Recently launched eBay Neighborhoods is a hot topic in the blogosphere. Going beyond its member forums, eBay lovers passionate about brands, products, trends and celebrities and eBay sellers can interact and write product reviews, comment on items for sale, provide buyer guides and add pictures to Neighborhoods.
Since it's new, I didn't expect there to be a whack of online retailers/brands being represented yet, but I did find one for Juicy Couture.
I was expecting to see a Threadless Neighborhood, as this site has always had a loyal social-media-savvy following. And because of Threadless t-shirts' collect-ability and trade-ability, I thought a Threadless eBay community would rock. So I suggested the group which is currently pending approval by the eBay powers that be. Unlike most social networks that allow users to create groups instantly, eBay gets the final say. Although many might criticize them for taking this approach, I think this can help prevent the over-saturation problem that Facebook Groups currently has. Even a search for "Hold Me Closer Tony Danza" groups in Facebook delivers a page-full of options! So to build truly valuable community, it's better to have all the fans in one Threadless Neighborhood rather than a "string" of 'hoods in my opinion.
How can etailers get in on the action? Even if you don't use an eBay store as a marketing channel, you can join a community and submit product guides with a user account (linking to your website at the top of the article, of course). For example, an automobile accessory vendor could easily contribute a guide to the Car Audio community. "How To Spot A Juicy Couture Handbag" is an example of seller-contributed content in Juicy's Neighborhood. Notice that "How to Spot a Fake Louis Vuitton Handbag" shows up on the Juicy Couture group's page as well, so you can get some mileage out of one guide with exposure across many relevant communities. However, your placement in results may depend on your guide's relevance to the group and your buyer/seller account's authority (feedback score and overall participation in eBay).
Many online retailers who have forayed into MySpace to build community may find eBay Neighborhoods more marketing friendly, as eBay was built for commerce, while MySpace was originally intended for non-commercial socializing. Are eBay Neighborhoods' moderators online retailer friendly? Time will tell, I'll be keeping my eye on it.