How do we compete with FREE?

There are new Facebook pages popping up for our area all the time, designed to help local residents sell their personal items or market their event. Red Lake & Area’s Buy ‘n’ Sell, Red Lake Area Women’s Clothing, Red Lake Area Homes for Sale, Red Lake District Community Bulletin Board – the list goes on.

I watch every day and receive notifications as items are posted and sold on Red Lake & Area’s Buy ‘n’ Sell, and I’m amazed. Sellers post and buyers respond, almost instantaneously, “Oh yes please, I’ll have that. Tell me when to pick it up!” Within minutes, we’ve managed to get rid of all the junk crowding up our storage. It’s like a live auction, 24/7.

It’s a free online business, essentially. That’s how I look at it. It’s a way to trade goods and services with no monetary benefit to anyone but the seller, since Facebook doesn’t charge people to post. It’s an online version of a thrift shop, created by consumers themselves, which helps them to bypass any overhead fees – kind of like eBay. It’s a free enterprise for the average salesperson – post here, and make money. Treating Facebook like an online garage sale gives new meaning to Masters of our own Domain.

Except sometimes I wonder: how is this good for local business at all? When you cut out the middle-person (the local shops who want you to bring these types of items in so they can sell them and donate to local charities, like Second Chance Thrift Store, or your local realtor who wants to help you sell your home, or your local newspaper who survives on its advertising revenue), you remove the businesses, which give people jobs to buy this stuff in the first place.

The most challenging dilemma I have faced as Advertising/Marketing Manager, so far, is: how do we compete with FREE? What’s the solution? There has to be a direct benefit for a customer to choose to pay money to advertise with us, especially when they could just as easily (or as it appears just as easy) post their items and events online. But what do we have that no one else has? What makes us more desirable than Facebook?

The goal of advertising is to reach the highest number of people in the shortest amount of time, and while Facebook as an advertising tool is phenomenal for this, what we offer above them is service. We take care of all the information and ad design for you (for the do-it-yourselfers, I realize this doesn’t appeal.) As a newspaper though, unlike Facebook, we do survive on the advertising. If we don’t have local people, businesses and organizations selling or promoting their items and events with us, we wouldn’t exist, and you wouldn’t receive your community news. So I think what people need to realize is it’s a give and take. We provide you with news, but you have to pay to know what’s happening.

And what about all of those non-Facebookers out there? They should not be forgotten. We reach a wide range of people and an audience that Facebook will never capture.

I think, some day, Facebook will probably catch on to this free trade business, and posting won’t be free anymore either. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

(BTW…Join us on Facebook!)



The Northern Sun News

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