Facebook Displays Birthdays on Mobile News Feed to Promote GiftsBy: Josh Wolford - October 11, 2012
Last month, Facebook jumped into the ecommerce arean with the launch of “Gifts,” the company’s new gift exchange platform. You may remember a “Facebook Gifts” existing years ago, but that version only dealt with virtual goods. The new Facebook Gifts allows users to buy and ship real presents directly to their friends’ doorsteps – food, clothing, home goods, toys, etc.
When Facebook announced Gifts, they attached the tagline “Celebrate birthdays, new jobs, and other big moments.” There’s no denying that the success of Gifts relies heavily on users feeling compelled to send gifts to their friends. Birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and new babies are just some of the life events that may compel a user to fork over the cash to send a gift via Facebook.
On the desktop version of Facebook, getting users to notice these types of events is no problem. They are displayed right there to the right of the news feed. Facebook just recently began to show events other than birthdays in this area.
But on mobile, birthdays and other events are not displayed prominently, and are instead either relocated to the events tab or not displayed at all. That’s all changing, mainly due to Gifts.
For both Android and iOS users, Facebook has begun to display birthdays at the top of users’ news feeds. But here’s the catch: you’ll only see it if you’re a part of a small group of users in the early test for Gifts. Android users will see the Gifts icon next to the birthday announcement, beckoning them to buy their buddy a present. iOS users can only receive gifts at this time. (Photo via TechCrunch)
It’s probably a good thing that Facebook unearthed birthdays on mobile, as it’s rare for anyone to check their events tab daily. This way, mobile users won’t miss these types of announcements. But this move is all about monetization. As more and more users access Facebook via mobile, Facebook has to figure out how to make money off them. They’ve already had a public struggle to monetize mobile via ads, but Gifts is something entirely different. It requires user interaction and user choice. Facebook can’t force a user to buy their friend a new shirt for her birthday like they can force a Sponsored Story into their mobile news feed. But placing birthdays (and probably other event announcements as well) at the top of their news feeds is one way to increase the chance that they will buy a gift (and earn a cut for Facebook in the process).