It's your friend's birthday! Want to buy them a Starbucks card?
That's the latest way Facebook is trying to get users, used to posting simple, free birthday wishes on friends' walls, to spend money instead.
Now, when some Facebook users are greeted with a list of friends with birthdays, they're being given the option of buying a digital Starbucks card as a gift for them.
That's actually a subtler version of how Facebook used to push gifts. Facebook features friends with birthdays on users' News Feeds, the personalized homepage at the center of the Facebook experience. Last year, in an attempt to push its new Gifts product, it forced users to skip the traditional message posts and send a gift instead.
The Starbucks promotion, which a Facebook spokesperson characterized as an "experiment," allows users to post messages without forcing them through extra steps.
It's not clear if Starbucks paid Facebook for the placement; Facebook would not comment on commercial arrangements and a Starbucks spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Facebook has admitted its gifts business is desperately small, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that analysts should "temper" their projections for the business.
In the fourth quarter, it was some small fraction of a $5 million category of the payments revenue that wasn't related to social games.
"We think Gifts if done well can be a very natural and positive part of the Facebook experience," CFO David Ebersman said in Wednesday's fourth-quarter earnings call. "So, for example, when you're wishing someone a Happy Birthday, the ability to send a gift along with that, and just figuring out how the product needs to work, what the interfaces are, what the selection of products is, how the payment process works?"
So the Starbucks placement and the tweak to allow the old way of writing birthday messages seem right in line with that.
Starbucks and Facebook have a long history of virtual gifting, by the way. Starbucks introduced a "give a gift" feature on Facebook in 2010.
Users, however, don't seem to be in love with it. Here are some examples of negative comments they've made on Twitter:
Facebook asked if I wanted to send you a Starbucks birthday present. I don't.— Brad Kaplan (@BradKaplanATL) January 31, 2013
Ugh. Writing Facebook birthday messages is so expensive with the new mandatory Starbucks birthday gift requirement.— Ben Siemon (@BenjaminJS) January 31, 2013
Let's be honest Facebook, no one is ever going to send a Starbucks gift card on someone's birthday...stop trying to make it happen— Neil Kumar (@Koomz94) January 28, 2013
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