Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
When I was in college in 2008, I bought and sold used items on Craigslist. I used it to buy speakers, TVs and old microwaves. But, when it came time for me to start prepping for a move two months ago, I turned to Facebook Marketplace instead.
I sold most of the household items I didn’t need on Facebook Marketplace. I used it to sell everything from a blender to gardening tools and some scuba fins. I even bartered a few old camping tents my roommate left behind for two cases of White Claw.
Facebook introduced Marketplace in 2016 to little fanfare. At the time, the feature seemed like yet another lackluster effort by Facebook to clone someone else’s app. Facebook was the latest in a long line of apps to try and pitch itself as a Craigslist killer. Many had tried, but none had been able to unseat the minimalist website when it came to buying and selling used goods.
But, unlike other wannabe Craigslist killers, Facebook Marketplace has endured and improved over the years. These days, it’s the app I use most when I need to sell stuff. Facebook Marketplace has several advantages that make it easier, faster and more trustworthy than Craigslist.
Optimized for mobile
It’s quick and easy to list an item on Marketplace, since it’s built right into Facebook’s website and mobile app. You simply snap a photo, upload it and type out the name of your item. The app will use that data to guess what type of item it is, saving time when it comes to categorizing it. After that, you list the condition of the product. You can write out a short description if you’d like. Often, listing an item can be done from your phone within 5 minutes.
After existing for so long without a mobile version, Craigslist finally released an app in December. Listing an item can be done quickly, but for the most part, Craigslist asks users to fill out more fields before they post than Marketplace.
Craiglist’s app gets the job done, but the app is as hyper-minimalist as the website. That bare-bones nature of Craigslist keeps things simple, but can be a turn off for users. Conversely, Marketplace features a sleek design that matches the overall look and feel of the Facebook app that people have grown accustomed to from using on a daily basis.
When you list an item on Marketplace, Facebook also allows you to post it directly to any Facebook Groups that are focused on buying and selling. For me, that was “Free & For Sale San Francisco,” which has nearly 24,000 members. Those users turn to the group to buy and sell items within my area. The size of it shows how many people on Facebook are using Marketplace and corresponding buy and sell groups.
Not all of Facebook’s 2.7 billion monthly users go on Marketplace, but a sizable portion of them do. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2018 said that Marketplace claims 800 million monthly users, according to CNET. That’s far more than 55 million visitors Craigslist had in 2017, according to Forbes.
A trust factor
But Marketplace’s most notable advantage over Craiglist is trust.
Whenever anybody contacted me for an item I was selling, it was always done over Facebook’s Messenger app. This kept the conversation within Facebook’s ecosystem. It meant I could easily look up a potential buyer’s profile and get some information about them, such as their name and photo and perhaps where they work or what school they attended. That extra bit of information instantly raises the trust factor of a transaction conducted over Marketplace. Facebook also makes it easy to report someone if they harass you or try to pull a scam, though I never ran into this problem.
On Craigslist, you don’t have much information to go by besides someone’s phone number or email. Perhaps you might get their full name if they include it in their email signature or give it to you, but that won’t happen in most cases.
Back when I used Craiglists during college, every transaction felt like a high-stakes event. I would usually try to bring a buddy with me during a purchase, or I would at least inform someone of what I was doing, where I was going and what they should do if they didn’t hear from me by a certain time. With Marketplace, I still tried to meet with folks in public and outdoor places (especially because of Covid-19), but for the most part, everything felt much more secure.
During my move, I also used Marketplace to search and buy a few items. I like that it remembers when you search for something. So, the the next time you open Marketplace, it’ll show you items relevant to your previous searches. This helped me find a coffee table I liked. I messaged the seller and we met up outside her home where I paid for the table in cash.
I was able to give the seller a rating of five stars, and noted that she communicated effectively, gave a fair negotiation and was on time. This is something I was also able to do for everyone who bought an item for me. I enjoyed the rating system, even though it feels a little unfinished.
Although I’m able to give ratings and see my own rating (five stars), it’s near impossible to find someone else’s rating. This essentially renders the feature useless. I hope Facebook does a better job highlighting people’s rating, so that users can rely on the rating system to determine which buyers and sellers they choose to deal with.
Another advertising revenue stream
I didn’t try it, but you can also place ads to boost the visibility of the items you’re selling. I’m currently trying to sell a set of hampers that Facebook says has been viewed approximately 100 times. If I paid $3 to advertise and boost the listing, it could be viewed nearly 350 times. I don’t think it’s worth it to pay $3 to ensure more people see the hampers I’m selling, but it could be worth it for businesses and more serious sellers.
Facebook doesn’t take a cut of sales on Marketplace, but you can see the potential. If more people and businesses begin to list items on Marketplace and pay to advertise them, that’ll be one more engine for the company’s massive advertising business, which brought in $18.32 billion in revenue during the second quarter.
Facebook’s efforts with e-commerce still don’t threaten major retailers like Amazon and Walmart, but Marketplace has proven to be a true rival to Craigslist when it comes to buying and selling used goods.