Oodle CEO Craig Donato led off day three of Marketplaces 2009 describing how classified advertising has gone through an evolution over the past five years, progressing from simply importing them online, to making them searchable and finally today integrating classifieds with social media/user-generated content (UGC). Donato pointed out that while newspapers led the way in taking classifieds online, they have done poor job of adapting to the changing online needs to maintain a leadership role. Because of the ongoing change, new opportunities emerged for eBay and Craigslist, both of which clearly understood what both buyers and sellers wanted.
The current phase of classified is the merging of social tools and more transparency with listings revealing information like why an item is being put up for sale or why a particular home is a great family home and what visitors have liked best about the property. According to Donato, “Local advertisers need to get involved in the conversation because conversation builds credibility.”
What Oodle has tried to do is encourage local advertisers to create profiles on Facebook and MySpace so they can build their networks and get involved in supplying good information about their products, being open to answer questions, and to feed the latest specials or newest homes for sale as examples.
For local sites, Donato suggests that “it is less about how to work with Facebook and MySpace, but rather how the usefulness of their tools can be integrated into your sites.” The more local advertisers can get their customers and prospects engaged in conversations about their listings, the more valuable the listing and sites become. Social classifieds are yet another example of the required transparency consumers are seeking about both new and used classifieds on the Web, and it is now in the hands of sites like Oodle to provide the tools and education to help get people talking.