Conversation With Etsy About Their New Facebook Connect Implementation

-Sean Flannagan Headshot-Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Sean Flannagan, the product manager at Etsy responsible for their recent Facebook Connect implementation. Numerous companies have been implementing the service and we’ve been keeping track of the experience for developers as well as marketers. Etsy recently launched their first integration with Facebook Connect and from the sounds of it, have a number of other exciting Facebook-enabled products on the way. Below is my interview with Sean Flannagan about the company’s experience with implementing Connect.

Nick O’Neill: Who are you and what do you do at Etsy?
Sean Flannagan: My name is Sean Flannagan and I’m a product manager at Etsy. I’m focused on improving the discovery experience, including search, social sharing features and merchandising. I spend a lot of time obsessing over Etsy Favorites, site analytics and search queries.

Nick O’Neill: Etsy recently launched Facebook Connect integration, can you tell us a little more about Etsy’s implementation?
Sean Flannagan: Etsy members can now connect with Facebook through Etsy and share actions they take on Etsy with their friends on Facebook. In our current implementation, these actions include adding an item to your Etsy Favorites and listing an item in your Etsy shop. Etsy members can post these actions to their Facebook Profile as stories, which then appear on their friends’ News Feeds.

Etsy is one of the first major ecommerce sites to launch this kind of integration with Facebook Connect, and it’s been exciting to see the feature become a part of the Etsy ecosystem and gradually adopted by our community.

Nick O’Neill: What is the biggest benefit of implementing Facebook Connect?
Sean Flannagan: Items on Etsy are unique, one-of-a-kind, often amazing and often discovered through people – whether through word of mouth, an article on a blog, a passed link on Twitter or a favorite seller’s personal Favorites. While there are many microbrands on Etsy, the items are not branded in the traditional way and don’t benefit from traditional brand advertising. They’re handmade by real people, and the best way to make discoveries on Etsy is often through other people. Most of the items I’ve purchased on Etsy were not things I was specifically looking for; they were discovered or recommended by someone in my world. (Example: I wasn’t in the market for this hand-cranked wooden boat automata from cartoonmonster, but once a friend pointed it out to me I had to buy it.) Making it easy to enable those kinds of social discoveries on Facebook, where social connections are being harnessed so effectively, is a natural step for us. Etsians love to share finds and curate lists of favorite items, and Facebook makes it easy to share things with large groups of friends.

Nick O’Neill: Does Etsy have future plans for alternative integration points?
Sean Flannagan: There are a number of other Etsy activities ripe for sharing through Facebook Connect, such as adding a shop to your Etsy Favorites, renewing an item and relisting an item. We want to make it as easy as possible for Etsy members to share these core activities.

Many Etsy sellers also maintain Pages on Facebook and would love to use Facebook Connect to share items with their fans there. Facebook Connect does not currently offer this capability but if that changes, we will happily support it! Etsy sellers are passionate grassroots marketers of their work.

And there’s a lot we can do to bring more of the social interaction that happens on Facebook into the Etsy shopping experience. Shopping on Etsy has always been social — the presence of the community is felt throughout the site — and personal interaction with the maker is part of the purchase and part of our mission. It would also be great to be able to find your Facebook friends on Etsy so you could keep up with their discoveries, or ask a friend’s opinion on an item before you make a purchase.

Nick O’Neill: Have you seen any initial results from the implementation that you can report on?
Sean Flannagan: One interesting effect which we didn’t expect has been the popularity of the links to shops in the stories published on Facebook. The Facebook Connect actions we support right now are item-focused – show off an item you’ve listed, or an item you’ve “hearted” or added to your Favorites. The item is pictured in the story published on Facebook and there are two links to the Etsy item page. But in both cases, Facebook users click on the less prominent link to the Etsy seller behind the item much more frequently. It seems that in a highly social environment like Facebook, people naturally want to know more about other people. Everything on Facebook is about people and that seems to lend itself to certain behaviors.

Nick O’Neill: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Sean Flannagan: We have lot more in the works when it comes to discovery on Etsy, and I think we’re just beginning to tap into the power of social discovery, community-driven merchandising and sharing. We’re also learning a lot from Facebook Connect and we’re excited to be part of the developer community pushing the platform forward. Thanks for reaching out!