This week, Facebook started testing a new way to help us connect in a more tangible way: Facebook Gifts. Facebook is now offering the option to send a gift to friends and family. Forget the gifts of the past, you know, the little digital gift of a pumpkin latte or teddy bear if you wanted to show love. You will soon have the option to send, for example, a Starbucks Gift Card or a plush teddy bear, to your friends and family. Now the money you spend on Facebook Gifts will actually go to real – as opposed to virtual – merchandise.
An interesting statement was made when Facebook shut down their virtual gifts a couple of years back. Facebook's Jared Morgenstern stated, “Closing the Gift Shop may disappoint many of the people who have given millions of gifts, but we made the decision after careful thought about where we need to focus our product development efforts. We'll be able to focus more on improving and enhancing products and features that people use every day, such as Photos, News Feed, Inbox, games, comments, the “Like” button and the Wall.” Flash forward to 2012 and Facebook has checked each of those off their “to-do” list (or is eager to try whatever may help increase revenues). What an opportune time to re-introduce Facebook Gifts, as the holiday season swiftly approaches.
Below are the top three things we like about the new Facebook Gifts:
1. They are not virtual.
It was really nice to receive notifications of virtual gifts back in the day. Who didn't like their friends seeing how much they were thought of with their lineup of balloons, bears and beers? The private gifts always kept us guessing. How it works this time around is that you are able to choose a gift from a range of products. Facebook will then notify your friend that they are being sent a gift, and ask for their shipping address. You can either pay when you purchase the gift, or hold off until your friend accepts the gift and has entered shipping information. According to Facebook, “Your friend won't see the price of the gift, but they can choose a different size, color or style. They can even swap it for another similarly priced gift before it ships.” Real gifts! What a great way to build a great tool for retailers right into the social environment of Facebook. Facebook Gifts will add more value to events such as birthday and wedding notifications. Way to tie it all together.
2. They will help businesses.
That being said, this is a great opportunity for businesses. The guidelines have yet to be set in place, however, it looks like any business will be able to request their products be available through Facebook Gifts. The benefit to local businesses could be great. For example, you want to send flowers to your Aunt in Memphis. It would be great exposure to have items listed that can be sent as Facebook Gifts. Your Aunt receives a fresh bouquet from a local florist. Let's say her book club meets at her house, and rave over the arrangement. They ask where she got it. You see where we're going. Facebook Gifts can be a great tool for businesses to gain exposure. We'll keep you updated as Facebook Gifts are released to everyone.
3. They will help charities.
Facebook Gifts will benefit non-profits in a similar fashion, although it looks as though they have already chosen the lineup of organizations, at least for the time being. Currently, there are eleven non-profit partners lined up, to which you may donate $25 from yourself or on behalf of friends and family members. Here's the list:
- American Red Cross
- Blue Star Families
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Girls Inc.
- Oxfam America
- St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital
This is a timely offering, not only for the holiday season, but seeing as many people have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Facebook stated. “With Facebook Gifts you can already give gifts on birthdays or other special occasions. Now that gift can take the form of a charitable donation to any one of our partner nonprofit organizations.We are especially pleased to be launching this test now – when so many people are looking for new ways to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, or assist those most in need around the holidays.”
We'll be interested to see how the new Facebook Gifts and charitable donations perform through the holidays and beyond. It's a great upgrade from the virtual gifts of the past, and really highlights how intertwined we have become with offline and online living. Be sure to check back for more updates as the new feature becomes more widely available and for instructions on how businesses can participate in Facebook Gifts.