Facebook Pushing Early Virtual Birthday Gifts

If you thought Facebook birthday notifications were helpful reminders of your friends’ big day, then you’ll love the new feature Facebook added today. You can now send a virtual birthday gift to your friends up to seven days in advance of their actual (listed) birthday. Facebook is offering two options for the new early birthday gift delivery: directly from your friend’s wall or via Facebook birthday e-mail reminders, which contain a direct link to send your friend an early birthday gift.

The new feature is being launched today, but it’s being rolled out in increments so I haven’t been able to check it out first hand. But based on the screen shots provided by Facebook’s engineering team, the new early delivery options look to be an extension of the birthday virtual gifting push initiated by the social network a few weeks ago.

If you recall, Facebook began promoting the giving of birthday greetings to friends by placing a rather blatent “Give Gifts” box on their profile page, which you’ll see when you visit their profile on their big day. This looks to be the same box that will be available to you for early birthday gift delivery, which has been given some extra time to hang around people’s profiles.

What’s interesting, and perhaps frustratingly enticing, is the fact that your friend will see that you’ve given them a virtual birthday gift, but they won’t be able to open it until their big day. That should ensure that the birthday gal returns to Facebook ON their birthday, right? No matter which way you look at it, Facebook is taking a few extra steps to encourage more virtual gift exchanges on its social network. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Virtual gifting has not only become a point of interest for Facebook, but for retail brands as well. Not to mention, a series of third party developers have made some lucrative virtual gifting applications that reside on Facebook. Some of these apps do allow things like early birthday reminders and other scheduling options, so in some regards they compete with Facebook’s latest gifting enhancements. But this is just one concern third parties have to deal with when creating an application for a platform that’s part of a larger social network with its own powerful native apps.
There are also other social networks that have taken to virtual gifting, such as hi5. The potential for generating additional revenue through virtual gifting and virtual goods is something social networks seem anxious to explore right now, as it’s worked for virtual worlds and the micro-payment model can really help supplement any advertising-based revenue that a social network earns.