Facebook Credits: Marketers Say Good Riddance

Removes consumer perception problems, say experts

There will be no funeral for Facebook Credits among the companies that ran Credits-based campaigns for advertisers. Even Plink, a loyalty rewards company that initially built its entire business around Credits, is cheering its demise.

“We try to tell our friends about Plink, and a lot of them don’t play games so they don’t care about Credits. I think Facebook Credits was so linked to gaming that it was somewhat of a negative,” said Plink co-founder Peter Vogel.

News broke late Tuesday that Facebook was shutting down its virtual currency, as the social network will start letting developers and users exchange goods and services using actual real world dollars, pounds and euros. It seems that despite high expectation, Credits, popular among heavy social gamers, never really crossed over into the Facebook mainstream.

In fact, Vogel claimed that Plink’s members had been asking for redemption options other than Credits, and a week ago the company obliged by partnering with Tango Card to offer consumers gift cards from companies like Amazon, Nike and Gap. Plink didn’t receive any heads up from Facebook before yesterday’s announcement, so the move wasn’t directly preemptive. Instead it was “just because we wanted to expand outside of Facebook gaming.”

But even within social gaming, Credits wasn’t a huge play for advertisers. Appssavvy specializes in running in-game ads that pop up when users complete some kind of activity. Its platform would seem ripe for featuring ads that would call on a user to watch a branded video in exchange for Credits, but it doesn’t.

Even further to the point, “I think it should be noted that there was no marketer that was sort of reaching out and waving their hand saying, ‘I want a Credits program,’” said Chris Cunningham, co-founder and CEO of Appssavvy. That indifference among brands is in part due to a lack of scale in social gaming, he said. While Zynga counted 296 monthly active users during the first quarter, Cunningham pointed out that Zynga has been easing its dependence on Facebook as a gaming platform, and its competitor CrowdStar has pivoted to a mobile-centric strategy (although it will be building mobile games that integrate with Facebook, according to Inside Social Games). “Credits is designed for gaming mechanics and social gaming companies, but social gaming is not going up and to the right on Facebook,” Cunningham said.

But the lack of scale or awareness that Credits suffered isn’t expected to carry over to Facebook’s new currency model. Instead of users perceiving Credits as a virtual currency that essentially existed to purchase an in-game virtual currency, they can now make purchases on Facebook the same way they do using iTunes credits, said Michael Amar, co-founder and CEO of online shopping promotions firm Ifeelgoods. Underscoring that point, companies that had used Credits for promotions can now offer users Facebook gift cards that will function much the same as iTunes gift cards.

Instead of amputating an arm of Plink’s business, Vogel expects Facebook replacing Credits with local currency such as dollars or pounds to actually open Plink to new users, particularly if apps like Spotify begin letting users purchase subscriptions through Facebook. As it happens, Facebook made that a possibility at the same time it announced the death of Credits.