EBay gets social in the 'Neighborhood'

Auction site adds communities aimed at linking buyers and sellers in new ways

Online auction house eBay has added new social networking communities to its site in an effort to provide new ways to connect buyers and sellers.

The new eBay Neighborhoods effort which the company announced mid-week, pulls content from existing eBay community networks like its blogs, guides and reviews and from new offerings like neighborhood-specific message boards, sites that hold photos uploaded from users and social mapping tools, eBay said.

The expanded features will let users visualize the connections between themselves and other users, the company added.

There are more than 600 neighborhoods now on the site including those for Coffee Lovers, Battlestar Galactica and Weddings, eBay noted.

"On eBay, people who are passionate about certain brands, trends, celebrities or products have been discovering and trading with one another for years," said Jamie Iannone, vice president of buyer experience at eBay, in a statement."We hope that eBay Neighborhoods makes this even easier by combining commerce, communication, and community in a way that enhances traditional online buying and selling."

Chris Dawson, a full-time eBay seller and eBay consultant, blogged that the improved social networking effort provides a new way for sellers to market products to their buyers.

A neighborhood called "Coffee Lovers Neighborhood," he noted, "is designed specifically to encourage buyers to spend more money on espresso machines, and if that's your market you should be right in the thick of things, starting new threads, posting new pictures, updating your eBay Blog regularly, writing reviews and guides and pretty much doing everything you can to get your eBay User Id all over the Coffee Lovers Neighborhood."

But Dennis Yang, vice president of product development at analyst firm TechDirt had a different take on the new eBay offering. Yang blogged that Neighborhoods seem to be a "lackluster effort" from EBay.

"When posting a topic for discussion, users are asked to 'Enter a comma-separated list of eBay auction numbers.' Wow, seriously?" Yang wrote. "If eBay wishes to create a better sense of community amongst its users, perhaps it needs to take a look around at the many social networks that have popped up in recent years. Even the name 'neighborhoods' seems antiquated, evoking memories of the late-90's home page website, Geocities."

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Heather Havenstein

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