From virtual to reality: Facebook launches Gifts

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Now, instead of sending your Facebook friends virtual pokes, flowers, kisses and hugs you can now offer real tangible gifts to your friends.

Physical to virtual is not new. A couple of years ago, 7-Eleven launched an incentive for users who played Farmville. Users could redeem physical products for virtual items in Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Facebook itself has been letting its users send virtual gifts to each other since 2007

Facebook Launched Gifts last week, launching with over 100 partners. Gifts enables users to send real items to their Facebook friends. Facebook will take a share of the revenue, adding to its income stream.  Starbucks is Facebook’s largest partner which enables users to send friends gift cards and cupcakes.

Facebook has launched its initiative with over 100 partners covering lots of the retail items that users would usually send to their friends.

Facebook say that it will be easy to give gifts. Gift icons will appear next to reminders and also on friends timelines. You can choose the gift from a variety of partners. You can keep the gift private or share it with friends.

The recipient advises Facebook where they want the gift delivered and the gift gets shipped.

Facebook Gifts is currently only available in the US – but no doubt will be rolling out to other countries soon.

It is not the first time that real gifts have been offered through Facebook apps. There is a whole ecosystem of apps designed to use Facebook’s for shopping and f-commerce. But this is the first foray into partner- based physical commerce that Facebook has trialled. 

Will it work, will it fail?  Facebook certainly needs a strong partner ecosystem to make this work. It needs to work towards an international delivery model (we have friends in other countries) and it needs to be efficient and cheap.

But it might just bring Facebook that extra revenue stream it needs to continue its growth after IPO.

Image Credit: Facebook Gifts

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

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