The latest move by Facebook in its quest to make money isn’t a fancy algorithm or a new search engine. It’s gift cards. Regular old plastic gift cards. The company announced today on its website the launch of Facebook Cards, a program through which you can buy your friends a physical gift card to stores like Target, Jamba Juice, or The Olive Garden through Facebook.
Here’s how it works, from Facebook:
Your friend will be notified instantly about your gift, and will receive a Facebook Card in the mail a few days later. As soon as it arrives, your friend can use the card at the retailer you’ve chosen for the amount you’ve gifted.
Facebook Cards are reusable. After you’ve received a card, the next time you get a Facebook Card gift, it will instantly be added to your existing card. Your card can hold multiple gift balances, and each balance is dedicated to the retailer associated with the gift.
Facebook desperately would like to see some actual money channeled from consumers through its platform, given how tough the advertising business can be. And the data the company has could make this particularly valuable: It’s so-and-so’s birthday. They like X brand. Buy them a gift card.
My question to readers: could you see yourself actually pulling the trigger on this?
I can’t help but be a bit depressed by the whole thing, from a technology perspective. This is one of the world’s biggest internet companies, and it’s latest monetization scheme is sending you plastic in the mail? Of course, as mobile payment becomes more ubiquitous, this will make even more sense for Facebook to be involved. But the company can’t afford to wait for that to happen.