Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Show Your Valentine How Much You Care With a Randomly Chosen Facebook Gift

facebook_gifts_bearValentine’s Day. It’s that time of year when the relationship-bound scramble to do something special for their significant other — be it a delivered bouquet of flowers, a box of Russell Stover’s, or good old-fashioned breakfast in bed.

Or perhaps you go the Facebook Gifts route and get your loved one a box of Oreos.

Not kidding. Facebook has amped up the volume on its Gifts product for V-Day, pushing out a special prompt to a percentage of users across the U.S. that prods them gently into giving a present to a friend (romantic or otherwise) through the social network’s gift-giving service.

What you’ll see, if you haven’t already, is a little banner at the top of your News Feed as you log in to your Facebook account. For those in relationships, the prompt will suggest you give a gift to whomever you’ve listed yourself as in a relationship with. But it’s not dependent on whether you’re in a relationship; the singles among us get a prompt saying something like, “Surprise your friend with X gift for V-Day.”

At first blush, I must say, I was taken aback. Not by the fact that this is showing up in my News Feed, mind you; Facebook proved its willingness to pimp its Gifts product back in December, when it did something similar for the holiday season.

No, it’s the types of gifts that Facebook suggested I give. Honey-flavored jelly beans. A package of Oreos. A Starbucks gift card. Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on relationships, but if I gave my Valentine an Olive Garden gift card on V-Day, I imagine I’d be in the doghouse.

These gift suggestions felt to me like a reminder that Gifts is an infant service, with a limited selection of partners and a need to push the product hard in order to ramp it up. What’s more, instead of serving the purpose of telling someone you care, the limited selection and prominent feed placement almost feels like a reminder of how impersonal the process is. Sort of like saying, “I forgot about you until Facebook reminded me. Here’s something small to make up for that.”

For what it’s worth, Facebook says the product recommendations cycling through its suggestion box are randomized, all found in the “Valentines for All — $30 and Under” shop in the Gifts product menu. And I’d imagine these aren’t the only things Facebook would suggest you buy your Valentine.

Still, I’m waiting for the product to get better and smarter and to begin sporting a wider, more appropriate selection of gifts. I imagine that’ll take convincing of partners that it’s worth their while, and for that, Facebook may need to show early positive results. Jury’s still out on whether it’ll pay off.

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