Okay, so it’s been a couple weeks. Enough time to ward off any feelings of guilt or to appease family members who loitered around past the new year. But now everyone’s gone and those “thoughtful gifts” still remain—and you don’t really want those nesting tables… or that plant stand. I mean, you don’t even own a plant.
Luckily, January is a great time to sell online, says Deborah Liu, VP of Marketplace at Facebook. “It’s January, but it’s also spring-cleaning time, and so many people are listing things. But they’re also buying things they didn’t get over the holidays.” With so much traffic, however, it’s easy for posts to get buried, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
So here’s how to sell those unwanted gifts—or, you know, anything—and turn a profit. Because someone, somewhere, will want those mid-century nesting tables.
Pay Attention to Picture Quality
“Having clear photos is the most important thing,” Liu says. “Marketplace is essentially a feed of photos. And so that’s what will draw people’s attention first and foremost.” Drawing people’s attention also means drawing Facebook’s attention, as the system tracks engagement with everything you sell. Dark photos or photos with heavy contrast will get fewer clicks, and Facebook will notice this inactivity and feature the post less. “Having more photos, having high-quality photos, having appealing photos that people want to click on and engage with will increase your probability of actually showing up.”
Try using auto-cleanup on your photos. Or simply shoot with a better lens. You also want to avoid filters. In general, a clean, monochromatic background works best, as it not only indicates to Marketplace scrollers what exactly you’re selling, but also allows Facebook to predict which category your item should appear in. “Our system is constantly looking to improve your listing and improve matching,” Liu notes. So if you post a picture of a basketball, the system will sort this listing into sporting equipment and make it more likely to appear when someone searches for similar items. Don’t confuse Facebook and its users by selling that basketball alongside other items, however. Buyers want that basketball, not that basketball and a bottle of cologne. One picture, one item, one background.
Mind Your Keywords
Like your photo, your description should make clear what you’re selling. That means listing everything: dimensions, specs, weight, etc. The best thing to do is simply to pretend you’re a potential buyer. What info would you need, and want? If you’re looking for a couch, for instance, you’ll definitely want to know measurements and whether it will fit in your tiny apartment. Be a good seller and add those in.
While this might seem obvious, Liu points out that these descriptive terms will differentiate you in Facebook’s system and actually make it more likely that people will see your post in the first place. That’s because when a buyer enters Marketplace, they will see ranked listings based on their interests. Making your listing descriptive and comprehensive will make it more likely to show up on buyers’ pages. So will that clear picture, since Facebook will automatically fill in keywords you may have missed. But only if it knows what you’re trying to sell.
Not only is Facebook tracking buyers’ activities around your listing, it’s also tracking your own activity—particularly how you interact with the Marketplace community. Facebook actually has ratings and reviews for how quickly you respond, Liu notes. “When sellers are really responsive, the whole system goes, ‘Oh this is a good seller.’” And if you never respond to messages? Well, then the system will think you’re a bad seller and can actually lower the ranking on your products.
Other things that give you good Facebook karma: listing fair prices and marking all listings as “sold” once you actually sell them.
Update Your Profile and Use Your Friends
“People want to know who they’re buying from,” Liu says. Making sure your profile is clean and up to date is, therefore, incredibly important. Remember, these people may be entering your home, and so no one wants to see a picture of you beside your medieval ax collection. They just want your couch, man.
Remember too that your own page may be the best place to start when selling an item. Sharing with friends and asking them to re-post your listing may help you better reach buyers interested in your particular items. Having all your friends like your post on Marketplace, however, won’t help it sell. The ranking system works according to relevance, not likes, Liu adds. This also means that there’s no golden hour to post items, since relevance trumps recentness. So go ahead and post at 2 a.m. (Just don’t take your pictures in the dark.)
Ultimately, going out of your way for the buyer is one of the best strategies, Liu says. This means offering to deliver your item, and, especially, being flexible on price. Strategies like renewing your post will help remind Facebook that the item still hasn’t sold. But if you’ve renewed multiple times, chances are it’s the price that’s preventing a sale. Start with a listing that’s higher than what you’re willing to sell it for. Give it time. And then lower the price. Not only does this make you a better person in the eyes of the Facebook Marketplace system, it also increases the likelihood of a sale.
And, in the end, you were never going to make a fortune off those mid-century nesting tables. So give users a good deal. You got all this junk for free, anyway.