Man. I wish I had time to recover from the story about the baby that was named Hashtag just before the column was due. And the newborn is a girl, no less! To the extent that I’ve put thought into Little Baby Hashtag at all, I was positively sure this name-challenged infant would be a boy. I’m reeling.
But life, and social media, must press on, so today, let’s ponder Facebook Gifts, an ecommerce upgrade from what I’m pretty sure was the only thing you used to be able to buy on Facebook: a virtual cow.
To some, per The New York Times, the fact that you can actually buy real-world gifts on Facebook now, from companies including babyGap, Dean & DeLuca and Apple, is one reason the stock has been trading relatively high, closing at a little more than $27 on Thursday. If Facebook Gifts has really contributed to a stock rebound, though, you have to wonder if it has never before dawned on some eternally naïve Facebook investors that you might be able to use the platform to actually buy stuff.
As you can probably tell, I’m not all that excited about this. And that’s because Facebook would have to go a long way to ever become an e-tailer of note, not as long as Amazon is one click away from your latest status update. For the people among my Facebook friends -- and it’s not many of you! – whom I would actually buy gifts for, I’d be much more likely to use Facebook as a reminder engine that I need to buy a gift than I would actually buy something there. Nothing says, “I didn’t put much thought into your present” like an iTunes Gift Card.
Of course, Facebook, as is its habit, is rolling out Gifts with a slowness that seems to intentionally defy the rate of technological change, announcing roughly a dozen partners when it launched this e-commerce offering in mid-November. But in case you don’t think the company is serious about e-commerce this time -- it’s had previous fits and starts -- this time must be for real. Facebook even rented a warehouse! In South Dakota!
But Facebook Gifts got me wondering again about the potential strength of marrying social media and e-commerce. Right now the union only seems like a flirtation. The problem with this social commerce initiative isn’t just that most of us don’t think of Facebook as a place to buy gifts, or that the offering is limited; it’s also that those with a huge e-commerce presence, like Amazon, barely scrape the surface of what social data could bring to them. For instance, if you join, Amazon’s Kids’ Birthday Club, you can save a Gift List and post it on Facebook or Twitter, but who really wants to share their kids’ wish lists with potentially hundreds of people? It just isn’t very refined use of social data.
Yes, there is a tie-in between Facebook Connect and Amazon, which, like Facebook Connect elsewhere in the digital world, can give you insights into what your Facebook Friends like. But, assuming the Facebook Connect relationship with Amazon is like any other, no money changes hands between the two parties. The revenue upside lies squarely on Amazon’s side of the house.
The real ecommerce power for Facebook would be to make its relationships with Facebook Connect retailers into moneymakers. No more of this kumbaya “we want the world to be open and connected” crap. If someone buys something on Amazon based on the fact that one of their Facebook Friends liked it, Facebook should get a cut of the revenue
And there’s even more upside. My Facebook Friends would get better gifts, and no Facebook employee, or contractor, would ever have to spend a long, cold December in South Dakota.
(Here’s the agenda for February’s Social Media Insider Summit. Come on down!)