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Giving a gift card on Facebook

November 14, 2008 |  8:00 am

Gift_2 Popular members of the social networking site Facebook are often showered with free virtual gifts from friends. An image of a fuzzy duck or birthday cake or frosty beer mug will pop up on their profiles, showing that someone thought of them for the few seconds it took to click a mouse and send a gift. How sweet.

When that warm and happy feeling disappears, though, they realize that since the gifts are virtual, they don’t have an actual birthday cake, fuzzy duck or frosty beer mug to wrap their arms or face around. How sad.

But starting Monday, a San Diego company called Socialwise (a fully owned subsidiary of ideaEDGE), wants to help social networkers get real, live gifts from Facebook and other social networking sites. Better yet, they figured out a way that they can get all of their friends to pay for them.

The company is launching “Gimme,” an application that lets friends buy each other gift cards on Facebook and invite other friends to contribute to the gift card. Say you want to give your friend an $100 gift certificate for Amazon.com so he can finally buy that book about commercial chicken meat and egg production he's been wanting. You start up a gift card and invite other friends to contribute by credit card. When you decide the gift card has accrued enough money, you can send it to your friend, by e-mail or snail mail, depending on the retailer.

“Right now, social networks are all about social interaction,” said Jim Collas, chief executive of ideaEDGE. “All day, they poke themselves or give virtual hugs or karate chop each other. We’re monetizing that. Instead of spending 3, 4, 5 dollars sending something not real, you put 3, 4, 5 dollars on a gift card."

Socialwise will also be launching an application called Bill My Parents that lets kids put money on Facebook gift cards with their parents' approval. It will also allow members of the already popular RockYou Birthday Card, which Facebook members use to send one another birthday wishes, to add a gift card to the birthday card.

There are still a few kinks to be worked out ...

... right now, the lucky birthday boy will be able to see that his friends are putting together a gift card, so the element of surprise is blown. And it remains to be seen if cheap-o Facebook members are really going to want to put real money into gifts for their friends when they can give free ones.

Additionally, there aren’t yet any gift card companies working with Socialwise that will allow users to buy each other fuzzy ducks.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: dapawprint via Flickr