Amazon has launched a new Facebook integration which allows users to send gift cards to a friend’s wall. It is also running a promotion where users get $5 in free MP3s in exchange for sending gift cards (minimum value of $1) to five Facebook friends. The promotions generate leads for retailers both direct and indirectly, and require users to give Amazon access to their social graph in order to redeem their cards.
Earlier this year, Amazon began allowing users to connect with their Facebook accounts to receive purchase and gift recommendations. The new integrations build off of this account connection, meaning users may see suggestions based on their Likes and friends with upcoming birthdays on Amazon after buying a Facebook wall post gift card.
When Amazon users go to purchase a gift card, they’ll now see an option to use Facebook as the delivery method, along with email, print, and mail. Once a user has connected their accounts, they can use a typeahead to select a Facebook friend as the card’s recipient, choose the value of the card, set a delivery date, and add a personal message which can be made public or only visible to the recipient.
Users can view an example of their card and the wall post that will be sent, reassuring users of exactly what they’re sharing. On the delivery date, a wall post is made on the purchaser’s behalf providing a link to the gift card. Anyone can click the link to view the card, but the recipient must connect their account to Facebook to be able to redeem it.
Facebook is not the most reliable method for sending gift cards. If the sender disconnects their Facebook account from Amazon, or revokes certain permissions, the card may not be sent. The delivery can also fail if the recipient doesn’t allow wall posts or deletes their Facebook account before delivery. Some people simply don’t read their wall closely, and since their is no email sent from Amazon to the recipient, they could be unaware they’ve received a card. Other than allowing others to see that you’ve sent someone a gift, there’s little additional value in sending a card via Facebook instead of email.
In a move that could be considered a violation of Facebook’s terms of service (section 4.2, to be specific), Amazon is offering a $5 gift card incentive to those who post gift cards to five of their friends. It’s a way for users to exchange their social graph for their money back, since each gift only needs to be for $1 or more.
The real winner in these promotions seems to be Amazon, which gets users to both connect their own account, and force others to do the same if they want to redeem their gifts. Those looking to give small holiday presents and receive a kickback might enjoy the second promotion, but providing their Facebook information might be a high price for recipients to pay in exchange for a single MP3.
Update: Since this article was published, Facebook looked into Amazon’s practice of paying users in gift cards for posting to the walls of friends, which could be considered a violation of section 4.2. of Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook has since released this statement: “Amazon has made an update to the integration so people now have the option to share gift cards either via Facebook or e-mail, and will benefit from the MP3 offer either way.”
This “no Facebook sharing necessary” option gives users an alternative way of earning the gift card which doesn’t require posting to the walls of friends. Sweepstakes in the United States are legally required to include a “no purchase necessary” method of entering to win, and we think web services should similarly provide a “no Facebook sharing necessary” whenever they directly incentivize user actions.