One virtually indisputable positive aspect of Facebook is that it reminds you of your friends’ birthdays so you can pile on to the “Happy birthday ol’ pal!” messages and not feel at all guilty that you didn’t buy a card or gift for the birthday person. But now Facebook is really hoping people will take those few moments you spend mindlessly writing someone a generic birthday message and decide to use Facebook to send that friend — who you may not have seen in decades — an equally thoughtless birthday present.
Yesterday, Facebook began rolling out something cleverly called Facebook Gifts, which is exactly what it sounds like.
When you go to write a birthday message, you’ll be presented with the option of sending gifts, like Starbucks gift cards, cupcakes and stuffed animals, that have that certain personal touch that tell the recipient, “I completely forgot it was your birthday, so here is even more evidence that I don’t really care that much about you.”
Making it even more impersonal, the L.A. Times reports that gift recipients will be able to virtually “unwrap” a gift online and exchange it for something of equal value.
The message: Just send cash.
The new feature is the result of Facebook’s purchase of social gifting company Karma. The social networking colossus is banking that this cheap and easy way of spending money on people you probably don’t think about too often will be a boost to the company’s coffers.
Though it’s rebounded somewhat in recent days, Facebook’s stock price is still hovering at around half the value of its IPO from only a few months ago. The largest concern among investors is that the website has no clear vision on how to leverage its massive audience for a profit.
Facebook recently began inserting paid posts into users’ streams as a way to boost ad revenue. Previously, these sponsored posts would only show up if the user had shown some sort of interest in that particular business’ Facebook page.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have four Facebook friends with birthdays today. I need to dash off some meaningless messages before the gifts feature rolls out to my account.