you can almost instantly join the group and sell or buy something
- There a huge amount of posts per day(you'll quickly lose where your post was after a few days). Facebook apparently has a loophole so that I end up seeing a good percentage of these
- Facebook is huge in that corner of Oklahoma. I didn't get a Twitter until moving to Cleveland, and I'm a programmer.
Why haven't other competing and arguably more suitable products win out? Frankly, there aren't any. The only semi good competitor is Craigslist. You can't post to Craigslist from within Facebook. Craigslist is (mostly) anonymous. On Facebook you can see the person's face your going to be meeting. This in itself instills a good amount of trust.
So, why shouldn't it just stay on Facebook's group thing?
- It's not possible to search the group AT ALL
- There is no way to monetize it for anyone other than Facebook
- Because it's so active it's extremely easy to "lose your post". This is when it gets to a point that you're scrolling several screens down but just can't find where your post is to check it's comments or comment on it
- There is no filter. If you're looking for electronics, the only thing you can do is skim through the feed manually
Free startup idea?
I've toyed with the idea of making a product to "fix" this and to let the idea easily expand to other counties (at first the plan was only Oklahoma). However, I can't stand developing against Facebook, because Facebook Integration is an absolute must. So, I give it to you, the community. If it sparks an idea and you go off to make a million dollars, awesome! (maybe you can send me a few thousand dollars as a gift :) )
Anyway, I wish this situation was better, but it's not. It sucks horribly. Hence this is why I'm putting the idea out there. Someone make the world suck less! Please!