Longtime eBay seller experience and community engagement manager Brian Burke announced on today's eBay for Business podcast he will be moving on after almost 25 years at the company, effective March 1, 2024.
Before we sign off, I have some news to share with our loyal listeners. I just want to let all of our listeners know that, effective March 1, after much deliberation, I have decided to leave eBay.
It's time for me to think about the next phase of my life and kind of focus on that after decades in Silicon Valley and almost 25 years here at eBay. It's time for kind of the next chapter and I'm looking forward to it.
The things I will miss are people like you Griff and the company and all the sellers I've had the pleasure to come in contact with and even those I may not have spoken to in person by read their emails questions to us. The seller community is bar none the best in the world.
Burke joined eBay in 1999 as Manager Community Development and has held various positions in Community, Trust & Safety, and Account Management during his tenure.
Many have questioned eBay's commitment to seller engagement and experience in recent years, especially with changes to the community forums that have decreased the helpfulness of any official corporate presence and, in some cases, increased censorship and control over how users interact in the community.
For example, eBay Voices (a pilot program that would have allowed sellers to provide actionable insights directly to eBay teams) was poorly implemented, not followed through and eventually shelved after only a few months.
In 2022, eBay made a change to their community engagement efforts by discontinuing what had been a weekly, open topic chat with eBay staff and replacing it with monthly limited topic/themed chat instead.
The weekly chat had previously been the best opportunity sellers had at airing concerns and bringing official attention to issues they were experiencing on the platform. Moving to a limited monthly chat has significantly stifled engagement between users and eBay staff.
Community members also raised concerns when eBay staff were empowered to mark responses to posts as "solutions" without any input from the original poster, with sellers worried the intrusion could have a chilling effect on open dialogue and free expression.
That concern was not unfounded as some users had reported previously feeling pressured by eBay staff (including Brian Burke) to change which answers they had selected as solutions if those answers were "not accurate" - according to eBay staff.
Further concerns about censorship were raised when the section of the community specifically designated for "off-topic" posts was unceremoniously removed with not even two weeks notice.
The Soapbox housed many topics, from recipe swapping to music and tv show recommendations to general chit chat and of course the more contentious topics like the economy and politics.
It was a vestige of eBay's early days that saw the site function almost as much as a social network as a trading place and many sellers were unhappy about the decision to remove this section of the community.
Updates to the community rules and guidelines in 2022 also raised eyebrows, leaving sellers questioning whether the community staff were considered official support, whether their private messages were truly private (spoiler alert: they're not!) and whether the community was a safe place to discuss their actual experiences on the platform - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Officially, eBay claims the community is not a support channel, which has led to much back and forth confusion as sellers asking questions in the community are often directed to contact eBay customer service on Facebook.
Apparently, eBay leadership didn't bother to question the wisdom of sending their paying customers to a site that runs a competing marketplace business to access support or exclusive seller events and giveaways.
As we bid farewell to Brian Burke, it remains to be seen if eBay will name a replacement and commit to re-engaging with the selling community on the company's forum or if the current trend of preferring smaller, highly curated groups of sellers who already fill eBay management's echo chamber will continue.
Want to share a farewell message to Brian or suggestions for eBay to improve the community forum experience going forward? Leave a comment below!