Virtual Marketplaces, Virtual Communities – The Best of the Web

As I begin this blog, the amazing potential of the combined information, talent and effort that people share on the Internet feels overwhelming.  Groundswell has described social media as a revolution or “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li & Bernoff (2011), p. 9).  This revolution has two parts, a commerce piece in which goods and services are exchanged, and a communications piece, in which individuals interact with each other.  Technology facilitates both of these interactions.  Early in the social media revolution, sites seemed to specialize in either the exchange of goods and services or the building of online communities.  Think eBay.  Originally an auction website, it grew into a way to connect people to each other through the selling and buying of goods.  The virtual marketplace established by eBay, became what a traditional market in the ‘real’ world is, a place where people buy, sell, but also learn, gossip, and explore.  According to the site, “eBay continues to passionately believe in the potential of technology to connect people around the world” (eBay).

The sites that bring together the exchange of goods and services with the establishment of communities of people through technologies are the ones that illustrate the potential of virtual worlds and social media.  Four networks (described below) incorporate commerce and community into their essential workings.

Etsy is an artists’ marketplace that espouses a philosophy of making art a part of life, and challenges the cheap commodification of the goods and services people buy.

Twitter not only promotes conversations, but it promotes tertiary links between online communities and as such plays an extensive role in the viral nature of social media that is essential for maintaining communities (they need to exist in real-time).

You Tube, like Twitter, is a successful commercial and commercialized social media site with its own brand to promote and maintain.  It is an interesting site, however, in that it allows film clips and commercials produced by the major studios and agencies to be posted next to videos uploaded by the average next-door neighbor.  In between the commercial advertisers and amateurs, You Tube hosts video by news agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and political campaigns, among other groups.  Commerce meets the world on You Tube.

Finally, Skype uses new technologies to let people communicate in what may seem to be an ‘old fashioned’ way – through real-time voice and/or video communication.  However, in a world market, it is essential that people have access to each other without crippling fees.  Skype allows businesses and individuals to maintain personal relationships without pricy institutional intermediaries.

When we think of the internet as a marketplace, it is important to remember that markets are where people exchange goods, services, information, lifestyles, and shape communities.  Although the internet moves at lightning speed in some ways, the goal should be more than efficient exchange of currency.  It should also be the inefficient, pleasurable, creation of lasting connections.

Network Business or Consumer User Primary Purpose or Focus Presence of Blog/ user feedback? Advertising Content Information Content Source(s) Single country or Global?
Etsy Both Handmade artwork sales; also sells   vintage items and supplies,  site   states its mission is to be “anthropologists of commerce” and to help people   learn more about being human. Yes – the site encourages   feedback, and states that “markets are conversations and we ask that you talk   vigorously back to us.” Yes – Etsy offers sellers the   option to pay more for a Showcase listing or search ad keywords to increase   traffic to their listings. Sellers post their wares;   designers and collectors also create blogs that link to multiple sellers;   Etsy links also found on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. Global – UK, French and German   versions
Twitter Both Quickly share something of   interest real-time through short (140 character) tweets or messages Yes – Twitter is created by user   content and user activity.  The site   offers multiple ways to contribute and follow tweets from various platforms Yes – Twitter offers Promoted   Tweets, Trends, and accounts along with Analytics tools that let large and   small businesses promote brands, products, and learn who is following them Users post and follow tweets.  There are two main types of content –   tweets on what is happening to a person/ situation real-time or retweets of   content available elsewhere on the web.    Twitter is fast becoming the glue that connects sites to each other   and therefore communities to each other Global – 27 language options are   available from the homepage in addition to English
You Tube Both Allow anyone to share video   content with a world audience; amateurs and professionals share video on this   site, all placed next to each other Yes – You Tube’s popularity is   that anyone can make a film and anyone can be a critic Yes – Almost every major advertising   campaign has a You Tube component Video postings from professional,   commercial, individual, and groups form the basis of the content.  Additional commentary on the postings form   the secondary content. Global – 43 countries are listed   as content locations
Skype Both Skype says its mission is to allow   users “to bring their social networks to life” b providing voice and/or video   communication in real-time; in a new campaign, Skype promotes the more   personal connections created by voice and face-to-face communications No, not directly.  But Skype does connect via Facebook, and so   extends the communities created there and elsewhere Yes – Skype has a business tool   that companies can use to make contacting them via Skype simple; Skype also   offers online Display advertising Skype’s online content consists of   listings, locations, and contact information for businesses and   individuals. Global – 23 languages in addition   to English are supported; calls place via the internet can reach many   countries


About Us, Etsy.  (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2011).  Groundswell:  Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.  Boston:  Harvard Business Review.

Skype Challenges Impersonal Social Media in New Ad Campaign. (2012, April 6).  The Think Tank Blog.  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from

Skype. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Start Advertising, Twitter. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Timeline, eBay. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from

You Tube. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from


4 thoughts on “Virtual Marketplaces, Virtual Communities – The Best of the Web

  1. I love your blog title and how you follow up with some good connections in addition to the blog. Lots of good information had never heard of Esty will have to check it out.
    Thanks Debra

  2. Interesting post Donya. Skype is improving communication efficiencies everyday. For example, many corporate HR departments are leveraging Skype more and more for interviewing candidates around the world.

  3. Nice post Donya. It is interesting to look at the different sites the students in this class have chosen to look at as Social Media. Your post, as well as others in the class, really opened my eyes to think a little bit more “outside the box” in regards to what social media actually is. It isn’t just facebook!
    I also liked your title, it was an interesting way to look at something people can view as interruptions.

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