How to Use Snapchat to Boost Your eBay Business

Phil Dunn, Contributing Writer

Tips from a veteran eBay seller on marketing through one of social media's fastest growing platforms.

If you’ve been following media trends, you’ve probably noticed some heightened buzz around Snapchat, the mobile social media app with messages that disappear. Some thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk are predicting Twitter-like adoption over the next year or so. That means “the ghost,” as it’s sometimes referred to, could quickly become a communication channel for many eBay buyers and sellers. We asked Cyndi Zlotow, a 13-year veteran eBay clothing retailer (amazing*taste), how she sees things playing out.

“Years ago, I started communicating with eBay buyers on Twitter,” said Zlotow, “and it was good for a while, but it’s become very noisy. When you go into Twitter and look at your feed, it’s just buy, buy, buy. It’s become less social and engaging.”

Zlotow mentioned that she had zero success on Tumblr, a little success on Facebook and made marginal progress on Pinterest. (Success as gauged by authentic, non-promotional exchanges with potential buyers.)

“My hope is that Snapchat will bring back more engagement,” she said.

Zlotow’s approach to social media is somewhat different than a typical eBay seller. “Instead of screaming from rooftops ‘buy my item’ and treating social media like a pop-up ad or a billboard, I want to build relationships with potential buyers. I want people to get to know me before they buy.”

Zlotow has been a serial entrepreneur since the sixth grade when she sold friendship bracelets. “It’s the core of who I am. I write articles, share information and engage people that are dealing with the same issues I’m struggling with.” It’s possible that those same people might someday buy clothing from Zlotow’s eBay store, as well. And they do.

Snapchat is a bit different than Instagram and Twitter, however. The demographic skews younger, and it’s not as easy to round up followers. “It’s not like Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram where commercial interests are already established,” said Zlotow. “Once you get some followers, engagement should be fairly easy.”

The Long Game

Zlotow warns that the process of engagement is a lengthy one, however. “It takes time. As eBay sellers, we just want to Tweet out an item and hope it sells. You have to build up that connection and following first.”

“Those who put in the time and make the connections will beat all their competitors,” she said. “Right now, there’s a land grab on Snapchat. People are following back like they were in the early days of Twitter. I’m telling people that even if you don’t think you’re going to use Snapchat, get your eBay ID out there anyway.”

The How To Strategy

Zlotow is currently building up her Snapchat following. She recommends keeping things personal, authentic and non-salesy. She said there will be opportunities to sell later, when trust has been built up.

Eventually, she expects to create flash sales on Snapchat by promoting exclusive deals to a targeted audience. “Once they’re comfortable with who I am and how much value I bring, I can go back to that audience with special promotions designed for them,” she said. She imagines Best Offer promotions on Snapchat that will go to first movers. This makes sense on the platform that erases messages quickly.

“There’s time-based exclusivity,” she said. “With Snapchat, things move so quickly.”

Zlotow is testing out Snapchat “stories” by showing the behind-the-scenes activity at her eBay business. Snapchat stories are video and picture compilations that anyone who follows you can see. “My thinking, as of today, and I’m sure it will change and evolve, is to show my routines, business processes, morning coffee, the mannequins with our clothing on, pictures of my packages, and so on. We’ll also do short stories about profitability, sustainable businesses and where your money goes when you buy from us.”