It’s like Facebook virtual gifts, but with real molecules.

Online ad company Facebook (yep, that’s what it is – or at least 84% of it) is doing a little joined-up thinking and has announced a new Facebook Gifts service, allowing users to send real-world gifts to each other via a gift button will soon appear on users’ profiles and in the birthdays and life events notifications box.

Facebook Gifts is joined up thinking because for once (unlike Facebook ads) the gifting service fits the social context of the platform.  From a psychological perspective,  Facebook gifting is smart because it offers ‘Social Utility‘ (helping people solve problems socially or solve social problems), by helping people solve one of our two core social problems – that of ‘Social Bonding‘ (the other being social status).  By offering a gifting service Facebook will help people bond better – which is what a lot of social interaction on Facebook is fundamentally all about.

Kudos to Facebook for looking for ways to wean itself off its dysfunctional opiate-like dependency on advertising. But just because Facebook is chasing one of the three big opportunities in Facebook commerce, it doesn’t mean that the other two opportunities are not wide open (as identified in the F-Commerce Handbook: 10 Secrets for Unlocking the Sales Potential of Facebook).

  • Selling with Social Utility on Facebook by helping people solve the core social problem of ‘Social Status’ – with a service that offers early access to new products, before they are publicly launched
  • Selling with Social Utility on Facebook by helping by solve problems socially by enabling them to club together and wield crowd clout to get volume discounts on products